Put on your bow ties, ladies and gents! Today is National Bow Tie Day and, as we button up our collars and prepare to celebrate, let’s explore the history of the bow tie and its conspicuous connection to the A/E/C industry.

Wearing a bow tie started as a practical solution to a real problem.

The legend goes… a long, long time ago, some may still remember… when architects (and engineers too) stood at drafting tables in their dress shirts and ties, putting pencil to paper. As they worked on their drawings, it was all too common for the popular long necktie to drag across the drawing board, inevitably staining the tie – or worse, ruining the day’s work.

In came the bow tie and, along with it, a lasting, celebrated link with the profession.


Source: vintag.es

Bow ties created an element of distinction (and arguably still do).

Bow ties exude class and sophistication (think tuxedo), yet simultaneously add an element of theatrics, like a wearable exclamation mark. As many of the world’s most dynamic and visionary architects became renowned in their field, so did their iconic bow tie look. Soon the right to don such an accessory of distinction became the equivalent of an architect “earning their stripes.”

To this day, many architecture firms still incorporate the symbol into celebrations of defining career moments. For instance, a new architect may “earn her bow tie” when she earns her architect’s license or a local legend may “hang up his bow tie” when he retires.

Just a few renowned architects known for their iconic bow ties include Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius, Louis Kahn and Pete Eisenman.

Along with architects, many other great minds proudly sport bow ties.

Today, the bow tie remains a statement maker and a celebration of individuality that extends beyond the architectural world. Swedish art director Matilda Kahn, for instance, found fame in 2015 for her viral article on why she wears the exact same thing to work every day – a silk white top and pair of black pants with a black leather bow around her neck, which adds a piece of flair.

There’s also Bill Nye who began wearing bow ties to set himself apart from other comedians. Like the architects with drafting tables before him, the Science Guy quickly realized the benefits of bow ties staying out of the way (and out of the Bunsen burner). Now he owns more than 500 of all different shapes, color, and size.

And then there’s our favorite, our very own Ron Sill – landscape architect turned chief storyteller and winner of RS&H’s first Impact Award – who has worn a bow tie for just about as long as I can remember. You know Ron has put in a hard week’s work when he sits down in your office on a Friday afternoon, bow tie untied.

So, will you wear a bow tie today? Post a photo for all to see!

(Just in case you need a little help, here’s a quick and easy step-by-step guide on how to tie one.)

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About the author

Jennifer Stutts
Jennifer Stutts
Jennifer Stutts serves as RS&H's Vice President of Communications, Marketing and Strategy.