Bow tie

A striped bow tie.

The bow tie is a type of men's necktie. It 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.

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.


Origin and history

Johan Krouthén wearing a bow tie.

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-tip collar shirts, so as not to expose the adjusting buckle of the bow tie. Adjustable bow ties are the standard when the tie is to be worn with less formal lay-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.

Stereotypes of bow tie wearers

"To its devotees the bow tie suggests iconoclasm of an Old World sort, a fusty adherence to a contrarian point of view. The bow tie hints at intellectualism, real or feigned, and sometimes suggests technical acumen, perhaps because it is so hard to tie. Bow ties are worn by magicians, country doctors, lawyers and professors and by people hoping to look like the above. But perhaps most of all, wearing a bow tie is a way of broadcasting an aggressive lack of concern for what other people think."

—Warren St John, The New York Times[1]

Bow ties tend to be associated with particular professions, such as architects, finance receipt collectors, attorneys,[2] university professors, teachers, waiters and politicians. Pediatricians frequently wear bow ties since infants cannot grab them the way they could grab a four-in-hand necktie, and they do not get into places where they would be soiled or could, whether accidentally or deliberately, strangle the wearer. Clowns sometimes use an oversize bow tie for its comic effect. Classical musicians traditionally perform in white tie or black tie, both of which are bow ties. It is well understood in the legal profession, among older attorneys, or those who still read into a man's appearance, that a man who wears bow-ties regularly is not to be trusted; he thinks too far outside the box or unconventionally to a fault[citation needed]. Bow ties are also associated with weddings, mainly because of their almost universal inclusion in traditional formal attire.

Bow ties, or slight variations thereof, have also made their way into women's wear, especially business attire. The 1980s saw professional women, especially in law, banking, and the corporate world, donning very conservative tailored suits, mostly skirted suits. These were often worn with buttoned-up blouses, some with pleats up the front like tuxedo shirts, and accessorized with bow ties that were slightly fuller than the standard bow ties worn by their male counterparts.

Russell Smith, style columnist for the Toronto Globe and Mail, observes that opinions of bow tie wearers are mixed. While he observed that bowties were experiencing a potential comeback among men,[3][4] he also stated that "the class conscious man recoils at the idea" of pre-tied bow ties. "Left-wingers," he continues, "recoil at what they perceive to be a symbol of political conservatism." He argues that, however, the anachronism is the point, and that bow tie wearers are making a public statement that they disdain changing fashion. Such people may not be economic conservatives, he argues, but they are social conservatives. In Smith's view, the bow tie is "the embodiment of propriety," an indicator of fastidiousness and intelligence, and "an instant sign of nerdom in Hollywood movies," but "not the mark of a ladies' man" and "not exactly sexy." To this image he attributes the association of the bow tie with newspaper editors (because of their fastidiousness with words), high-school principals, and bachelor English teachers. Most men, he observes, only wear bow ties with formal dress.


Jim Rogers wearing a bow tie in the late 2000s.

Although the necktie is more prominent in today's society, being seen at business meetings, formal functions, schools, and sometimes even at home, the bow tie is making a comeback with fun-formal events such as dinner, cocktail parties and nights out on the town. Bow ties, especially narrow "string ties," are still popular with men of all ages in the American South. It is also much more common to wear a bow tie with a dinner jacket than it is to wear a necktie with one. Bow ties are also sometimes worn as an alternative to ascot ties when wearing a morning coat

The dress code of "black tie" requires a black bow tie. Most military mess dress incorporates a bow tie.

The eleventh incarnation of the Doctor, played by Matt Smith in the BBC's long-running science-fiction series Doctor Who wears a bow tie as part of his outfit. The Doctor, in several episodes of Series 5 and 6, insists that "bow ties are cool", explaining in "A Christmas Carol" that the bow tie is "cool" simply because people still trust him while he wears it.[5] Eastenders character Tamwar Masood (portrayed by actor Himesh Patel) also wears a bow tie on occasion.


Shown below on the right is one style of "ready tied" bow tie; there is also a clip-on that does not go around the neck but clips to the collar points; these are the simplest type to put on, but are also considered somewhat of a faux pas. If choosing a "self-tie" bow tie, there are usually two shapes available: the "bat wing," which is parallel-sided like a cricket bat, and the "thistle", sometimes known as the "butterfly." An example of each can also be seen preceding. Which is worn is a matter of personal preference. Some other shapes do exist, for instance with pointed tips at both ends. Both of these are of the double-ended type, with both ends shaped; occasionally one still sees bow ties of the single-ended type, in which only one end flares out to give the batwing or thistle shape, and the other remains thin. To tie one of these requires careful consideration, to ensure the broader end finishes in front of the thinner one.


Some notable designers of bow ties are Charvet, who invented some novel styles such as a cross between a batwing and a butterfly for the duke of Windsor in the 1950s,[6] Duchamp or Paul Smith.

Bow tie shapes in corporate logos

Some logos for popular product have incorporated bow tie shapes:


  1. ^ St John, Warren (June 26, 2005). "A Red Flag That Comes in Many Colors". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-22. 
  2. ^ Cook, Joan (February 19, 1988). "The Law; In Celebration of 'Dignified Frivolity'". The New York Times. Retrieved 2008-10-22. 
  3. ^ Russell Smith (2007). Men's Style. Macmillan. pp. 135. ISBN 0312361653. 
  4. ^ Russell Smith (2008-11-15). "Rock the bow tie without looking nerdy". Toronto Globe and Mail (CTVglobemedia Publishing Inc.). 
  5. ^
  6. ^ Gavenas, Mary Lisa (2008). Encyclopedia of Menswear, p.86. Fairchild Publications, New York. ISBN 9781563674655
  7. ^ "Budweiser Introduces Retro-Themed Bottles", article, Retail Merchandiser, April 29, 2005, as reprinted at the Web site: "the famous Budweiser bow tie logo." Retrieved March 4, 2008
  8. ^ Durrett, Richard, "Don't get caught up in Daytona wreckage", article, Dallas Morning News, February 22, 2008: "It has become almost expected to see Chevrolet's 'bow tie' logo in Victory Lane." Retrieved March 4, 2008
  9. ^ "Chevrolet Bowtie History" (no date given), Generator & Distributor, newsletter of the Vintage Chevrolet Club of America" as reprinted in The Chevrolet Review, No. 61, July, 1990: "The Chevrolet Bowtie has been one of the World’s most recognized trademarks since 1913, when William C. Durant first introduced the symbol." Retrieved March 4, 2008

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • bow tie — [ˌbəu ˈtaı US ˈbou taı] n ↑glass, ↑bow tie, ↑tray a short piece of cloth tied in the shape of a bow that men sometimes wear around their neck …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • bow tie — [ bou ,taı ] noun count a narrow piece of cloth that a man puts around his collar and ties into a BOW, usually for special occasions …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

  • bow tie — bow′ tie′ [[t]boʊ[/t]] n. 1) clo a small necktie tied in a bow at the collar 2) coo something, as a sweet roll, shaped like this • Etymology: 1910–15 …   From formal English to slang

  • bow tie — ► NOUN ▪ a necktie in the form of a bow …   English terms dictionary

  • bow tie — [bō] n. a small necktie tied in a bowknot …   English World dictionary

  • bow tie — noun a man s tie that ties in a bow • Syn: ↑bow tie, ↑bowtie • Hypernyms: ↑necktie, ↑tie • Hyponyms: ↑black tie, ↑white tie * * * bō …   Useful english dictionary

  • bow tie — /bou/ n. 1) to tie a bow tie 2) to undo, untie a bow tie * * * [ˌbəʊ taɪ] untie a bow tie to tie a bow tie to undo …   Combinatory dictionary

  • bow tie — [[t]bo͟ʊ ta͟ɪ[/t]] bow ties also bow tie N COUNT A bow tie is a tie in the form of a bow. Bow ties are worn by men, especially for formal occasions …   English dictionary

  • bow-tie — noun a man s tie that ties in a bow • Syn: ↑bow tie, ↑bowtie • Hypernyms: ↑necktie, ↑tie • Hyponyms: ↑black tie, ↑white tie …   Useful english dictionary

  • bow tie — UK [ˌbəʊ ˈtaɪ] / US [ˈboʊ ˌtaɪ] noun [countable] Word forms bow tie : singular bow tie plural bow ties a narrow piece of cloth that a man puts around his collar and ties into a bow, usually for special occasions …   English dictionary

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