The Bowtie "Stigma"?

Discussion in 'Classic Menswear' started by JLibourel, May 20, 2009.

  1. JLibourel

    JLibourel Senior member

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    A few days ago I re-read I'm Frank Hamer, the biography of the famous Texas Ranger best known for killing Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. In it there were a number of group photos of Texas Rangers from the 1920s and early 1930s. Interestingly enough, quite a few, maybe a third of them in each photo, were wearing bowties. Certainly, there aren't too many men more tough and macho than a Texas Ranger. As my old friend Bill Jordan (a very dangerous, formidable man in his own right) remarked to me in one of the last conversations I had with him, "They were fierce, those old Rangers. They were very jealous of their reputations."

    This leads me to wonder when exactly and why the bowtie began to acquire the negative imagery that surrounds it today--the mark of the nerd or dweeb, the otherworldly professor, the clown, the professional eccentric. Yeah, I know it is a perfectly legitimate piece of neckwear, I wear them occasionally, but I think we're all aware of this popular perception of them.

    Anybody got any ideas of how and when bowties began to fall from favor? One might correlate it with the decline of the three-piece suit, but that hardly seems like the whole story. Was there some defining character that made the bowtie seem ridiculous, sort of like what Thurston Howell III did to the ascot?
     


  2. dopey

    dopey Senior member Dubiously Honored

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  3. Nexus6

    Nexus6 Senior member

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    Cockfight attire?
    heh...I don't know either.
    [​IMG]
     


  4. Hard2Fit

    Hard2Fit Senior member

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  5. lightsaber

    lightsaber Senior member

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    Hard to say, isn't it. I've often thought it may have have had something to do with the conformity of the 50s/60s company man: that was the critical moment in America when suit and tie became strongly identified as merely a white-collar uniform - the time when it began to acquire a fixed cultural meaning as something worn by the average man only when not in his leisure hours. In that narrow-lapelled, skinny four-in-hand period of decline, the charm of a bow stood out against the anonymous, formulaic company man's 2 piece ensemble. Yet, I think it was still seen as much less eccentric in those days than it is now. Was there any defining character that dealt the blow to the bowtie? Maybe not - although Pee Wee Herman comes to mind. Be that as it may, the bow doesn't deserve such stigma- there should be more neckwear options for the well-dressed man than the ubiquitous four-in-hand.
     


  6. robin

    robin Senior member

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    Cockfight attire?
    Cockfights were once a gentleman's game where you wore your best.
     


  7. deanayer

    deanayer Well-Known Member

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    two words - Orville Redenbocker
     


  8. Nexus6

    Nexus6 Senior member

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    Cockfights were once a gentleman's game where you wore your best.

    Now that...is interesting.
    I do admit ignorance on both topics.
    I'll do some reading on it later.
    Apparently cock-fighting is still very popular in the Pacific Rim countries (ex. Philippines)
    Other than that, I have everything to learn.
    [​IMG]
    Just for the record...I like Bow-Ties.
    Aside from a black one for my tuxedo, I have only one other;
    a 30 year old tartan clip-on, only I don't remember which clan I represent while wearing it,
    if I ever wear it.
     


  9. JLibourel

    JLibourel Senior member

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    Hard to say, isn't it. I've often thought it may have have had something to do with the conformity of the 50s/60s company man: that was the critical moment in America when suit and tie became strongly identified as merely a white-collar uniform - the time when it began to acquire a fixed cultural meaning as something worn by the average man only when not in his leisure hours. In that narrow-lapelled, skinny four-in-hand period of decline, the charm of a bow stood out against the anonymous, formulaic company man's 2 piece ensemble. Yet, I think it was still seen as much less eccentric in those days than it is now.

    Some thoughtful points here. What you say reminds me that back in the 1950s my father-in-law was called on the carpet for wearing a bowtie (as being too jaunty and sporty) and informed that employees of Jorgensen Steel were expected to wear four-in-hand neckties. (His boss, Earl Jorgensen later became a close part of Ronald Reagan's inner circle.)

    Kind of a chicken or the egg thing here: Did bowties become comedic because of Pee Wee, or did Pee Wee adopt the bowtie because they were already comedic. I am rather inclined to suspect the latter.

    I couldn't agree more, which is why I like ascots and to a lesser extent bowties. Otherwise one really just has the option of the four-in-hand or the open-collared shirt.
     


  10. Ahab

    Ahab Senior member

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    I do not like bow ties in general. I associate them with slick door to door salesmen and the Nation of Islam.
     


  11. Mark from Plano

    Mark from Plano Lifestyle change - no homo

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    I like them and wear them occassionally, but honestly, not as much as I'd like principally because of the image you mention; maybe once or twice a year, not counting black tie.

    I have nothing intelligent to contribute on the question of when their image changed, just wanted to voice my support for the bow tie.
     


  12. LabelKing

    LabelKing Senior member

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    Tom Mix in a bowtie:

    [​IMG]
     


  13. JLibourel

    JLibourel Senior member

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    Cockfights were once a gentleman's game where you wore your best.

    Yes, Andrew Jackson was an avid cockfighter (although I gather the preferred terms today among practitioners of the sport are "cockers" and "cocking"). One could only imagine today the effects on a presidential candidate's chances were it discovered he had been a participant in the sport. Kind of odd the indignation cockfighting arouses among Anglo-Saxon-type Americans given the horrible way we treat chickens in the name of food production.
     


  14. LabelKing

    LabelKing Senior member

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    Regarding cockfights, I am reminded of that rather surreal scene in the film, The Day of the Locust.
     


  15. JLibourel

    JLibourel Senior member

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    Tom Mix in a bowtie:

    [​IMG]


    Coincidentally, I am working on a column that largely deals with Tom Mix at this moment. Of course, Tom Mix's heyday was the same era as that of the bowtie-wearing Texas Rangers I mentioned in my original post. Although Mix's apparel is foppish, he certainly has a virile, rugged countenance.
     


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