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Bowties?

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
I'm a bit curious to know what you think of bowties. Very few people wear them, would you/do you? Are they whimsical and fun, ridiculous, stuffy...?
post #2 of 26
My favorite discourse on the subject, courtesy of Mr. David Sedaris: My most recent mistake was born the weekend of my brother's wedding, when my father convinced me to wear one of his bow ties. "Come on," he said. "Live a little." When worn with a tuxedo, a bow tie makes a certain kind of sense, but I wasn't sure that I trusted it on its own. The model my father chose was red-and-white-striped, the size of a luna moth, and as he advanced I backed toward the door. "It's just a strip of cloth," he said. "No different from a regular tie. Who the hell cares if it falls straight or swags from side to side?" My inner hobo begged me not to do it, but I foolishly caved in, thinking it couldn't hurt to make him happy. Then again, maybe I was just tired and wanted to get through the evening saying as little as possible. The thing about a bow tie is that it does a lot of the talking for you. "Hey." it shouts. "Look over here. I'm friendly, I'm interesting." At least that's what I thought it was saying. The bow tie left me feeling uncharacteristically breezy, and by the end of the evening I was thanking my father for his recommendation. "I knew you'd like it," he said. "A guy like you was made for a bow tie." A month after the wedding, while preparing for a monthlong cross-country trip, I bought a bow tie of my own and discovered that it said different things to different people. This one was dark-blue paisley, and while a woman in Columbus thought it made me look scholarly, her neighbor in Cleveland suggested I might be happy selling popcorn. "Like what's his name," she said. "The dead guy." "Paul Newman is dead?" "No," she said. "That other one. Orville Redenbacher." Name association was big, as were my presumed interests in show business and politics. In St. Louis, the bow tie was characterized as "very Charlie McCarthy," while in Chicago a young man defined it as "the pierced eyebrow of the Republican party." This sent the bow tie back into my suitcase, where it begged forgiveness, evoking the names of Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Senator Paul Simon. "Oh, come on," it said. "They're Democrats. Please let me out." Political affiliation aside, I know what the young man meant. It's a pretty sorry world when wearing a bow tie amounts to being "out there." I'm just not sure which is worse, the people who consider it out there that someone's wearing a bow tie, or the person who thinks he's out there for wearing it. I wore my bow tie to seventeen cities, and in each of them I found myself begging for affirmation. "Do you really think it looks okay? Really?" I simply could not tell whether it was right for me. Alone in an elevator, I'd have moments of clarity, but just as I reached for the knot, I'd recall some compliment forced from a stranger. "Oh, but it looks so adorable, so cute. I just want to take you home." I'm told by my father that when I was an infant, people would peek into my stroller and turn to my mother, saying, "Goodness, what a . . . baby." I've never been described as cute, so why this sudden, strange outpouring of affection? What was the bow tie saying behind my back? And how could I put it in contact with twenty-year-old marines rather than sixty-year-old women? It was my friend Frank, a writer in San Francisco, who finally set me straight. When asked about my new look, he set down his fork and stared at me for a few moments, saying, "A bow tie announces to the world that you can no longer get an erection." And that is exactly what a bow tie says. Not that you're powerless but that you're impotent. People offer to take you home not because you're sexy but because you're sexless, a neutered cat in need of a good stiff cuddle. This doesn't mean that the bow tie is necessarily wrong for me, just that it's a bit premature. When I explained this to my father, he said that I had no personality whatsoever. "You're a lump." He sees the bow tie, at least in my case, as a bright string wrapped around a run-of-the-mill gift. On opening the package, though, the receiver is bound to be disappointed, so why set yourself up? It's a question my father answers in the pained, repetitive voice of a parole officer. According to him, you set yourself up in order to exceed those expectations. "You dress to give 100 percent, and then you give 120. Jesus," he says, "you're a grown man. Haven't we been through this?" As I had years earlier with Chuck, I offered my Halloween defense, claiming it was my destiny to dress like a hobo. "Aw, baloney," my father said, adding that if personal style were determined in early childhood, we'd all be wearing diapers and rubber pants. He was being sarcastic, yet, still, I felt that unmistakable surge of enthusiasm announcing the twin births of experimentation and trouble.
post #3 of 26
I don't wear bowties myself, and don't even know how to tie one properly. Occasionally, my boss wears one, but he is an old school academic. I think that worn by an older man of esteemed reputation in certain professions (professors and deans of prestigious universities, museum curators, eminent historians) they look eccentric at worst and distinctive at best. A younger guy (say, under 50) wearing the same would look at best pretentious, but would much more likely look a first class twit. The same goes for other anachronisms like derby hats (only suitable for hillbilly rappers), ascots (only suitable for costume dramas), spats, braces, and (non-functional) canes. Let's add monocles, late 19th century style removable high collars, and anything else that calls to mind Mr. Peanut.
post #4 of 26
Everytime i see a bowtie these days it makes me think of Louis Carruthers. Thats how cool I consider them to be.
post #5 of 26
Thread Starter 
Well, that was harsh. Personally, I only wear a tie or bowtie if I absolutely have to. I'm equally comfortable with both. I've discovered that some people have a strong aversion towards bowties, I was just wondering how you felt. I've come to regard them as whimsical and sort of rebellious when not worn by senior citizens, actually. Strange as it may seem for something so old-fashioned, stuffy and dorky. I like bowties.
post #6 of 26
Personally, I think if you can pull off the look"”and it ain't easy"”bowties are cool. I haven't quite got it myself, outside of a formal context (in which I prefer to tie my own bowtie). Though it's hard to do anything with ties in LA, I may yet give bowties another run. But, then, I like all sorts of anachronistic gear, including ascots, spats, fedoras, braces (in a sort of '80s new wave/Japanese way) and tweed jackets (bring on the leather elbow patches.). I don't wear these things often, but every once in a while I'll slip one into the mix to keep things whimsical.
post #7 of 26
As long as we are on the topic, what is the proper method of tieing a bowtie?  The only bowtie I have ever worn was at my senior prom, and even then, it was one of the cheap rental tux ones.  Any illustrations or links to help out? Thanks in advance, Kevin
post #8 of 26
Quote:
...what is the proper method of tieing a bowtie? The only bowtie I have ever worn was at my senior prom, and even then, it was one of the cheap rental tux ones. Any illustrations or links to help out?
How to tie a bowtie
post #9 of 26
Thank you pstoller.  As usual, your response was right on the money. Kevin
post #10 of 26
It is important that a bow tie has the right length, as you can't adjust it once it is tied. All bow ties are adjustable in length: some have markings on the band referring to collar size. If it is not marked, the correct total length is twice the collar size plus 1 inch for the knot.
post #11 of 26
Can't bring myself to do bow ties. Too many clip-ons in the 70s- must be the flashbacks. However, I do think they look good on many people, but I see them more in my travels to the South, and on academics,attorneys, and men's clothing store owners. BIG vote for braces here- especially Trafalgar Limited Edition. And another for cuff links and pocket squares, but not necessarily every day.
post #12 of 26
Does not walking sticks, spats, monocoles, and ascots bring to mind a dandy? Personally I think so. Also bowties remind of James Joyce.
post #13 of 26
Rant of the Day (soapbox not included): I have very rarely heard the term "dandy" used in any but the derogatory sense. It suggests a compulsion towards triviality. Hopefully, the current mini-boom, no doubt initiated by some clever marketing folks, for "bespoke" and traditional clothing, which is encouraging an obsession for hand-canvassed suit-fronts and other such "discreet" luxuries, will pass into history. I wish people would read a little more fashion history and realize that the suit we consider the height of sartorial acheivement was originally just casualwear (the jeans and t-shirts of their day, gasp.), that it became readily accessible because of the advent of *machine made* clothing and that it became a mainstay of the male wardrobe primarily as a result of the democratization of society. I wish that we would be a little more forward looking than we seem to be these days. Too much reverence can be a bad thing. Mess up your Kiton shirts. Give a bit of a f*ck you to Ciro Paone and the editors at the Robb Report and their unabashed worship of the aristocracy. The future belongs to Hedi Slimane and Yohji Yamamoto and Martin Margiela, and to some young buck in his little studio in East L.A.
post #14 of 26
Quote:
Hopefully, the current mini-boom, no doubt initiated by some clever marketing folks, for "bespoke" and traditional clothing, which is encouraging an obsession for hand-canvassed suit-fronts and other such "discreet" luxuries, will pass into history.
OK, I know it's a droll troll, but I have to have my little anti-rant: I think the current "mini-boom" represents two trends: first, the neo-aristocratic one, which I find no more or less offensive than any other anachronistic trend, and which will fade when the Next Big Thing comes along; and, second, the twin realizations that skilled hand-tailoring is actually superior to mass-produced machine tailoring, and that, as long as one is going to spend that much on a suit, one might as well get one's money's worth in construction as well as materials. This second trend is, IMO, a welcome one, and hopefully long-lived, not only because it's sensible, but because it helps to keep the art form that is fine tailoring alive. When the demand for bespoke suits tapers off, so will the tailoring apprenticeships. I don't see how that could be a good thing. Fortunately, the "new bespoke" is being embraced by such contemporary, street-savvy designers as Paul Smith and Alexander McQueen.
Quote:
I wish people would read a little more fashion history and realize that the suit we consider the height of sartorial achievement was originally just casualwear (the jeans and t-shirts of their day, gasp.), that it became readily accessible because of the advent of *machine made* clothing and that it became a mainstay of the male wardrobe primarily as a result of the democratization of society.
Does the origin of the suit really matter now? I'm all for people knowing their history, but it doesn't change the present-day reality in which the suit has been elevated to a status once occupied by now-obsolete garments. Consequently, there's no reason not to elevate the tailoring and materials to match. For that matter, jeans and t-shirts have been elevated as well, from workwear and undergarment to mainstays of everyday casualwear and even pricey, status-y designer items. Should we only wear denim to mine for gold or herd cattle? And is buying $249 PDC jeans"”when you can get good ol' democratized, machine-made Levis for $30"”any less ludicrous than paying top dollar for a Kiton suit?
Quote:
Too much reverence can be a bad thing. Mess up your Kiton shirts. Give a bit of a f*ck you to Ciro Paone and the editors at the Robb Report and their unabashed worship of the aristocracy. The future belongs to Hedi Slimane and Yohji Yamamoto and Martin Margiela, and to some young buck in his little studio in East L.A.
Granted, there's always a value to sticking pins in the self-inflated. Since institutions like the Robb Report exist solely for the anointed few to celebrate their own wealth while tauntingly dangling their shiny baubles just out of reach of the many, I'm all for taking them down. If that necessitates slicing and dicing some Borrelli and Barbera, so be it. But, let's not kid ourselves about two things. First, it's a heck of a lot easier to tear something down than to build something. Whatever classist baggage you attach to hand-tailored finery, the fact remains that it's exceptional clothing. If you paint a mustache on the Mona Lisa, you'll only diminish yourself without laying a glove on Leonardo. So, consider how little it accomplishes to tear a Kiton in half. (Besides, whether or not you did it first, the fact remains that Rei Kawakubo has already presented this conceit to the world and moved on. As an ideological fashion statement, that bit of punkism is over, while bespoke thrives.) Second, while Slimane, Yamamoto and Margiela may be more "forward-looking" from a design standpoint, they're hardly any less aristocratic. Slimane recycles late '70s/early '80s punk/new wave aesthetics, charging you hundreds extra to pre-rip the sleeves off his shirts for you; Yamamoto divides his attentions between couture garments so exclusive that he burns the overstock at the end of each season to keep the hoi polloi from getting it at markdown, and signing his name on stratospherically-priced sneakers that would otherwise fetch $50; and Margiela exacts haute couture prices for jeans dipped in paint and jackets that are life-sized reproductions of vintage doll clothing. There's nothing especially democratic about these designers. Their work is no more fiscally accessible to the common man than, say, Gianluca Isaia's, and conceptually it's far less accessible. When you consider that today's cutting-edge couture is going to look old in a decade, while a bespoke business suit will still look classically contemporary, you may have to reconsider to whom the future belongs. Of course, if tomorrow is the domain of the common man's garments, then the future belongs to Wal"¢Mart.
post #15 of 26
Congratulations, pstoller, another remarkably well-considered and articulate reply to my obvious little piece of demagoguery. I am becoming increasingly curious about your identity. At the beginning, I thought that maybe you just had access to a lot of information, but it is becoming clear that you are very intellectually capable and apparently highly educated. However, from your post, I think I may have over-condensed a much longer rant when I abridged it for general consumption, and that I may have thus caused some confusion. My original critique of the bespoke craze relied not so much on the fact that bespoke clothing is generally inaccessible for economical reasons, but rather on the fact that those who marketed the bespoke trend have elevated class distinctions by plucking the suit from its democratic roots and planting in a mythical, unassailable past before the traditions of the ancient and noble order and had been usurped. In contrast, many modern designers, are inherently populist, either taking inspiration from inexpensive streetwear and symbols of youthful rebellion or consciously looking towards the future. The designs of Raf Simons, though not particularly subtle, are a good example of the former, those of Hedi Slimane, the latter. Even venerable Armani began by destroying something old to create something new.
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