The bow tie, commonly considered an iconic accessory of men’s fashion, is part of a long history of social transformations, an accomplice of a series of small historical revolutions that have accompanied and transformed elegance over time.
It is essentially a bow, a knot from which two symmetrical wings flow, geometrically composed of two triangles welded together by a single central element.
There are two main types: the one to be knotted and the pre-assembled one.
Bow tie origins
Unfortunately, the origin of this object is not exactly known, in fact there are even some who trace it back to the times of the pharaohs and pyramids of Egypt.
But among the various theories, the most quoted is the one that traces its origins presumably to the Thirty Years’ War of the seventeenth century. In fact it seems that the Croatian mercenaries used a scarf tied around their neck with a bow, it is believed that it was used to keep the shirt tied.
Nevertheless, it seems evident that this accessory has become elitist thanks to its unbridled use in large French courts, called cravate (which means Croatian) in reference to its origins. In fact, this item spread in men’s fashion in France and then throughout Europe.
It will be the dandy to take up the concept of this ancestral form of bow tie which at the end of the 19th century will be commonly called ascot.
Its success throughout history
Already at the beginning of the nineteenth century and even earlier the bow tie entered the scene. Then in the mid-1880s it became a fixed accessory in the men’s wardrobe. Over the years the bow tie has undergone a large number of changes in form and function and has overcome its purely formal and traditional stereotype. It was a gradual change that led the bow tie to become from a purely formal accessory to one that is also used in street style.
In the 1900s, alongside the elegant black tailcoat paired with a white bow tie, the birth of the tuxedo made the bow tie a cult and decidedly sophisticated accessory. The merit of its impressive success seems to have been due to the tobacco’s tycoon Pierre Lorillard IV. In 1886 he designed a new style of formal wear, worn at a formal ball at the Tuxedo club. He introduced the fashion of the black tuxedo combined with a white shirt and black bow tie as expression of the finest elegance. His black bow tie tuxedo boomed.
The 1920s became the golden age of the bow tie that established itself as an icon of unparalleled style, covering the necks of the most illustrious characters of cinema, music and theater over the years. If we only think of the well-known silent film comic actor Charlie Chaplin but also the very elegant dancer Fred Astaire and the singer Frank Sinatra. Even women in 1920s and 1930s began to use clothing inspired by men, also wearing bow ties, thanks to movie stars such as Marlene Dietrich and Katharine Hepburn.
Speaking about politics we remember the presidents of the United States Abraham Lincoln and Franklin Delano Roosevelt and also the British prime minister Winston Churchill, the latter often wore a polka dot bow tie.
Although the tie continued to play a more widespread social role, from the post-war period onwards, it would be intended exclusively as an accessory for extremely elegant events. In the 70s the bow tie made a brief reappearance, redefining itself for that decade as the style accessory par excellence.
Nowadays the bow tie has got rid of its image so rigidly linked to the world of elegance, becoming a chic accessory for everyday use.Embed from Getty Images