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Ever tied a bow?

The bow tie is a type of necktie. It consists of a ribbon of fabric tied around the collar in a symmetrical manner such that the two opposite ends form loops. Ready-tied bow ties are available, in which the distinctive bow is sewn and a band goes around the neck and clips to secure. Some “clip-ons” dispense with the band altogether, instead clipping to the collar. The traditional bow tie, consisting of a strip of cloth which the wearer has to tie by hand, may be known as a “self-tie,” “tie-it-yourself,” or “freestyle” bow tie to distinguish it from these.

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The bow tie originated among Croatian mercenaries during the Prussian wars of the 17th century: the Croat mercenaries used a scarf around the neck to hold together the opening of their shirts. This was soon adopted (under the name cravat, derived from the French for “Croat”) by the upper classes in France, then a leader in fashion, and flourished in the 18th and 19th centuries.

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Bow ties may be made of any fabric material, but most are made from silk, polyester, cotton, or a mixture of fabrics. Some fabrics (e.g., wool) are much less common for bow ties than for ordinary four-in-hand neckties.

Bow ties, or slight variations thereof, have also made their way into women’s wear, especially business attire. The 1980s saw professional women, especially in law, banking, and the corporate world, donning very conservative tailored suits, mostly skirted suits. These were often worn with buttoned-up blouses, some with pleats up the front like tuxedo shirts, and accessorized with bow ties that were slightly fuller than the standard bow ties worn by their male counterparts, but typically consisting of the same fabrics, colors, and patterns as men’s ties.

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Bow ties tend to be associated with particular professions, such as architects, finance receipt collectors, attorneys, university professors, teachers, waiters and politicians. Pediatricians frequently wear bow ties since infants cannot grab them the way they could grab a four-in-hand necktie, and they do not get into places where they would be soiled or could, whether accidentally or deliberately, strangle the wearer. Clowns sometimes use an oversize bow tie for its comic effect. Classical musicians traditionally perform in white tie or black tie, both of which are bow ties. Bow ties are also associated with weddings, mainly because of their almost universal inclusion in traditional formal attire.

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