The bow tie, long a staple in formal wear, seems to have made a comeback in recent years. Young men, looking for a way to be unconventional in a conventional manner, have discovered the versatility of this form of tie and are wearing them to work, on dates, and, of course, formally. Most people know very little about this fashion accessory or how to actually create a respectable bow tie.
Although ties have certainly changed in form and function over the years, men have been wearing them for over 350 years. During the Thirty Years War of 1648, King Louis XIV hired a group of Croatians to serve as a regiment in his army. This unit, known as the Croatian Horsemen, took to wearing knotted scarves around their necks to differentiate themselves from other units.
After the war was over, the Croatians visited the King and, according to legend, he was fascinated both by them and their kerchiefs. He began wearing a similar style, naming it a cravat, which bears a similarity to the word Croatian, which in French is Croat.
Once the King’s countrymen saw him wearing these brightly colored cravats, a fashion trend developed, and people all across the country were wearing them. These early bow ties not only served as a fashion statement, but they also kept the neck warm, which was especially important in days when central heating was non-existent and winters were long and harsh.
The bow tie evolved over the years, ultimately taking a more formal route with the introduction of lace and rich cotton into the mix. In the mid-19th century, men wore bow ties with starched, white shirts. Bow ties, which were sometimes called four in hands, signified the wearer’s social and financial status. Bow ties were also popularized in the British public school system. Students wore their school colors around their necks as an expression of pride and school spirit.
The bow tie remained part of fashion into the 20th century when singer Frank Sinatra and other cultural icons popularized it. But, as casual dress codes began to emerge in business, ties of all sorts began to disappear from the workforce. Only recently, as corporate America has begun to rethink this casual approach to office-wear, has the tie reemerged in the workplace.
There are two types of bow ties the batwing, which is one straight length, and the thistle, which is wider at the ends and tapers down in the middle. Today, bow ties are usually worn for formal events but are definitely reappearing in a more tailored and formal workplace.
Formal bow ties, which were introduced in 1886 by Pierre Lorillard V, are almost always black and made of either textured silk or a grosgrain, almost ribbon-like fabric. For weddings and other formal events, a bow tie is usually worn with a matching cummerbund.
Many people hesitate to buy bow ties for fear of not being able to tie them. Actually, this process is fairly simple.
Here are the steps to follow to create a smartly fashioned bow tie:
- Place the tie around your neck with one end slightly longer than the other
- Cross the long end over the shorter end
- Bring the longer end up through the loop formed at the throat
- Fold what was the shorter end over itself. This forms a loop for the actual bow.
- Bring what was the longer end over the front of the middle of the loop.
- Double this piece back on itself and push through the loop that was formed in step 4.
- To adjust, pull both ends and straighten the center knot.
Tying a great bow tie takes practice, but the effect is impressive. Although respectable-looking clip-on are available, tying your own makes a statement about a man and indicates attention to detail and fashion. The bow tie seems to be here to stay.