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The bow tie (pron.: //) 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 and a band goes around the neck and clips to secure. 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.
A modern bow tie is tied using a common shoelace knot.
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.
|“||"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
Bow ties tend to be associated with particular professions, such as architects, finance receipt collectors, attorneys, 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. 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, but typically consisting of the same fabrics, colors, and patterns as men's ties.
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, 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 "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.
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 are often worn with suits by those trying to convey a more dressed up, formal image, whether in business or social venues. Certain bow ties, especially narrow "string ties," are still popular with men of all ages in the American South.
Traditional opinion remains that it is inappropriate to wear anything other than a bow tie with a dinner jacket, but the more fashion-forward in the film and music industries believe a necktie is equally appropriate.
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. Wearing a "ready tied" bow tie at formal occasions requiring a black or white tie dress code is usually considered something of a faux pas, though at occasions such as Schools Leavers' Proms or ones at which the participants are unlikely to have had much experience wearing bow ties it may be commonplace. 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", also known as the "butterfly." An example of each can also be seen below. 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 logos for popular product have incorporated bow tie shapes:
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