For over two centuries, one of the cornerstones of formal wear has been a simple piece of cloth tied around the neck in order to secure one’s collar. During the early years, as this new way of dressing made its way across Europe, it underwent gradual changes in both overall design, types of materials used, and names. Today we know this formal wear accessory as the classic Bow Tie.
Although its design and purpose might seem simple, the evolution of the bow tie has occurred over more than two hundred years and across multiple continents. Now, how has something seemingly so basic become one of the most recognizable clothing articles anywhere in the world? Well, it all begins during a time of war.
The Bow Tie Beginnings
It is commonly believed that the original idea behind the bow tie stems from 17th century Europe. During the Thirty Years War, Croatian mercenaries began to be seen using scarves to hold together their shirt collar, a simple idea that would soon explode throughout Europe’s elite class and fashion industry.
More specifically, this aesthetic became extremely popular in France during the 18th century, which was the epicenter of Europe’s burgeoning fashion industry. At this time, this traditional and simple scarf design was referred to as a “cravat.”
Over time, the design would become more complex and refined, while still maintaining a formal simplicity. As the cravat made its way out of France, the subtle and slow changes to its design, paired with its growing popularity, eventually led to the bow tie we know today.
The Bow Tie Branches Out
In the 19th century, the bow tie was formally debuted as the neckwear for what would become known as the tuxedo. As the story goes, near the end of the nineteenth century, a high-class club in New York known as Tuxedo Park became a common place for social gatherings and parties where new fashion designs were oftentimes debuted.
While most people know this story as the origins of the traditional tuxedo, it’s also a pivotal moment for the evolution of the bow tie. During this time, traditional formal wear typically consisted of a long-tailed coat and white scarf as neckwear.
In contrast, wealthy fashion designers began wearing shorter jackets and black bow ties, which would slowly become the classic tuxedo, and its popularity quickly soared. As this happened, events that required formal wear began being labeled as “black tie,” referring directly to the bow tie, ultimately cementing the black bow tie as an essential aspect of the tuxedo.
The Future of the Bow Tie
Even though the design of the bow tie underwent an array of changes and modifications in its early days, once it became the cornerstone of the tuxedo, its modern-day design became standard. Despite this, there has recently been a resurgence in unique and creative designs that aim to enhance the traditional bow tie shape. Although these new designs provide a way to personalize your wardrobe, they are typically considered less formal than the class bow tie designs.
Even though it simply began as a way to keep one’s collar secure, the bow tie quickly became a popular fashion piece that is refined and provides a traditional formal look. Overall, nothing truly beats the classic bow tie, which is why it has remained the staple of formal wear for centuries now.
At Tuxedo Wearhouse, we cherish the rich history behind our industry. Understanding and appreciating this history is what provides us the knowledge and dedication required to help you find a tuxedo or suit style that is perfect for you. Come to any Tuxedo Wearhouse location and see for yourself why the bow tie is the jewel of the tuxedo.