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THE HISTORY OF THE BOWTIE
AS TOLD BY RAFFAELE STELLA BRIENZA
FOUNDER AND DESIGNER FOR MANI DEL SUD
Mani del Sud
The bowtie is an essential detail for formal attire requiring suits and tuxedos. Today, this iconic accessory ventures beyond the exclusive sphere of special events to conquer new looks as it is worn in more ordinary occasions. The bowtie can thus be worn as a casual accessory, classic and eccentric, while retaining its retro charm.
Legend has it that the bowtie’s origins go as far back as the Thirty Years War in the seventeenth century.
According to this theory, Croatian mercenaries fastened their shirts using a scarf tied in a bow. The French immediately fell in love with this accessory and dubbed the scarves ‘cravates’ (derived from ‘croate’, or French for ‘Croatian’).
Speaking of the tie, Honoré de Balzac, in his Traité de la vie élégante (Treatise on Elegant Life) written in 1830, gives a few suggestions on how to wear the papillon. Half a century later, in 1886, the bowtie made its debut at the famous Tuxedo Club of New York, where it immediately became a symbol of sophistication and elegance.
THE BOWTIE AS A SYMBOL OF ELEGANCE AND REBELLION
The bowtie has also been associated with various political groups and has evoked different ideological connotations. In Italy, Futurists, Communists, Anarchists, and revolutionaries all donned bowties as an iconic accessory.
In time, the bowtie also distinguished the look of famous politicians such as Sir Winston Churchill who would never leave his home without one. But the papillon suffered fascist scorn and repression as well, as it was considered to be overly ‘rebellious’.
In 1904, the bowtie entered the layman’s vocabulary and payed homage to the composer Giacomo Puccini and his opera Madame Butterfly.
‘Papillon’, an alternative to the word ‘bowtie’, is the French word for ‘butterfly’ — a name given to the accessory because of its shape.
SHAPES AND USES
As a rule, the edges of the bowtie should not be higher than the tips of the shirt collar and should be no wider than the sides of the wearer’s face. These are the correct proportions.
There are many types of bowties: self-tied, pre-tied, and diamond tip.
This type of bowtie is ideal for shorter men, or those with more slender facial lines. Diamond tips look handsome with peak lapel tuxedos, seeing as the shape of the bowtie recalls and accentuates the jacket’s style.
HOW TO WEAR THE BOWTIE
Where dress code requires a bowtie, it must be matched to the suit or tuxedo, following rigorous canons of elegance.
With tuxedos, it must be black (hence the expression ‘black-tie’) and made of satin or shiny silk material (the same as that used in the tuxedo band).
For occasions in full evening dress, the bowtie must be white piqué fabric, matching the vest.
Aside from these formal occasions, the bowtie can also be worn as an ironic accessory which adds character to any generally casual look, for example, with a sport jacket or even a sweater.
HOW TO MAKE A BOWTIE
mani del sud
Raffaele Stella Brienza is the founder and designer of the brand Mani del Sud.
Its collections reflect the essence of its roots, which find their way into a wide range of men’s accessories. The versatility of the bow tie, the heart and soul of Mani del Sud, combines with the authentic style of the accessories and is completed with refined tailored shirts, ties, wallets, clutches and bags. The creations of Mani del Sud are handmade from pure silk, natural cotton and real leather, in a dialogue between tradition and progression.