We can trace the history of the bow tie back to 17th century Croatia. During the Prussian wars, Croatian mercenaries used scarves tied around their necks to hold together the opening of their shirts. The Croats’ scarf-tied-around-the-neck idea was quickly adopted by the French upper class and given the name “cravat” (French for “Croat”). At that time, France was a leader in fashion, and the popularity of the cravat spread wildly throughout the 18th and 19th centuries.
Over time, the cravat evolved into the bow ties and neckties we recognize today. By the turn of the century, bow ties were an essential element of men’s formal “full dress” attire, and by the 1900s, bow ties had become a staple in every fashion-conscious man’s wardrobe. At this point in history, bow ties were primarily worn by those in academia and the medical field. After WWII, the everyday wear of bow ties declined, but their appearance in formalwear persisted.
In recent years, the bow tie has lost much of its “stuffy” connotation. Regaining some of its historic popularity among fashion conscious men, the quirky and confident look of a bow tie is finding its place across a variety of both fun and formal occasions, from work to weddings to casual everyday wear.
Modern-day bow ties come in three main versions: self-tie, pre-tied (the bow is already tied and sewn onto the band that wraps around the neck), and clip-on (forgoes to the band and just clips directly onto the collar -- save these for the children, guys). The most traditional bow tie is a fixed length, self-tie bow tie. Being a fixed length, these bow ties are sold in a range of sizes, typically from 14 to 19 inches and are purchased based on neck size (like when sizing a shirt collar). Adjustable length self-tie bow ties came along later and are a “one-size-fits-all” version of the classic. These have become more standard, helping bring down production costs.
Emerging from the rich and varied history of the bow tie, those who do it today make a quiet, confident statement of style and class. No need to shout about it