Written by Levon Ritter, current student at Hampshire College studying music and history. Check out his Instagram for outfits featuring other bow ties from the Ties by Lucy brand: @indubitably.bowties.
Winter, the season where the birds and vacationers from north of the Mason-Dixon line fly south. In the case of college students and working professionals living in New England or the Mid-Atlantic too preoccupied with work to travel, the best we can do is layer up and try to make it through the year’s cold snap. On the bright side, wearing some heavier clothing is no reason not to stay dapper and fashionable.
For we Yankees, when it gets cold out the go-to piece of clothing to wear is a flannel shirt. However, let’s get some misconceptions about flannel out of the way. First of all, flannel originally referred to a type of fabric, and not a type of shirt. Traditionally it was made from wool, but now it can be made of different kinds of materials. Secondly, it’s common for flannel shirts to come in a tartan pattern. This type of pattern is synonymous with plaid, but the word plaid actually comes from a type of cloth in a tartan pattern that was part of traditional Scottish highland dress.
However, for a bow tie-wearer flannel can make for a challenge when creating an outfit. For one thing, flannel shirts usually contain a variety of colors, sometimes clashing ones that will make your outfit look too busy with a bow tie. On the other hand, If you’re wearing a shirt and a bow tie with a similar color and pattern, it can really diminish the bow tie’s presence.
So what exactly is fair and what’s faux pas when it comes to wearing you favorite bow ties and your favorite plaid shirt? One thing to consider is the size of the pattern of whatever you plan on wearing. Plaids generally have a larger pattern than what’s featured on your bow tie, but just in case remember the 60-30-10 rule: The largest pattern (your plaid shirt) should be 60% of the outfit, the second largest (in this case pants) would be 30% and your bow tie is the 10% that helps you keep it 100! It’s also considered distasteful by many to mix plaid with certain patterns like polka dots or paisleys because they’re both busy. Stripes on stripes and by extension tartan on tartan can also cause a stir.
So as you can see, when it comes to wearing a plaid/flannel shirt or bow tie, suddenly your options become a lot more limited. However, here are some outfit ideas to inspire you and give you a chance to wear your favorite TBL bow tie and stay warm.
Outfit #1: The Rule Breaker
Teal Polka Dot bow tie from Ties By Lucy
Pequot Plaid Slim Tucker Shirt from Vineyard vines
Your favorite pair of light blue jeans or chinos in a color close to white, like these from H&M
Even though polka dots on plaid has a bad rep, as mentioned earlier, in this case of this outfit, the size of the pattern on the shirt is much larger than the minimal pattern on the bow tie, which makes the polka dots on plaid elegant instead of egregious. The bow tie in this case is also more saturated in color than the shirt, so it it can still properly distinguish itself.
Outfit #2: The Warm Winter Night-Outer
Navy and Green Tartan bow tie from Ties By Lucy
Flannel Shirt in Toronto Blue from JCPenney
This is an outfit that’s good for a night out, or just a relaxed night in with some friends. Up close you can see that this bow tie has quite a few colors on it, some of which are pretty subtle. The plain, navy flannel is a great backdrop to showpiece this particular bow tie on. Just be careful not to spill your hot cocoa on it!
Outfit #3: The Winter Working Professional
Dark Green Plaid bow tie from Ties By Lucy
White Flannel Oxford from Proper Cloth
Khakis in light beige or cream
This outfit is good to wear if you work in an office and you have a chilly commute. For extra warmth or style, you could try wearing a light brown suit jacket. This bow tie will definitely pop and contrast against the white shirt, but you’ll probably just get compliments on it from your coworkers.
These are just a few ideas. There are definitely a lot of possibilities out there. If you’re not much of a risk taker, a plaid bow tie on a solid-color shirt should do the trick, as long as the colors are coordinated well. Otherwise, feel free to try and break/bend the rules. We won’t tell the fashion police.