I’m a big fan of the black velvet bow tie that’s become a popular alternative on the red carpet as of late. Its pitch-black appearance and prominent placement under the face add a dramatic punctuation to Black Tie without degrading the outfit’s refined minimalism. It’s this adroit balance of flair and understatement that makes it one of the few successful innovations since evening wear’s golden age in the 1930s.
That wasn’t necessarily the case when the novelty first appeared in the early 1970s because back then bow ties were ridiculously oversized. They emerged as part of a period vogue for stylistic excess that ended in the mid ‘70s with the return of social and sartorial conservatism. When Brad Pitt revived the trend at the 2007 Cannes Film Festival the tie’s proportions were much more civilized and it was the only variation in an otherwise quintessential Black Tie kit (courtesy of Tom Ford). The following year there were enough red-carpet spottings to inspire an Urban Gentleman post on the topic and celebrities have continued to adopt the trend up to present day, one of the most recent examples being Judd Apatow at the 2012 Golden Globes.
For maximum impact the tie should be constructed of quality silk or cotton (cheap versions don’t have the same rich, lustrous appearance) and have its band hidden by a turndown collar so that only the bow is exposed.