Regardless if you are an experienced bow tie wearer or if you’ve just taken the bold but rewarding decision to start wearing bow ties you need to know your shirts. Or more specifically your shirt collars. That’s right, even though bow ties can be worn with any shirt, they definitely look their best with a shirt collar that matches your beautiful accessory. In a later post I’ll write about colors and patterns, but here the focus is on the collar.
Interlining & Collar Stays
Shirt collars come in a varied selection and not all of them unfortunately work well with bow ties. Dress shirt collars contain interlining, an extra piece of fabric that is sewn or fused onto the collar fabric. The interlining improves the stand of the collar and gives it the structure you want for a more formal look and feel. More casual shirts do often not have interlining. The safer choice with bow ties are collars with at least a somewhat sturdy structure.
Collar stays are the small pointy pieces of plastic or metal that are inserted into the underside of the collar. Premium shirts often have removable collar stays while the collar stays in cheaper shirts usually are sewn-in. Removable collar stays gives you the option to have a more casual look, and it’s a good practice to remove them when ironing to avoid wrinkles and impressions.
The really important thing to focus on when choosing shirts to wear with a bow tie however, is collar spread. Collar spread is the distance between the tips of the folded down collar on your shirt.
The point collar, sometimes called the American collar, is probably the most commonly available variety. This type of shirt is perfect for neck ties because of the narrow distance between the collars. The smaller gap nicely encloses the knot of the neck-tie, but is not ideal for bow-ties.
For a bow tie to sit right you want a wider spread of the collar to give enough space for the bow tie knot and wings. The safest choices are a spread or a cutaway collar. A wider collar allows the bow tie to sit just right and stay straight. More pointy collars tend to twist the bow tie, which of course is undesirable.
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