We find ourselves at a relatively permissive juncture in the history of tie width. Having passed through alternating fashion cycles of fat (the ’80s) and skinny (the last 10 years or so) neckwear, we’re settling into a middle ground where a greater range of widths is acceptable—and readily available on the racks. That’s a good thing. But a variety of options can also mean a variety of ways to mess up. You need to make sure your neckwear matches the proportions of your sport coat or suit jacket.
As a rule of thumb, when holding your tie over your lapel, their respective widths should match up, give or take a half-inch or so. If you’re going to err, err with a tie that’s wider if you’re wearing a notch lapel, or skinnier if you’re wearing a peak lapel, but never by more than a half-inch.
When wearing a bow tie on a formal occasion (which you should do), a fuller version, like those favored by Mr. Tom Ford (below), looks great with a hefty peak-lapel tux. A skinnier silk bow, on the other hand, pairs best with a svelte shawl lapel.