Bow ties are dangerous things. Or put another way, people who wear bow ties are suspicious people. This is what someone told me when they saw me wearing a bow tie on my TV show. “You know,” said my friend, “no one trusts people in bow ties.” I rattled off the list of respectable people who wore bow ties: Winston Churchill, pundit George F. Will, and so on. For every name, my friend countered with the names of dodgy people: Louis Farrakhan, Brother Mike Velarde. I stopped wearing bow ties on TV.
But I love them—bow ties, that is—but I have to admit, part of my fondness for them is peevishness. No one really fashionable wears them. The people who like them tend to be idiosyncratic misfits in a society that demands conformity. The past 50 years have been about informality as a manifestation of freedom— and bow ties are, well, formal; they are, therefore, anti-modern and anything smacking of being old-fashioned is The Enemy.
Even that last bastion of the bow tie—formal wear, or specifically, evening dress—has been successfully invaded by the four-in-hand tie. The dazzling Adonises of Hollywood have taken to wearing black four-in-hand neckties with their tuxedos. There is more to this fashion revolution than simply not wanting to look like a penguin. Bow ties require skill; the skill require to tie them is not easily learned. And yet since people know better than to wear clip-on “long” ties, everyone has a sense that the use of clip-on bow ties is simply too tasteless to tolerate for very much longer.
I have four reasons for loving bow ties. First is conceit: it was difficult to learn how to tie them, and I take pride in being able to do so. The second involves being accident-prone during meals. My neckties exercise a magnetic attraction to food, particularly greasy foods and soup. It is much easier to clean a food-stained shirt than a tie decorated with one’s lunch or dinner. The third reason is eccentricity, a character failure of many writers: wearing them makes me different. The fourth? Cost. Cheaper, and are practically immune to changes in fashion (since they are an anti-fashion statement) and thus, last longer.
And let me add, finally, that as my salad days recede behind me, bow ties have one thing going for them: the older you are, the more suitable bow ties become.
This article originally appeared in Metro Him.