A Historical View of the Bow Tie

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Because Every Bow Tie Company Needs One...

Friday, April 3, 2015


There is no doubt, the bow tie has been en vogue for the better part of this decade. But one has to question, where did this stylish little neckpiece get its start? Since its introduction and mass acceptance, the bow tie has been on a roller coaster ride of ups and downs and has transcended from stereotypical, purely formal accessory. To street style, runway and celebrity fashion. It has upstaged time itself and become a timeless mens accessory. Because of its resurgence the bow tie has benefited from different looks, breaking the mold it once held as a purely formal accessory.


In the beginning…

The bow tie, not as we know it today, dates back to the 17th century in Croatia. The first documented manifestation was the cravat worn by Croatian soldiers of the Thirty Year War, as they used scarves to bind the collars of their shirts together.  After the war, history tells us French soldiers brought the look back home with them. Which caught the attention of King George IV. Over a short amount of time and in a strange bizarre and curious twist of fate the cravat evolved into the bow ties and neckties we know of today.  And was widely adopted by the upper class by the 1700s. What further propitiated the evolution of mens neckwear occurred In October of 1886. Pierre Lorillard fabricated a new approach to men’s formal wear, and wore it to a formal ball held at the Tuxedo club. Named after his family’s estate in Tuxedo Park, just outside of New York City. Lorillard’s new men’s attire, which he prominently named, the tuxedo became an instant hit among other wealthy fashion enthusiasts. The term ‘Black Tie’ event can be credited to Lorillard, as the tuxedo and black bow tie quickly replaced the outdated tailcoat and white cravat as the premier formal wear for men’s fashion.  By the turn of the century, bow ties were the quintessential accessory for “full-dress” attire, due largely to Lorillard and his daring inspiration, the tuxedo.


The Evolution…

By the 1900s, the bow tie was a fixture in men’s fashion. The bow tie as we know it has gone through a bit of a transformation over the past few decades. As high-profile bow tie connoisseurs have pioneered a movement to redefine the bow tie as we know it. No longer reserved for formal wear, the bow tie has now been articulated in ways never intended before. Finding itself as the perfect compliment to harmonizing a man’s attire. Style icons such as Karl Lagerfeld and Manolo Blahnk, to the quirky conveyance of comedians Charlie Chaplin and Pee-Wee Herman, to the iconic gentlemen of Fred Astaire and Frank Sinatra, to the poindexter bravado of Bill Nye and Orville Redenbacher. Through the years the bow tie has found itself as an impeccable compliment to a great many influential men.


Crossing Gender Lines…

The bow tie has long since been embedded in history as strictly a male accessory only. In the 1920s and 30s the bow tie officially crossed gender lines into women’s wear. The look caught the attention of silver screen stars Marlene Dietrick and Katharine Hepburn. This simple accessory paved the way to acceptance for women of the era to not only don the bow tie, but also venture into more men’s attire such as tailored suits, top hats, and button down shirts.


Into the future…

As the high fashion elite and celebrities such as Johnny Depp, Justin Timmberlake, Rihanna, and Janele Monae fuel the resurgence of the bow tie. We take note the bow tie is no longer bounded by the inflexible and rigorous zooty rules of yesteryear, the bow tie has been reborn, redefined and redesigned as a stylistically unique piece that is both elegant and adds a bit of flare to both men and women wardrobes. Today the bow tie can be worn in many rousing ways. It is now very ordinary for a man or woman to wear a bow tie in very relaxed and informal settings, tied or untied, with short sleeves or long. Bow ties now come in unique colors, compelling designs, evolving to serve both formal and casual wear. The textiles have advanced far past the once common silk, black bow tie. Today we have a vast array of substances in use, such as exotic woods, leather, turkey feathers and more. Giving people a far greater way to express themselves.



As you can see, the bow tie has survived the test of time. From its dominance in the 1800s through the early 20th Century. To its lull and outcast in the mid 20th century. Now to its resurgence and dominance in popular culture and formal wear. In doing so, the bow tie has solidified itself as the most timeless accessory a man or woman can adorn. And has proven it will survive long after we are gone.  An accessory that exudes great class and sophistication.  When wearing a bow tie a man will be amazed by the power it provides him. Men will want to be you, while women will adore you. The bow tie has the ability to take a seemingly boring and non-interesting outfit, and transform it to something that allows a man to elevate his confidence and prowess.











1 comment

  • Posted on by Hamed

    Thanks for the history lesson- I will never look at a bow tie the same! Thanks for the educational piece!

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