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11 Types of Ties and When to Wear Them

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Karlton Miko Tyack Senior Writer   Updated: 
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The tie is back.

Okay, so it was never gone. Any truly formal situation requires one, which is why every man needs one.

What I mean by this is that wearing a tie with your suit, jacket, or just a shirt, even when it isn’t required, is a more stylish option than going bare-necked.

Sure, they go in and out of style constantly. Remember the aughts when rockers, from Green Day to Avril, were wearing ties pseudo-ironically? 

Still, whether you’re pro-trend or anti-trend, the tie is forever trend-resistant. So, right now, more than ever, ties are indeed for everyone. Plus, there’s a type of tie for every guy.

Here are all of the different styles that this menswear essential comes in.

Necktie

model wearing a suit and gentlemens box accessories

When I say that every man needs a tie, I mainly refer to the classic necktie. 

This is also the composition you’re likely most familiar with. A piece of cloth that you’ll tie around your neck, with the knot by your throat and the ends draping down over your chest.

Did you know that its official name is the “Langsdorf tie”?

The modern necktie, as we know it, was invented in the ‘20s. A tie maker from New York patented a particular way to cut the tie, improving its elasticity to keep its shape. This gent was called Jesse Langsdorf.

The only aspect that goes in and out of style about neckties is its broadness. Some eras called for skinny ties, while others called for really wide ones. That’s why I love Tie Bar’s cotton ties—you can get them in five different sizes and they’re all solidly handmade. 

The Tie Bar Grosgrain Solid Navy Tie

If you're going to own just one necktie, make it a solid navy one. I'm a fan of this one from The Tie Bar---it's available in five different sizes, a whole bunch of colorways, and they’re all solidly handmade from 100% silk.

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My main recommendation when choosing a tie is to find a tiemaker or brand that does exactly that. 

Clip-On Tie

Blue Suit Combinations What to Wear with a Blue Suit Model Wearing Blue Suit and Burgundy Tie

A clip-on tie is any tie, whether a Langsdorf or a bowtie, that you don’t have to tie up. The knot is permanently set; you’d simply clip it onto your collar.

Some may consider it a lie, but I don’t judge.

Perhaps you wore a clip-on when you were a kid. I know a lot of grown men who use a clip-on bowtie since actual bowties are more complicated to execute than a regular necktie.

Seven Fold Tie

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A seven fold tie is a lot like a traditional necktie. However, it’s cut in such a way that instead of folding it three times to get the final composition, it folds seven times (hence, the name).

Take a look at the back of a regular tie. You’ll notice that the edges are folded against each other. They touch, but they don’t overlap.

With a seven fold tie, you’d be able to unfold those edges, revealing more parts folded into each other.

This allows the knot to look fuller and the entire tie to look heftier, with a larger drape. It’s a more luxurious aesthetic, a sort of missing link between modern and Victorian ties. As such, it’s usually made of silk.

Kipper Tie

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A kipper tie is essentially a regular necktie, except it’s extremely wide. It has a novelty aesthetic about it, which is likely why it became popular in the ‘60s and ‘70s, starting in Swinging London.

Unsurprisingly, a kipper tie usually flaunts loud colors and patterns. It takes up most of the chest area, making your shirt an accent color when your suit jacket is buttoned up.

Western Bowtie

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A western bowtie represents less of the cowboy side of the Southwest and more of the genteel South, where debutante balls and charity grouse hunts are thrown. Think Gone with the Wind.

It’s different from a standard bowtie because it’s a thinner, more delicate bow, with the ends draping down, versus hiding behind the two front leaves.

It’s not that different from a ribbon bow you might find in a little girl’s hair. In fact, a lot of western bow ties are made from ribbon.

Bolo Tie

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A bolo tie is a piece of leather or cord, sometimes braided, worn around the neck with a decorative clasp or slide that sits in place of where a traditional tie’s knot would. The ends are adorned with aiguillettes, which are ornamental metal tips.

This accessory is associated with the west and southwest parts of the country, like New Mexico and Texas. 

Bolo ties definitely have a cowboy vibe, like the Tie Bar Longhorn Bolo—with its silver metal longhorn decal—though it should be acknowledged that it has Native American origins. This is why bolo ties often feature traditional jewelry-making techniques associated with Native tribes of that area, including Puebloan silversmithing and the use of turquoise.

If you aren’t living in the southwest but are invited to a Western-themed event (perhaps a ranch wedding or a chili cook-off), feel free to sport a bolo.

The Tie Bar Longhorn Bolo Silver Tie

Simple, sleek, and great quality, you can easily dress this bolo tie up or down. It features a stylish silver longhorn metal clasp on a braided leather cord and is one size fits all.

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Skinny Necktie

Indochino Harrogate Glen Check Suit buttoning jacket close up

The skinny necktie is the complete opposite of the kipper tie. It’s extra thin and pretty much considered a classic these days. I say that because it’s gone in and out of style enough that it’s earned timeless status.

If you like a clean aesthetic, you should go for a skinny necktie. It pairs naturally with a higher hemmed suit, a la Thom Browne. 

Some brands offer skinny and extra skinny options, as Tie Bar does. This is what you want. It means the brand is considerate towards different body types and personal styles.

Also, since skinny ties are usually meant for minimalist personal styles, they don’t often have loud patterns. But I love how brands like Tie Bar incorporate a subtle monochromatic herringbone composition. It gives it dimensionality without compromising the understated look.

Cravat

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​​A cravat comprises a band that wraps around the back of your neck and two broad wings meant to be tied up in front of your neck, usually tucked into your dress shirt. It’s traditionally worn as a more relaxed, day-time version of formal dress. A regular necktie or bowtie would be the night-time counterpart.

Here’s a quick terminology lesson. In North America, an ascot is a type of cravat, which is technically any piece of decorative tie around your neck. This means that anything on this list is a “cravat” and what we call a “cravat” is an “ascot” specifically. Technically.

However, most people would refer to a necktie or a bowtie as those terms specifically, leaving “cravat” and “ascot” as casual synonyms in everyday language.

Meanwhile, in the UK, what North Americans call an ascot is called a day cravat. The other option would be a dress cravat, which is just like a day cravat but thicker and heavily woven.

You can use cravat and ascot interchangeably without being misunderstood.

Neckerchief

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A neckerchief is also referred to as a necker, kerchief, or simply a scarf. That’s essentially what it is. It’s a short scarf tied around your neck, the knot usually in the front or side.

Depending on how you style it, it can convey an outdoorsy look, like a cowboy or farm laborer wearing a bandana as a neckerchief, or a more dandy look, like Fred from Scooby Doo—though his is pretty thick and might be something in between a neckerchief and a cravat.

Sailor Tie

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A sailor tie is exactly what you think it is. It’s the tie that sailors wear under the flap of their uniforms, with the knot sitting at the front, right below the v-neck collar. Those of a certain age might remember the boy on the Crack Jack box sporting one of these.

Bowtie

Gamma Male Man with Unkempt Beard Wearing Colorful Red Bowtie

A bowtie is a short necktie, tied up into a symmetrical bow that sits at the front of your neck. It’s considered pretty formal, and is commonly worn with a tuxedo.

Knit bowties have an academic look, which might be considered a vintage aesthetic these days.

I personally love a bowtie with a subtle, classic pattern that can be worn formally or extra formally. Paisley, when done in a moderate monochrome way like this the Ceremony Paisley from The Tie Bar, is the way to go. It’s stately but not overly extra and looks great in any color.

The Tie Bar Ceremony Paisley Charcoal Bow Tie

This charcoal paisley bow tie is sophisticated enough for weddings, formal events, and special occasions, but with a tasteful tonal paisley design in charcoal silk that can make it suitable for less formal occasions too.

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model opening blue suit jacket with white shirt and yellow tie

Ultimately, you can’t go wrong with a classic necktie. It’s not attached to any subculture or genre of personal style.

My Most Versatile Pick
The Tie Bar Grosgrain Solid Navy Tie

If you're going to own just one necktie, make it a solid navy one. I'm a fan of this one from The Tie Bar---it's available in five different sizes, a whole bunch of colorways, and they’re all solidly handmade from 100% silk.

Check Price

But hey, if you love a formal look, go for a bowtie. Heck, there are bowties out there that are downright fanciful—though a cravat would be your best bet if that’s what you’re going for.

Love a western style aesthetic? Try a bolo or a western bow. 

Truly, there’s a right type of tie out there for every type of guy.