© 2009 Marica

004 – Tying black bow ties

It has been a long week for me. Even the fact that today was Friday didn’t seem to perk me up. As I struggled through the day I became aware that I wasn’t the only person feeling tired and ready for the weekend break.

As we were all winding down this afternoon, and getting ready to have drinks to farewell a colleague who finished working with us today, an unusual diversion captured our attention.

Someone in our team asked in a loud voice, “Does anyone know how to tie a bow tie?”

A flurry ensued as a small collection of people gathered around this man, from one of the other teams on our floor, in his hour of need. He stood there all dressed up in a black suit and a sparkling waistcoat with black fabric dangling loosely from his neck.

I turned around to an older male just behind me who was having a conversation with my manager and aksed him if he could tie a bow tie. I felt sure he would say yes, but instead his response was, “I’d have to phone my wife and ask her how to do it.”

In that moment I realised that I had never had to tie a bow tie for my husband. He has quite a collection only his are already tied (or should I say sewn) into a bow and then attached to elastic. This is the quick fix version of the traditional bow tie. My husband’s view is that he doesn’t have time to tie bow ties.

As I watched some of my colleagues trying to interpret the instruction sheet that came with the bow tie my reaction was to get the camera out. There was lots of talking and lots of hands doing stuff. The whole time I was smiling inside as I watched this scenario unfold to its successful conclusion – a beautifully tied black bow tie.

Imagine my surprise this evening to discover that the Croatians (my ethnic background) are responsible for the origins of the bow tie.

The bow tie dates back to the 17th century. During the 30 Years War, Croatian mercenaries went to France to show their support to King Louis. In order to keep their shirts closed, (apparently they didn’t have many buttons), they wrapped a loosely fit tie around their necks. The early form of today’s men’s tie served two purposes: (1) To keep the top of their uniforms closed, and (2) to protect the soldiers’ necks from the cold wind and rain. Some historians still argue that besides having a solely practical purpose, it was also inspired by fashion.

King Louis was impressed with how bravely the Croats were fighting on the side of his men. He found liking in their uniforms, in particular the tie. He liked this piece of clothing so much that he adopted it, and made it a required piece of fashion accessory for the upper class during formal functions. To honour the Croats, he gave the tie the name “La Cravat” a name still used today in France.

Over time, the fabric of the tie changed from fine cotton to the most expensive silk. Initially the first ties were white in color. They served both as a fashion statement, and as a sign to distinguish between classes.

It’s unsure on whether the bow tie eventually turned into the now popular neck tie, or if it just inspired the invention of it.

Unfortunately the tradition of the bow tie has vanished a little. Today the most commonly used bow tie is the so-called clip-on bow tie. Unfortunately only few men today know how to tie a bow tie themselves. There is nothing like tying your own bow. Besides having centuries of tradition, tying your own bow allows you to adjust the size as well the bow’s spread in a way that perfectly fits your collar shape and size.

Pohl, H. (2008, October 4). The History of the Bow Tie. Retrieved September 4, 2009, from http://ezinearticles.com/?The-History-of-the-Bow-Tie&id=1555129.

As I was telling my husband what I had just read he said to me: “Your father told me that ages ago.” Why didn’t he ever tell me I wondered.

I may not have tied any bow ties in my life but I can tell you I have tied hundreds of bows. People have often commented how nice my bows always look. Maybe there is a Croatian gene for this or is it just a skill I have acquired through endless practice?

I love that I always learn something new every day.

09. Every day learn something new.
11. Every day do something for someone else.
21. Every day seek the support of others. You are not alone.

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