Call it an article of fashion flair or an outfit accoutrement for the debonair – the bow tie is back! Fashion trends tend to be cyclical. What was a la mode decades ago will inevitably tend to find its way back on the rack of your favourite downtown boutique. Like the resurgence of bright ‘80s colour schemes, the flapper stylings of the 1920s, and the touch-of-class bow tie collar cladding, some fashions are timeless in their own way.
The history of the bow tie is often debated, and certainly somewhat speculated. The general consensus, however, is that the bow tie first originated around the Prussian wars of the 17th century. Croatian mercenaries would tie scarves around their necks to keep themselves warm, while simultaneously holding together the opening of their shirt. The fashion forward French saw this “Crote” style and were all like, “zis is so cool,” adapted this bit of collar flash to suit various tastes and called it the cravat.
Throughout the 1800s the cravat gained popularity, as the readymade white lace jabot became a common staple of French upperclassmen. Towards the end of that century, the dinner jacket was invented and the black bow tie was then brought into fashion to replace the traditional tailcoat and white bow tie combination. This all went down at the resort of Tuxedo Park in New York, and from there the tuxedo became a symbol of wealth and elegance to be revered for millennia.
While the tuxedo has been a steadfast staple of high-end affairs, the bow tie has come in and out of closets more times than Andy Dick’s questionable sexuality. So aside from those with hipster sensibilities, why has the new renaissance of the bow tie begun to appear around the necks of stylishly average Joes everywhere?
“A number of evolutions have happened with the bow tie,” says Tao Drayton, owner of Cabaret Vintage on Queen West. “In the ‘30s, ‘40s and ’50s the trends followed fashion influencers, musicians, artists, etc., but eventually faded to becoming bookish, nerdy and uncool.”
These days, the archival influence of the Internet has allowed us to conceptualize more out of the box styles, patterns and colour schemes. The art of dressing that was historically handed down by grandfathers and fathers has been replaced by our ability to watch a YouTube clip to find out how to properly tie a bow tie – believe me, I’ve done it.
“Guys like me started blogging about it 3 to 5 years ago, but now it’s hit critical mass,” Tao continues. “It’s not just classic stripes, polka dots or paisley, and it’s not solely for the typical hipster style maven either. We’ve gone past the casual ’90s where everyone said, ‘Let go of the tie’ – now the bow tie is a bit more countercultural to the straight neckties of Bay Street.”
Listen, we’re not all a bunch of Andre 3000’s who can rock reptilian shoes and fox furs along with our bow ties. But, with the accessibility of stylish neck-knotters around town, gents are finding ways to wear their uniqueness around their collars without the aid of a GQ magazine.