On Bowties – My Favorite Things

I am a big bow-tie wearer. Have been since the early years at Forbes, driven in part by a Cotuit cultural gestalt — reinforced by Boston Yankees in general — that bowties are de rigeur.


Led by the estimable Hon. Charles B. Swartwood III, aka Brownie, and emulated by other stalwart Cotuit Skiff sailors such as Phil Odence and Lincoln Jackson, and seen elsewhere around the neck of my daughter’s godfather, Charles Clapp III (roman numerals are an essential accessory to bowties), I joined the fad and learned how to tie a bowtie.

Tying a bowtie is the big barrier to entry for most would be tyers. I just laid on a bed, closed my eyes, and pretended my head was a shoe and I was tying the laces. The result was the Elephant Man of bowties (I am not an animal, I am a human being …), but with some careful adjustment and tuning it began to resemble something like those worn by George Will and the late Sen. Patrick Moynihan.


Now bowties are the middle-finger of male fashion. They provoke violent reactions of hatred from certain quarters. While interviewing for a job with a Wall Street investment firm, I was told bluntly that the bowtie had to go, that it represented invidualism and eccentricity that was not going to wash with clients.

I didn’t take that job.

Another time I was riding on an elevator in New York with a friend and his Danish girlfriend. Danes apparently are the most multi-lingual people on the planet (I will check that factoid). Our fellow passengers began to speak and then laugh in an undetermined Scandanvian language.

At the conclusion of the elevator ride the Danish girlfriend sharply (heatedly) addressed the strangers in their own tongue. Their faces went from surprise to total horror.

"What did you just say to them?" I asked.

"I told them to be careful about what they say in elevators because they never know who is listening," she said.

"And what did they say?"

"They said you look like an utter geek with that bowtie."

Nice. I felt good about myself.

My wife, who dresses me the way my mother dressed me when I was four … in ways I don’t agree with, but put up with because all of my taste is in my mouth … decided to equip me with a high end selection of bowties (favoring Hermes no less) for what the French call a papillion.

Wearing one piece of high fashion as opposed to Gap or Brooks Brother makes me feel special, but what really makes bow tie wearing special is that they are the world’s best "a$%hole" detectors. They are like Geiger counters in this regard. If someone gives you grief about bowties, then they are, ergo, a complete butt head.

I have not worn a bowtie lately. Arriving at a new job with a bowtie is a very risky manuever and sets the stage for a long, long time. Last night I met with the buddy who’s Danish (now-ex) girlfriend came to my elevator defense. He was shocked, stunned and angered to see without my trademark and accused me of bad brand management.

Tell you the truth, bowties lost a lot of their appeal the day I saw that utter loser Tucker Carlson get taken down by the Daily Show’s Jon Stewart.  The most visible bow tie wearer in the world got slapped down and I wanted no part of it.


Anyway, this post was inspired by the following justification for bow tie wearing: 


Mid-Iowa Newspapers – NEWS – 01/25/2006 – Outrage and passion

"For one woman, the thought of Gartner first conjures up the image of his signature bowtie, a feature that is only accentuated on the jacket of his new book, colored all in red against an otherwise black and white headshot.

"Gartner began wearing a bowtie when he started raising his sons almost 25 years ago.

""They will pee all over your tie if you have a regular tie on while you are changing their diaper,""as Gartner tells it. ""It occurred to me that it was a risky business, so I started wearing (bowties) and never got out of the habit.""

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