Although not many men wear a bow tie, you can still spot them every once in a while, especially at formal evening occasions when tuxedos are worn. Upon closer inspection of the bow tie, one realizes that generally only two different shapes are worn.
Butterfly Bow Tie
On the one hand, there is the butterfly bow tie which looks very much like a butterfly because of the four little wings—two wings on either blade. The name butterfly derives from Giacomo Puccini‘s opera Madame Butterfly, which premiered 17th February 1904 at the Scala in Milan and shortly thereafter began to become a worldwide success. The protagonists wore a very tightly knotted bow tie creating a butterfly-like shape. Just like the opera, the bow tie shape itself became extremely popular.
Batwing Bow Tie
On the other hand, there is the batwing bow tie which is slimmer than the Butterfly bow tie with a straight blade.
Both have a slimmer middle than blades.
Single Ended Bow Tie
However, other than those two shapes there is another interesting bow tie shape which is hardly attracts attention: the single-end or single-ended bow tie. You can either tie it like a regular bow tie or just put the slim end through the knot so it sits right next to the collar which is actually easier than tying a regular bow tie. When worn with a tuxedo or a tailcoat, the single ended bow tie is even more elegant than a regular butterfly or batwing bow tie since there is only one neat looking wing.
While black single end / single ended bow ties are relatively easily available in England (they can be ordered at Swagger & Swoon, Ede & Ravenscroft as well as Pakeman Catto & Parker) it is considerably more difficult to find a white single-ended marcella bow tie. Given its rarity, you have to be quite lucky to find an old one, for example from Frederick Theak or you may spot one at a fleamarket or on ebay. Considering that there is only one bow shaped end, it does not really matter if the bow tie is a little bit to large for your necksize as you will just put the end through the knot when you tie it. Moreover, every good shirtmaker or manufacturer of bow ties should be able to make a bespoke single-end bow tie for you.
When you have a chance to wear a tuxedo next time, give the single-end bow tie a chance—it will be the icing on the cake!
The four pictures which do not bear the Gentleman’s Gazette logo were provided by Anthony Jordan.