As a guy from New England, and an Ivy League college town to boot, I know from bow ties. I have long been a big fan and to me they have always represented a shot of jaunty intellectual creativity. So, I dug through the OTC archives and pulled together some thoughts on bow ties.
Just so we’re clear, I am taking about the bow ties you actually have to tie yourself. Clip-ons are to me a wasted effort. The imperfection of a self tied tie is what makes it such a personal expression of your own style. The only tie knot that should appear symmetrically flawless is the double Windsor, and that’s only because if done correctly it can look no other way.
Southern gentlemen have embraced the bow tie for generations and it seems that the current upsurge in bow tie interest was given birth in the Low Country. My instinctive style guide is finally getting some validation as bow ties are now starting to show up all over the place. Southern gentlemen though seem to have a better understanding of the bow tie’s edgier, intellectual capacity. A bow tie takes some guts to wear and, stereotypes notwithstanding, is not for the meek and timid.
About as Southern a bow tie as you can get
Tucker Carlson, the political commentator stopped wearing his trademark bow ties in part because he came to realize that they were viewed as slightly aggressive. Apparently in the tie-wearing world, at least in D.C., they are the sartorial equivalent of daring someone to pick a fight.
The core of the bow tie movement seems to be a particular elevation of the overall trend toward a sense of formality in menswear. We all know this does not mean that every guy out there wants to wear a three piece suit to work. However, if you look across the landscape of men’s clothing there is a definite move toward looking better and cleaning up.
This is not new, I’ve been talking about the trending away from slouchy casual for a while; but in my opinion, it is now taking on more definition. Where the latter 1990s, just before the tech boom, was a boring morass of bland office wear – really, the last clearly defined period of “business dress” as a uniform – we now have a movement that is actively seeking a modern update of classic influences. And it’s really a self motivating movement; out of the necessity to appear professional and keep one’s job, the desire to get a job or just for the love of dressing well.
Viewed that way, I would call today’s bow tie wearers the modern dandy. Really, this is the perfect compromise for the stylish man of today (or even the man of today who wants to be stylish). Think about it: a dandy, in his original guise, was an individualist during a period of conformity and class stratification.
He was someone who wanted to make a mark of society, turn convention on its head, find a place in the salons and courts of the power players and yet still fall within the general framework of polite society. In essence a dandy is an individualist to whom others are drawn, yet someone who still maintains his own identity.
A handy do-it-yourself guide
I don’t know about you, but to me that rather sounds like the personality of today’s up and coming entrepreneurs and big thinkers. Of course not all of our future world leaders are going to run out to stock up on bow ties, but many of them are looking to find their version of the power suit, the perfect watch, the best car or the right shoes. And as it happens, they seem to be demanding quality of quantity, substance over flash, and the unique over anonymous.