The bow tie first originated in Croatia during the 17th century. A scarf was commonly worn around the neck to hold together the opening of their shirts. This then became the cravat, and was introduced into fashion in the French upper classes in the 18th century. The word cravat is roughly derived from the French word for Croat. As the popularity of the cravat grew so too did new versions become introduced into society. The evolution into the bow tie began in the start of the 19th century.
During 1886, in New York City, Pierre Lorillard designed a new form of cravat. He wore this to a formal ball at the Tuxedo club. Pierre was a wealthy man(the Tuxedo club was named after his family’s estate) and his new style was quickly copied by other wealthy fashionistas. This new style with a tuxedo and a bow tie grew into what we now know today as ‘black tie’.
Nowadays there are many different styles of bow ties. They are also no longer specifically worn as formal attire. Worn in many different ensembles it has been one of the defining features of many famous people over the past century, from Charlie Chaplin to Bill Nye. It has even crossed into female fashion in the early 20th century being famously worn by Marlene Dietrich in the film Morocco, alongside a top hat.
Bow ties vary hugely in quality and style in the 21st century. Not all bow ties need to be tied anymore, with the introduction of the clip on bow tie and the use of mass production technology almost anyone can wear a bow tie now. You can buy a cheap synthetic clip on bow tie for less than $3. There are also high quality silk bow ties from famous fashion designers that will cost you hundreds of dollars. Who knows what the bow tie will look like in another 100 years.........