Bow Tie Etiquette

Russ Curry, Ministry of New Media

Those of you going along to the The DailyDOOH GALA AWARDS at London’s Banqueting House this Thursday December 3 really should know a bit more about bow ties.

The bow tie consists of a ribbon of fabric tied around the collar in a symmetrical manner such that the two opposite ends form loops. Ready-tied bow ties are available, in which the distinctive bow is sewn into shape and the band around the neck incorporates a clip.

Some ‘clip-ons’ dispense with the band altogether, instead clipping to the collar. The traditional bow tie, consisting of a strip of cloth which the wearer has to tie by hand, may be known as a ‘self-tie’, ‘tie-it-yourself’, or ‘freestyle’ bow tie to distinguish it from these.

And, guys, if we get it right, we all end up looking like this:

Bow ties may be made of any fabric material, but most are made from silk, polyester, cotton, or a mixture of fabrics. Some fabrics (e.g., wool) are much less common for bow ties than for ordinary four-in-hand neckties.

The bow tie originated among Croatian mercenaries during the Prussian wars of the 17th century: the Croat mercenaries used a scarf around the neck to hold together the opening of their shirts. This was soon adopted (under the name cravat, derived from the French for ‘Croat’) by the upper classes in France, then a leader in fashion, and flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries.

It is uncertain whether the cravat then evolved into the bow tie and necktie, or whether the cravat gave rise to the bow tie, which in turn led to the necktie. The most traditional bow ties are usually of a fixed length and are made for a specific size neck.

Sizes can vary between approximately 14 and 20 inches just like a comparable shirt collar. Fixed-length bow ties are preferred when worn with the most formal wing-collar shirts, so as not to expose the buckle or clasp of an adjustable bow tie. Adjustable bow ties are the standard when the tie is to be worn with less formal lie-down collar shirts, which obscure the neckband of the tie. ‘One-size-fits-all’ adjustable bow ties are a later invention that help to moderate production costs.


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