WHEN it comes to the official percentage of adult men who know how to tie a bow tie, the research is mixed, although one retailer puts the figure as low as 1%.
Simon Potey, manager of French bow-tie boutique Le Colonel Moutarde, is slightly kinder in his estimations, although the store’s position in hipster-heavy Shoreditch might have skewed the results.
“I would say probably 10% of men that come into the store know how to tie a bow-tie,” Simon says.
“Usually they have learned how to do it at school, or they are American.”
But fat fingers certainly haven’t lost their grip on Britain’s love of a bow-tie, with Le Colonel Moutarde’s 300-odd prints and patterns as popular here as they are in their native Lille, where the business was started and bow-ties are still handmade.
“I think English people tend to be a bit jazzier than French people,” Simon says.
“The men here are a bit bolder with their colour choices, they feel like they can have more fun with it.”
Of course, it doesn’t hurt business on this side of the Channel that the majority of the Le Colonel’s fabrics are from Liberty, dainty florals in navy and mint the stand-out favourites for weddings in the English countryside.
So popular is Le Colonel during wedding season, that the company has more recently ventured into pocket squares, neckties and boxer shorts; a natural expansion for a brand that was borne of its founder’s inability to find a bow-tie to suit his taste.
Rémi Duboquet began designing and sewing his own bow-ties, making so many that his apartment in Lille became something of a shrine to neckwear.
It wasn’t long before his girlfriend Clémence Yon created an online store to sell the bow-ties under a moniker inspired by her favourite colour and character from the classic board game Cluedo.
The business grew to bricks and mortar shops in Lille, Paris and eventually London, but throughout the expansion, Le Colonel’s business ethos has remained the same; quality fabrics and construction at reasonable prices, starting at €32 (£28).
“We’ve tried to remain accessible to a young buyer and that’s why Shoreditch was a great fit for us, you get all kinds of people through the doors,” Simon says.
And while most of his time is spent discussing wedding colours with brides or teaching the best man how to perfect a diamond point, Simon’s favourite type of customer is a devotee like himself.
“Some guys will come in with a bag full of shirts and say ‘What can we do with these?’ For me, that’s really exciting… it says the bow-tie is definitely back.”