Once a year every August 28, men, women, children and house pets all around the world come together to share an iconic accessory on National Bow Tie Day. Indeed the bow tie stands out as a truly universal accessory, long before the term ‘unisex’ was coined. It is also accessorized on objects of affection – pet cats, pet dogs, pet Iguanas – beings that have sauntered into the inner circle of human affection. That makes National Bow Tie Day a truly global celebration across peoples, cultures, across species even.
People from the opposite ends of the ideological spectra were united with the bow tie. Karl Marx and Abraham Lincoln both wore black bowties. While it was worn by celebrities like Frank Sinatra and Humphrey Bogart, it was bolstered by human institutions like President Franklin Roosevelt and the "political genius" Sir Winston Churchill. The founder of Psychoanalysis Sigmund Freud wore a bow tie, but so did Albert Einstein. Colonel Sanders and Charlie Chaplin.
A Google search would not only yield David Beckham, Hugh Jackman, Dwayne “The Rock “ Johnson in a bow tie, you’d also see Rihanna, Drew Barrymore and Janelle Monae on Pinterest fashionable in a bow tie. In fact, as of last, the number of Google searches for a bow tie outnumber the searches for a necktie 31.4 million to 12.3 million. But then again, the bow tie came first.
Origin of the Bowtie
The necktie and the bowtie trace their common origin from Croatian mercenaries that fought for France during the 30 Years War. They wore a piece of cloth around their necks as part of their uniform. While this served a practical purpose protecting their necks from sword cuts, they had a decorative effect that King Louis XIII liked so much he made it mandatory for royal gatherings. In honor of the Croatian soldiers, he named it La Cravate, derived from the French for “Croat.”
17th Century Croatian Soldier
In no time it was adopted by the French upper-class citizens who were already highly influential in the fashion world at that time. It then quickly spread to the English who called it Cravat and who in turn exported it worldwide through migration and colonization. The 18th century saw England rise to be the world’s dominant colonial power, further enhancing their global influence. This carried the Cravat to Western Europe, America, Canada, Australia and other British colonies where it iterated first into the bowtie, then into the necktie as we know them now. The bowtie is, in fact, one of the most enduring of Western cultural influences worldwide.
Formal Wear No More
In the early days, the bowtie was reserved for formal occasions and worn with a tuxedo. Those who wore it outside of formal events gained a reputation for not caring about what others think, and definitely not fashionable. At one point it became niche, associated with certain professions like professors, classical musicians, and waiters. With the traditional image they invoke, bowties also got associated with weddings.
But then it made its way to women’s wear, albeit with quite the necessary fashionable tweaks. It also made a comeback among men, initially by those who wanted to convey a more dressed-up, formal image. All that has changed, bowties are now part of the daily attire of many men and women. They are also no longer just constructed of black silk. The bowtie now comes in a plethora of colors and fabrics to suit an individual’s unique taste.
And on National Bow Tie Day, men and women from the nations come together and celebrate by wearing and gifting the humble accessory that has somehow managed to unite the world. You could be going through your daily grind, shopping in the markets of life, or staycationing, if you’re wearing a bowtie on Aug. 28 you are celebrating the phenomenon, together with many many people around the world.