Knotty affair: How bow ties became the most indispensible accessory in a man’s wardrobe

What do Winston Churchill, Frank Sinatra and James Bond have in common? Yeah, you guessed it right – bow ties, of course!

Bow tie
Winston Churchill was seldom seen without his trademark bow tie

Ever wondered how this jaunty piece of clothing came into existence? Apparently, the tradition of wearing a knotted piece of fabric around the neck dates back to the 17th century, when Croatian soldiers wore these unique neckties during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), as good luck charms for the battle. The French soldiers picked it up soon after, from where the humble piece of clothing travelled to the upper echelons of society becoming the latest haute item of men’s attire in the early 1700s.  

From France through the royal corridors of England’s elite, the bow tie crossed the Atlantic in October 1886 when Pierre Lorillard V – American tycoon and, evidently, fashion influencer – designed a unique style of formalwear and wore it to a ball at the local Tuxedo Club. His ‘black bow tie with black tuxedo’ look became such an instant hit that it quickly replaced the tailcoat and white bow tie as the primary formal attire for men – a trend that continues to this day!

Bow tie
James Bond, from the time of Connery to Craig, sports the dapper bow tie

Fast-forward a few years and we see the bow tie co-opted on silver screen by the likes of iconic heroes like Humphrey Bogart, Sean Connery, etc. However, it is British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, whose penchant for bow ties – apparently inherited from his father – immortalised this neck accessory for years to come!

But bow ties of this day and age are a far cry from the stiff, formal affairs of yesteryears! Of course, it is still the go-to accessory for a gala night, a formal dinner or an awards ceremony! After all, you can’t really go wrong in a tuxedo and bow tie! But to a modern gentleman looking for creativity, the bow tie can morph into something so much more than a formal accessory – it can be quirky, bold, fun, individualistic, all the while lending an air of cool suaveness. Topping our list of such men is Hollywood A-lister Robert Downey Jr who turned heads in a turquoise bow tie at an awards night. Another celebrity, Jared Leto, upped the fun quotient even higher when he wore a red carnation bow tie at the Oscars 2016.

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Being cool comes naturally to Robert Downey Jr, a bow tie does help once in a while

Women too seem to have discovered just how versatile this small piece of fabric can be, with the likes of Ellen De Generes, Kim Kardashian and Salma Hayek all sporting different trends on numerous occasions.

Passing fad, did you say? We think not! Bow ties seem rather neatly tied with the rite of passage in fashion corridors to fade into oblivion just yet!

Text: Suchetana Mukhopadhyay

Bow Ties and Timepieces: Accessories for today’s gentleman

Hong Kong horseracing is about to get glamorous with the upcoming Gentlemen’s Bow Tie Raceday.

The annual event – co-hosted by Oriental Watch Company and The Hong Kong Jockey Club – is a chance for HK racegoers to spruce up their everyday outfits with a bow tie for a more Dapper Dan-esque look.

Not sure what to wear? No worries. We sat down with debonair men-about-town Albert Wong and Brandon Chau ahead of the event to get some tips.

Watch the video to find out what bowties represent to them, what they look for in a watch and what makes these the perfect accessories for today’s modern gentleman.