My opinion on bow ties tends to go back and forth. Obviously, I prefer them for black tie. This leads me to think maybe I should buy a few to try with other more casual ensembles. But then I remember how frustrated I get when tying one and my preference toward neckties stands.
Regardless of whether I’ll eventually branch away from my comfort zone, I do think there are instances when a bow tie looks better on a man wearing a suit or jacket than others.
Unlike neckties, bow ties don’t venture vertically down the torso into the V-area created by the jacket’s lapels and the shirt underneath. Instead, they stay toward the top on the collar and push the attention toward one’s face, which is fine but also can create a problem.
If your jacket (typically a two-button, single-breasted) is cut in a way that has a very deep V-area, this can leave a huge expanse of fabric that’s not broken up down to the buttoning point. Combined with a bow tie, this can look awkward.
The solution is to wear the bow tie with outfits that expose less of the shirt to begin with. You can take the approach of Joseph Cotten above and wear a waistcoat, which makes three-piece suits ideal. Some double-breasted suits would also work as many of them have shallower V-areas.
Another option would be to layer a sweater, such as a cardigan or a deep V-neck under the jacket. I’ve also seen some three-button jackets with the lapels rolling on the second button that’s helped this problem, too.