With more panache than the four in hand tie and less foppery than the ascot, the bow tie stands as the golden mean of distinction in men’s neckwear. I started wearing bow ties in my freshman year of high school, and over the years I’ve encountered many people who were surprised that yes, the tie was real, and even a few who thought that I looked like Tucker Carlson.
For years, bow ties have been a rarity north of the Mason-Dixon line. But now, says David Colman in a New York Times article entitled “If You’re Young and Not Fainthearted,” the bow tie is coming back, and my generation is leading the charge. According to Randy Hanauer, the owner of bowties.com, “All the growth is coming from young people. I’d say guys from senior year in high school to about 25. It goes along with all the seersucker and madras they’ve gotten into. This generation likes to dress up and look nice, unlike the generation prior to them.”
Colman does get one thing wrong. For him, a man should not look like Southern gentry or an Ivy League professor—too “costume-ish”—but instead his attire should hint at “some romantically out-of-it, bespectacled antihero.” In other words, wear a bow tie, but wear it with the irony my generation attaches to everything. Thanks, but I’ll take the genuine jollity of seersucker or tweeds any day.
Colman also says that bow ties nail down “a key point in men’s style — that is, dandyish one-upmanship.” He’s right about that, of course, but as much as dandyism can be an important aspect of manliness (take Sir Percy Blakeney, for example), not all men are dandies. Still, the resurgence of the bow tie shows a sartorial refinement that is encouraging.