There are two types of people who wear a bow tie, the fanciest of the fancy, those attending some black tie gala or white tie state dinner. And the old school sort of academic, the kind who wears decades old tweed, with patches on the elbows. But whether you’re wearing it with tweeds or a tux, how much do you actually know about the knot at your neck?
The earliest examples of the bow tie, came about during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), which was fought between the powers of the Habsburg States, and the powers of Central Europe, over who the hell knows what, but the ties them self have developed form the scarves worn by Croatian mercenaries that were used to tie closed their shirt openings. This was adapted into the cravat by the French (Cravat, being a derivative from the word Croat, the people of Croatia), versions of which are still worn as formal wear today, the cravat knot was then adapted into a bow, and then as most things do over time (phones, I pods, etc) the bows got smaller, and then by the turn of the 20th century, the bow tie was pretty much as we know it today, especially with the advent of the pre tied, ready made bow tie.
I myself have been known to rock the bow tie from time to time (black or white tie events seem to crop up almost weekly) and I’ll be completely honest, I look good.
I’m a fat guy. I’m not morbidly obese, but in all honesty I am carrying a fair bit of weight in my gut, I have a 48 inch chest, but the problem is that I have a 52 inch stomach, which makes buying clothes off the peg a bit of nightmare, actually scratch that, it makes it an almost Danteish like hell of epic proportions. You have that moment of excitement, that little thrill of anticipation and then BANG right in the cojones, that huge steel toed boot of dissapointment when you see the words slim fit, and you realise that you would never be able to do the thing up, or if you could, one deep breathe could send a button hurtling across the room.
Now I hear you saying, but surely you but bespoke, and the truth is I would like to, but my budget doesn’t really stretch to it at the moment, so this is why buying a bigger size and getting alterations done is also out, because also slim fits will often come up short in other areas like the sleeve or in overall length as well, and this is why I despair. It is next to impossible for a larger gent to look good on a budget, you either have to buy tailor made from china (which lasts about three wears and then falls apart) or you have to buy second hand, which just looks shabby, so if you want to look sharp when you are in fact round, what do you do? I wish I knew, and before you suggest losing weight, this has long been an issue for me, no matter how much my weight fluctuates, I can’t remember the last time I was able to pick something up on the high street, even at my most skinny.
Its the 21st century, you’re probably thinking, who on earth wears a top hat any more? well you’d be surprised.
A top hat is a tall, flat-crowned, broad-brimmed hat, worn by men from the latter part of the 18th to the middle of the 20th century. By the end of the Second World War, it had become a rarity in ordinary dress, although it does continue to be worn in specific instances, such as state funerals.
As of the early 21st century, top hats are still worn at some society events in the UK, notably at church weddings and racing meetings attended by members of the royal family, such as Royal Ascot. They remain part of the formal uniform of certain British institutions, such as the boy-choristers of King’s College Choir. They are usually worn with morning dress or white tie, in dressage, and as part of servants’ or doormen’s livery.
I have worn a top hat, when alcohol wasn’t involved, once in my life, and that was to the queens garden party last year. I also wore one (the same one) for a few jokey photos at my wedding reception.
This was something that I wasn’t a hundred percent sure of until I actually started wearing a cravat on a regular basis.
I will point out that it helps (and also looks pretty cool) if you use some form of stick pin to hold the cravat in place, and also to add that little touch of decoration that a plain solid colour cravat may desperately need.
I’ve had a lot of formal things to go to over the last few weeks and and it seems to me that no one does black tie anymore, its all lounge suits and regular ties. Black tie is a dying thing. But if you ever thought of bringing it back here are few things that you should remember
Black tie means black (with one or two exceptions). Black is elegant and chic and on most (not all) people is pretty slimming and whilst there has been a fashion for navy blue lately this really doesn’t work well in daylight, or environments where there is going to be a lot of light
The Bow Tie and Lapel material should always match (as should a cummerbund). The only exception to this rule is if you are going for a velvet bow tie (which you should only really consider if you’re wearing a velvet jacket).
Cummerbund vs Waistcoat: This debate has raged for decades, and while either is fine you should bear in mind a few things, waistcoats are hot, but cummerbunds are a little impractical if you have a little bit (or a lot of) a stomach.
If your shirt has buttons on the cuff it is not a dress shirt, dress shirts require cufflinks and the buttons are either hidden or are replaced with studs, the point of black tie is to hide all practical points of clothing, buttons are either missing or covered.
Wing collars, fashions change so don’t feel that you have to have a wing collar, but they do look good.
Shoes should be black leather, whether they are patent leather or not is a personal choice, but it does add to look if they are.
I hope this has helped in some way or another, and you rock up to your next formal dressed to kill