The bow tie paradox
Should you wear one?
This bow tie look is always acceptable
Recently, I’ve been mulling over my stance on bow ties, and here’s what I’ve come up with: my hesitation over a full endorsement isn’t about whether I like them (which I’ve decided I do), it’s about who I like them on.
Because there’s a tricky catch-22 about the neck tie’s dandy cousin, which is: if you don’t start wearing one young, you risk having your neckwear look like the fashion equivalent of a red sports car or a freshly-pierced ear – a sartorial midlife crisis. That’s why my endorsement of trying a bow tied look decreases exponentially with one’s age.
Allow me to illustrate:
At 22, you can show up to your first paying job out of college rocking a b’tie and feel confident that your co-workers’ reactions will be one of, “Look at this snappy dresser we hired. He’s so young, yet so polished. I bet he’ll have fresh new, out-of-the-box ideas to share with us if even his neckwear is so inventive.” Great, right?
At 30, you show up wearing one for the first time, and everyone asks if you’re “going through a phase.” If tomorrow you’ll show up in torn jeans or perhaps a motorcycle jacket. Because if you all of a sudden show up one day wearing a bow tie, they’ll snicker, what’s to say you won’t do another style-180 tomorrow?
At 40, you debut an inagurual bow tie, and those same co-workers will assume your wife left you. Or that you’re planning to quit whatever it is you do and take up higher learning as a new vocation. Because clearly you have professorial aspirations; you’re just missing the elbow patches and pipe. They may even call you Indiana Jones, though they won’t mean it in the good, whip-carrying way.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Shouldn’t I be all for you trying new things? Shouldn’t I encourage style exploration/experimentation at any age? Maybe. But there’s a reason youthful misdirects are forgiven more easily than those undertaken by their older, theoretically wiser, peers. When you get older, you’re supposed to know better.
So if you ever think you might want to rock a bow tie, start right now. Start early, start young. Ease the people in your life into the idea that you, sir, are a man who wears bow ties…sometimes. Because unlike in cooking, it’s easier to remove bits that don’t work than to add them in later.