Happy Bow Tie Day, celebrated annually on August 28th. The bow tie originated in the 17th century with Croatian soldiers who wore them as part of their uniforms in the Thirty Year War. The French troops who observed the Croatian soldiers, brought back the practice to France where it became fashionable. While some wear bow ties casually, often projecting a professorial or intellectual look, it is also used in formal attire such as tuxedos and military raiment. The bow tie was designed to help draw the eyes up to the face and away from the shoulders and chest.

One of the 39 prohibitions of Shabbat productivity is tying a knot, and, its opposite act, untying. The question is may one indeed tie (or untie) a bow tie on Shabbat?

For a knotted tie to be considered a knot in Jewish law, it must be considered a permanent knot, which we will define shortly, and it must be a type of knot that is somewhat complicated in order to remain tight, i.e. a knot used by experts and artisans. That knot is halachically defined as permanent and a specialty type of tight knot, and would violate the prohibition of tying on a Biblical level. If one violates one element but not both, one nonetheless violates rabbinic law. The same criteria are used for untying.

A permanent knot is defined as a knot that is intended to remain tied. There are a variety of opinions regarding how long it would need to remain tied, but it would need to be tied for at least 24 hours (i.e. tying one’s shoes would not be a problem, however a double knot could be considered an attempt at permanence, despite how often it is tied.)

Tying a necktie is not considered to be a halachically problematic knot since it can be easily undone and is never intended to remain for an entire day. It is designed to be used and unused while one wears a shirt, which is usually never more than a day.

Bow ties are also not meant to remain tied longer than the time one wears the shirt under the tie. Even though the way one ties a bow tie may be more complicated and less well known than tying a neck tie, most would argue that it is not a permanent knot nor is it intended to be too tight.

NOTE: As with all Treats dealing with halacha (points of Jewish law), one should consult one’s local rabbi for practical application.

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