Bronx Councilman Andy King estimates that he has over 80 bow ties. Credit: Bess Adler/Metro
The New York City Council is not a particularly colorful bunch, at least in the literal sense.
But among the black, grey and white attire at City Hall, Bronx Councilman Andy King stands out.
Since his election to represent parts of the northeast Bronx in 2012, the 51-year-old has gained a reputation for his bow ties, vibrant clothing and similarly-flamboyant demeanor.
King took Metro for a shopping spree in his district on a recent afternoon. While demonstrating his shopping technique at JCPenney and DSW, the councilman bought seven new bow ties, a couple of shirts, socks and two pairs of shoes. He also ordered some new pants. (Normally, King explained, he's more restrained, but this was a special trip.)
In his element, King was all smiles apart from a tense moment with a store attendant who pointed him to a rack of clip-on bow ties.
Looking away, King muttered in response, "Any self-respecting man ties his own bow ties."
Metro spoke with King about his fashion sense, style icons and extensive bow tie collection.
Metro: How would you describe your style?
King: It's unique and it tells the person that I am — from being joyous, being happy, being loving and caring. My dad taught me when you feel good about the way you dress, you feel really good about yourself.
You've never felt self-conscious in bright clothing?
I've been in work environments where we have this cookie-cutter approach, where we look like we're coming from the morgue or we're going to the morgue, where everyone is printed out from the assembly line, the dark suit and the white shirt and the yellow tie. …That look works, but for me, I like the day to be exciting. I like the day to put a smile on people's face.
Do you usually plan out your outfits the day before?
Most of the time I try to prep myself the night before for the day. … Sometimes I wake up in the morning and say, 'Hey, I feeling like this, let's give the people that.'
Where do you shop?
I go certain places, whether it's in the city, out the city. … I may see something while in the city, see something in the store or I'll just go looking and look for that one thing that says, 'Hey, that's you Andy.' And there it goes.
Do you have a favorite store?
I won't say I have a favorite store — I like a couple places. One of the places in my district I appreciate is JCPenney.
Do you spend a lot of money on clothing?
I'm very frugal. One of the things about fashion, it's not about how much it costs, it's how you combine it, and how you wear it. Not everybody can wear everything. It can be $400 but it may look like ugh on you as opposed to something that's $22 and looks like it's $400. … I try to be educated when I shop.
How do you decide what to buy?
I don't want to walk down the street and walk into somebody that I'm dressed just like them and they look just like me. … I love polka dots. But I love stripes also too. But I just love designs.
How many bow ties do you own?
Oh. That's a good question. It might be somewhere in the range of about 80.
Where do you keep all those bow ties?
I have to keep them in a location in my makeshift closet that I have for them. So they are laid out in a bin. They are strategically laid out by colors.
How do you decide which one to wear?
I coordinate my outfit according to the tie. I say, 'What tie do I want to wear?' And then once I find the tie, then I'll coordinate the rest of the outfit around the tie.
Do you have any style icons?
My grandfather wore bow ties. … I appreciate that era, going back in time, where gentlemen were gentlemen and they dressed like gentlemen.
What do you think about the popular fashions of today?
I'll put it this way: I like a fashion statement to depict the person, and not every fashion says that is who you are. You might just be wearing it because it's the style and you're just totally opposite of what you got on — your behavior, things that come out of your mouth. I teach young people clothing can help you feel better about the way you behave. You walking around in shoes and a nice suit and tie, you're going to act differently than if you had on sneakers and your pants were falling down.
Do your constituents ever recognize you for the bow ties?
It has become my signature mark. If I'm out and I don't have a bow tie on, they're like, 'What's wrong, council member? You okay?' So, even on a Saturday I throw on a pair of jeans, sometimes I'll throw on a bow tie. Then they'll say, 'You got to wear a bow tie on a Saturday with jeans?' If not, y'all be asking me if something wrong. … I appreciate the love I receive, just on that. For me, it also tells the community that I respect them, that you deserve someone's who's neat and someone who presents neatness, cleanliness, orderliness. … You want somebody who works, but if someone looks disheveled all the time, you can imagine what kind of work they're doing. I was taught presentation means a lot.
What do you think of the other council members' clothing?
Politicians…we kind of take on the persona of how not to look — not too flashy, but not looking so conservative — but as we learn that, we kind of put ourselves in a box. But a lot of my colleagues wear nice suits.