In a world where ties are increasingly optional - much to the chagrin of menswear purists - snazzy neckwear is a sartorial sign that dandyism still exists.

The trendlet

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Bow ties in polka dots, zigzags, stripes, and African prints are taking the modern man's suited-up look from OK to worthy of a second glance. Just ask Matthew McConaughey.

Where's it come from?

With the advent of suiting in the mid-17th century came cravats - a neck band that tucked into men's formal shirts like handkerchiefs. Neckties, bow ties, and even ascots were descendants of cravats - bow ties being the more formal of the three.

In the 1950s and early '60s, bow ties became associated with fashionable, smart-looking men - think the bespectacled Malcolm X and Buddy Holly. But after that surge in popularity, bow ties were more barbershop quartet than chic. When menswear started getting fitter and dressier in 2009, such entertainers as André 3000 and Justin Timberlake helped elevate the bow tie from granddad's armoire to the center of pop culture.

Who's wearing it?

Men who want you to know they care - really care - about personal style. Bow ties are proof that their wardrobe choices are intentional. Around town, tastemakers from Commonwealth Proper owner Craig Arthur Von Schroeder and Brian Lipstein of Henry A. Davidsen to bloggers Ian Michael Crumm and Sabir Peele proudly wear bow ties.

Would Elizabeth's guy wear it?

I've never dated the bow-tie-type - maybe therein lies my problem.

Should you wear it?

Whether you're 3 or 93, bow ties add a favorable extra to most guys' look - that's with or without a dinner jacket and especially with a vest.

215-854-2704 @ewellingtonphl

All bow ties courtesy of William + James, $75, www.williamplusjames.com.

Model: Dymir Purnell, 14, freshman at the U School and participant in the Future Project.