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The beau bow

One in my wide network of informants sends word that Jon Carroll of the San Francisco Chronicle is pondering a new year’s resolution to begin wearing a bow tie.

This is, of course, a highly praiseworthy ambition, one worthy of anyone who aspires to be a gentleman. Here is some help.

Mr. Carroll does quote the condescendingly disparaging remarks on the bow by Warren St. John of The New York Times: “To its devotees the bow tie suggests iconoclasm of an Old World sort, a fusty adherence to a contrarian point of view. The bow tie hints at intellectualism, real or feigned, and sometimes suggests technical acumen, perhaps because it is so hard to tie. Bow ties are worn by magicians, country doctors, lawyers and professors and by people hoping to look like the above. But perhaps most of all, wearing a bow tie is a way of broadcasting an aggressive lack of concern for what other people think.”

I can endorse that “aggressive lack of concern for what other people think.” Look at the way most men dress. Are you going to apply to them for fashion advice? D’you remember the 1980s, when men were all clones of John T. Molloy, dressed in blue suits and those peculiar yellow neckties?

The bow tie has the weight of tradition behind it. Wearing it demonstrates a level of dexterity. And some find it practical; when I worked at The Cincinnati Enquirer, the paper ran an article on bow ties quoting a gynecologist who said that bow ties were favored in his specialty because “they do not swing forward into the materials.”

And when you have occasion to dress formally, are you really going to put on a dinner jacket along with machine-tied neckwear? Have you no shame?

Step up, gentlemen. Mr. Carroll has set an agenda for you for 2011. And it’s one that you might actually be able to bring off.

 

Posted by John McIntyre at 2:42 PM | | Comments (6)
        

Comments

As one of the bowtied, I can agree that I seldom give a hang what other people think, and never what they think about how I dress.

And it doesn't get in my soup.


As a gent who has had a life-long personal aversion to wearing all manner of ties....... feather boas, dickies, chokers, and I dare say, those foppish ascots, and who moreover, when his guard has been down, has on occasion begrudgingly been known to sport a stringed Western bolo, I may not be the best judge of the efficacy, or merits of, particularly, the bow tie.

(As a career L.A.-based animation artist/ cartoonist for almost three decades, the unofficial studio dress-code for us working stiffs, the actual designers, background painters and storyboard folks--- basically the non-management types----- was what generously could be termed grunge casual (T-shirts, ratty jeans, and shorts); although there may have been a few spiffy colleagues who considered themselves a cut above the riff-raff, and 'dressed up' in more stylish fare. However, the bow tie is rarely seen in today's animation fraternity. Yet back in the day (primarily the '30s, '40s, '50s), the likes of such notable animation pioneers as Chuck Jones, Tex Avery, and Disney icon, Ward Kimbell, all proudly sported bow ties.)

John McI., I gather that you regard those lazy sorts who sport the 'convenient', pre-tied clip-on 'fake' bow ties as nothing short of 'pretenders', and that to actually wear a self-tied-from scratch, so to speak, bow tie is the true litmus test for a bona fide bow tie guy, or gal?

Hmm...... I can barely manage tying a darn 'straight', conventional tie, and frankly couldn't distinguish a Windsor, from a Gordian knot. Frankly, I could imagine tying a bow tie being as problematic as the formidable Gordian knot challenge that allegedly confronted Alexander the Great of Macedon way back in the 4th century B.C. ? And he, as historians have claimed, used a damn sword. Cheater! Just sayin'.

John, your earlier revelation that many a gynecologist opts for bow ties since "they don't swing forward into the materials", admittedly sounds like the height of practicality, but how euphemistical can one get, referring to a woman's 'private parts' as "the materials? (Ugh!) Perhaps 'theater of action', or 'nether regions' might have worked just as well. HA!

Hmm..... pray tell, I wonder why the bow tie never really caught on w/ the machinist, or lathe operator set, where wearing a long, conventional tie could prove to be one's undoing, accidentally getting caught up in 'the works', and potentially causing all manner of mayhem, and bodily harm? Probably a machinist-machismo thing, no? Machinists, whirling mechanical parts, and long ties.......... kind of a lethal combination. HA!

Now tell me, where would bow tie-sporting comic Pee Wee Herman factor into aforementioned curmudgeon, Mr. Warren St. John's "condescending" dissing of bow-tie wearers? Perchance, wacky Pee Wee could slip into that St. John 'magician" category...... after all, he is a kind of a 'wizard' of off-center, ironic comedy. It strikes me that actor Paul Rubens, who portrays the ever-suspended-in adolescence Pee Wee, like you Mr, Mcintyre, likely endorses the bow tie wearer's ad hoc credo, namely "that aggressive lack of concern for what other people think ." Knowing a bit about Rubens' personal history (aside from his indecent exposure rap, a while back), IMO he just seems like a bit of an iconoclast, and as a rule, does not suffer fools gladly.

Neat to see Rubens making a mini-comeback w/ his recent reprise of his Pee Wee persona on Broadway, no less. Apparently, he's garnered much critical praise and promising box-office numbers, thus far.

In an American culture that appears to be so obsessed w/ all-things-youth-- the impressionable masses being swayed by the latest sartorial trends and faddish waves------ IMO it's kind of special that the venerable, oft-maligned bow tie has managed to survive all those slings-and-arrows of outrageous misfortune slung by narrow-minded, overly judgmental sorts from the maddening, sheep-like crowd.

I say, whatever floats your boat in the realm of personal expression, as long as it's within the bounds of legality, and reasonable taste. (Lady Gaga, are you listening? HA!)

IF THE BOW TIE FITS, WEAR IT!

ALEX

P.S.: John McI., I think your bow-tied public persona is super. You don't really need it to demonstrate your obvious erudition, good humor, wry (sometime corn-ball HA!) wit, but for me the bow tie just adds to your professional, responsible, gentlemanly air, and for that I can hardly protesteth too much.

The tie doth not make the man............. but as the acerbic, now-ancient comic Jackie Mason might opine,............ " bow tie, schmo tie. Look, it can't hoit (sic).......... but as an observant Jew, I prefer a yarmulke."

Without a doubt a whole generation of men has no concept of how to dress. We are not in the South despite being below the line and yet young men and older ones think wearing a ballcap indoors is acceptable. The thought of them wearing any type of tie is not imaginable.

My father was a shoe salesman and he found a bowtie was appropriate as it didn't get in the way of the material. My dad tried to teach me how to tie on decades ago. Though I struggled each time i wore a tuxedo, I never caught the hang of it.
My son took to one like a fish to water. This past birthday he gave me a beautiful bowtie and shirt. (I jokingly asked if he was setting up his sartorial inheritance.) He stated that his grandfather's way of tying was ridiculous and to think of tying my shoelaces. The light bulb went off and now I wear a bowtie at least once a week.

Without a doubt a whole generation of men has no concept of how to dress. We are not in the South despite being below the line and yet young men and older ones think wearing a ballcap indoors is acceptable. The thought of them wearing any type of tie is not imaginable.

My father was a shoe salesman and he found a bowtie was appropriate as it didn't get in the way of the material. My dad tried to teach me how to tie on decades ago. Though I struggled each time i wore a tuxedo, I never caught the hang of it.
My son took to one like a fish to water. This past birthday he gave me a beautiful bowtie and shirt. (I jokingly asked if he was setting up his sartorial inheritance.) He stated that his grandfather's way of tying was ridiculous and to think of tying my shoelaces. The light bulb went off and now I wear a bowtie at least once a week.

Now happily married, I must say, that as a single girl, at weddings, I always had a secret crush on the man in a tux at the end of the night whose bow tie was hanging untied around his neck and not stuffed in his pocket.
I would expect the same for my husband now, if we ever had the occasion to dress up that much again.


Geez Tiffany,

If I'd only known that the mere sight of a 'flaccid', untied bow tie looped casually around the neck of a starched dress shirt collar was a big turn-on for you, i would have obliged you, rather that secret it in my slack's back pocket, fearing that wearing this de rigueur penguin-suit accessory in public view for any longer than necessary would project an air of faux urbanity, or dare I say, worldly sophistication. (Think James Bond. HA!)

Your secret, hypothetical admirer.

ALEX

P.S.: I draw the line at cumberbuns (sp. ?). HA!

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at john.mcintyre@baltsun.com.
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