The first bow tie that looks somewhat similar to what we know it to be today came up in the 1830’s. In the following 30 years, bow ties became progressively more prominent and by the 1860’s, the traditional cravat has fallen mostly out of favor. There’s a famous photograph of Abraham Lincoln from 1863 showing the bow tie style in transition. Lincoln is stoically staring ahead while wearing a black bow tie with pointed ends. On the other hand, his predecessor James Buchanan still wore a white cravat.
Between 1850 and the turn of the century, bow ties dominated menswear and you could see them mostly in black or white or variations thereof.At the beginning of the 20th century, bow ties transitioned more into a specific style choice because the traditional threefold necktie became more popular now. Even though they would be progressively less popular now, they still maintain their place in classic men’s wardrobe in the first half of the 20th century. At the turn of the century, bow ties were usually quite small but frankly, there were loads of shapes and forms, much more than you can find today.
By the 1990’s, and early 2000’s, most men would not wear bow ties anymore; it was only something reserved for people who made a deliberate style choice and who wore bow ties because other men did it. I would guess that the overall market share of bow ties at that time was about 5-10%. Thankfully, bow ties today are not nearly as subjected to trends and they’ve become much more mainstream and popular. I would estimate the market share today to be anywhere between 30-40%.
It seems to me that bow ties are much more flexible than they were in the past. People wear them sometimes even with short sleeved shirts or just a dress shirt. It doesn’t require a jacket anymore and it’s just a form of self-expression.By 1910, the bow tie had grown a little bit across the board but again there are lots of choices out there. In the 30’s you’d often see smaller bow ties as well and bigger bow ties. Generally, they weren’t quite as slim as later in the 50’s or 60’s. However, in the late 60’s and early 70’s, bow ties became huge. It was the same with ties and shirt collars, sometimes also lapels.
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