Despite the wealth of sartorial advice out there, I’ve always been a little disappointed at the lack of attention paid to that oft-maligned necktie alternative: the bowtie.
A moment of full disclosure: I couldn’t be more biased on this particular front. I’ve been wearing bowties for years. However, this affinity has given me some insight into the practical merits of an admittedly esoteric piece of neckwear.
There’s a popular misconception that a bowtie is a modern Gordian knot – when in fact tying a conventional necktie is much more complicated.
While most people learn to tie a tie one way and one way only, two Cambridge physicists have determined that the average tie can be knotted at least 85 different ways, 13 of which result in unique aesthetically pleasing knots.
By contrast, there’s only one way to tie a bow-tie – and the Internet is full of diagrams and videos that can teach you how.
Have you ever stood in front of your mirror, tying and retying a necktie, only to get the length wrong every time? Properly tied, a necktie is supposed to cover the entirety of your shirt placket, with the tip just grazing the top of your belt buckle. It’s hard to pull this off the first time, even after years of practice.
This difficulty is greatly reduced with a bow-tie. Less fabric to work with means you’ve got a good chance of getting it right the first time – plus, a bow-tie knot isn’t supposed to be perfect (just a little asymmetrical).
Furthermore, bow-ties are tall-person friendly, as you don’t need to worry about having the right length of tie to work with.
Noted American designer and architect Charles Eames wore bowties his entire life, allegedly because they kept out of his way while he worked at the drafting table.
If you regularly wear neckties, you’ll know how many disastrous threats the average workplace offers your cravat. It can wind up dunked in your morning coffee, serving as an accidental serviette at lunch, snagged in a drawer…the list goes on.
The bow-tie gracefully avoids these potential pitfalls. Nestled snugly at collar level, it leaves you free to sup soup with reckless abandon – and it can’t get snagged in a drawer unless you go into a filing cabinet face-first.
“I couldn’t get away with wearing that, everyone would stare at me.”
I hear this a lot as regards bow-ties, often from friends who claim they “admire” my “courage.” People are often afraid they’ll become an object of comment, or ridicule.
The frank truth is that the average person – in your office, on the street – isn’t really all that interested in what you’re wearing. Sure, it’s a bit of a rarity, but the odd funny look shouldn’t be what deters you from trying new things.
After all, you’ll never be able to find something that makes everyone happy.
If you work in a conservative industry, it’s possible the bow-tie might not be right for you. But if you’re looking to express a little personal style and flair, it might just be ti-me to jump on the bow-tie bandwagon.
Photo credit: Matt T