Bow Ties With Shirts (The Definitive Guide)

shirts and bow ties guide

Shirts and bow tie combinations are something rarely addressed in the bow tie community, and figuring out which shirt to wear with your bow tie can be a real hassle.

If you've ever wondered what type of collar to wear with a bow tie is, then this post is for you!

In this post, we'll dive into the bow tie shirt collar options that bow tie guys have to choose from.  There are many, many different shirt and bow tie combinations.  After reading this post, you'll have a little more clarity on which bow tie shirt collars look great and which collars look terrible.

If you already know, which collar you like with bow ties and need some outfit ideas, check out this post  looking for bow tie outfit ideas.

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How Many Shirt And Bow Tie Combinations Are There?

There are countless bow tie and shirt combinations... seriously... there are.

Shirt company, Proper Cloth has a page on their website that lists 23 different shirt collar types, (and I'm sure that's not a 100% complete list).

The point is...

There are a lot of options when it comes to choosing your shirt collar, but for the purposes of this article, I'm only going to focus on four main shirt collar types as they relate to bow ties.

These four shirt types will mostly likely represent 99% of the shirt types that are worn today. These bow tie shirt collar types are:

  • Bow Tie With Wingtip Collar
  • Bow Tie With Spread Collar
  • Bow Tie With Pointed Collar
  • Bow Tie With Button Down Collar

 What Types Of Collars Are There For Bow Ties?

wingtip collar with bow tie

The Wingtip Collar

wide spread collar with a bow tieThe Wide Spread Collar
button down collar with a bow tieThe Button Down Collar
pointed collar with a bow tieThe Pointed Collar

There are a lot of options when it comes to bow tie shirts and collar styles. The above pictures should give you an idea of the main styles that exist.

Two General Rules To Follow When Selecting Your Collar Types:

1. The points of your collar should be hidden behind the wings of the bow tie and/or your suit jacket.

If your collar points are large and can be seen, that shifts the focus from your bow tie, to the collar points, which is not optimal style.

2. You want to maintain your clean lines as a well dressed man.

If you opt for a shirt with a pointed collar, the lines around your bow tie will be broken up by the extended points, which again, is not optimal.

The bow tie or the lapel of your jacket should hide the collar and all that should be visible is the bow tie itself. When just the bow tie is visible, it helps maintain the clean lines in your outfit. Take a look below to see what I mean.

Note: I also recommend getting a couple shirt stays to make sure your shirt is kept tucked in and always looks great. Checkout this article to find out which shirt stays are the best and what you should look out for when buying a pair.

wide spread shirt with purple paisley bow tie

Bow Tie With Wing Tip Collar

wingtip collar with bow tie

The first collar type on our list is the classic wing tip collar.  This shirt type is almost always found underneath tuxedos during formal events. It's appearance of "wings" is where the name originates and it's only worn with a bow tie.  Because this type of shirt isn't primarily used for daily wear, this guide won't focus too much on this collar type.

However, if you're interested, here's a little more information on the wingtip collar.

Highlights:

  • Exclusively for formal events (black tie, weddings, etc.)
  • Worn underneath tuxedos
  • Approved for bow tie usage for formal events

Bow Tie With Pointed Collar

The first collar on our list is the more traditional pointed-collar.  This type of collar is a more mainstream, standard style with most men wearing this type of collar with a bow tie.  Given that it's what the majority of men choose, it's considered to be a conservative approach.

The elongated points have a visually slimming effect, which works well for rounder faces or wide necks.

orange bow tie with extended collar points

If you have the option, I would not opt for this collar style when wearing a bow tie. The points from the collar will most likely stick out, which will draw the attention away from your bow tie. You'll also be breaking up the lines of your outfit.

When you venture into a department store, most of the shirts available for purchase will be of this style, we recommend that you avoid them if you're a regular bow tie wearer.

Highlights:

  • This is your mainstream "conservative" collar style and what you'll find most men wearing
  • The narrow points have a slimming effect on the structure of your face
  • The points from the collar will most likely extend out below the bow tie
  • We do not recommend this collar style when wearing bow ties

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Bow Tie With Spread Collar

The next collar type is the spread collar also known as the spread collar (or wide spread).  A wide spread collar is just as the name implies... a collar spread wide.  This collar type is gaining popularity as male fashion continues to trend and can be worn with a traditional suit and tie.

In fact, some wide spread collar are so spread apart they've been named cutaway collars as it looks like the collar has been "cut away". There's a thin line between wearing a bow tie with a spread collar and wearing a bow tie with a cutaway collar, but given the fact that for both the collar should be sufficiently hidden behind the bow tie, both are probably okay choices.

purple paisley bow tie with no collar points

Personally, we love the spread collar for the bow tie. The points of the collars are completely tucked under the lapels of the suit jacket and allow the bow tie to be front and center with minimal distraction.

Since the collar is wide enough to hide underneath the lapel of your jacket, there are no protruding points that break up the lines in, and around your bow tie. The wide spread collar is highly recommended for the regular bow tie wearer. Again, if you want to opt for a really wide spread with almost no extended collar, then a bow tie with a cutaway collar is might be your best bet, but your mileage may vary.

Highlights:

  • The "wideness" of the spread hides the collar underneath the lapel of your jacket
  • Minimal distraction as there are no extended points from collar material
  • Gaining popularity as male fashion continues to trend
  • Highly recommended for bow tie usage

Bow Tie With Button Down Collar

The next collar style on our list is the button down.  The button down collar can be considered a more "preppy" or "casual" style.  You wouldn't wear a button down collar to a formal event, but you could probably get away with a button down at a normal 9-5 job.

plaid bow tie visible buttons from button down shirt

For bow ties, the button down collar falls in between a pointed collar and a spread collar.  It's great that the buttons from the button down attempt to fasten the collar points down and hold the shirt in place, which hides the points behind the wings of the bow tie. Occasionally, depending on the size of your particular bow tie, the wings may not be big enough to hide the points from the collar and they'll stick out.

That being said, the recommendation is to only wear a button down with a bow tie if the buttons and collar points are hidden appropriately. If they aren't, it's not the end of the world, but it's not optimal style either.  

Highlights:

  • This is a more "casual" or "preppy" collar style
  • There are buttons affixed to the shirt, which hold down the collar
  • Depending on the size of your bow tie, the collar points may or may not be completely hidden
  • Wearing a bow tie with a button down shirt is an okay choice, not optimal, but okay

So What's The Best Shirt Collar For a Bow Tie?

Verdict: The bow tie with spread collar.  This type of collar hides the points of the collar behind the suit jacket (assuming you're wearing one) and places the focus entirely on the bow tie.

Why is it important to hide the collar points?

Hiding the collar points ensures that the focus is solely on your bow tie and you maintain clean lines around your neck.

I hope you enjoyed this article!  Any questions, please leave a comment below!

(NOTE: Want get affordable high-quality bow ties without ever having to leave the house? Snag a bow tie subscription today and keep your collection fresh all year long without ever leaving your house. For a limited time, It's just $13/bucks a month. Check it out here!)