Move over skinny tie – bow ties are competing for collars with a vengeance.
Once reserved for the eccentric and debonair types, dullish professors and politicians, and the pocket-protector crowd, the nostalgic necktie has changed pace, landing on runways, in celebrity closets and under the chins of hipsters and trendsetters.
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Bow ties have claimed their spot in mainstream fashion as the must-have accessory for casual cool. Pair it with jeans, an Oxford shirt and confidence, and you have instant chic.
“From fast retail like H&M and Zara and every designer collection that just walked in Milan, men are back to bow ties and they are being a lot more playful with them,” said Toronto designer Christopher Sherman. “I think bow ties define this new fearlessness that is happening in men.”
Sherman, whose custom bow tie label was picked up for Holt Renfrew’s Pop-Up shop, said the surge is evident in the growth of his online store, christophershermanbowties.com.
A bow tie is an instant exclamation point for men unafraid to make a fashion statement.
“There’s been a lot of stereotypes with a bow tie and I think one of the ones is that nerds wear them, but you look at what we’re doing fashion-wise … if you look at what a hipster is, the Queen West hipster, it’s an evolution of that nerd aesthetic,” said Sherman, who is also a producer at Fashion Television. “I spent a lot of time watching those hipsters for inspiration.”
Most commonly made of silk, cotton or polyester, bow ties are emerging in such unexpected fabrics as wool, twill, madras, matte, seersucker and jacquard, in bright colors and edgy patterns.
“I think that if a man is to buy one bow tie in his life then its classic silk or satin black,” Sherman, 26, said. “But I think right now trend-wise we are looking at things that are embellished, studded – dog-studs, pyramid studs – deep in detail. Bow ties used to be for formal attire or the higher class but now … there is no limit. I think the thing with bowties to remember … there are never any rules.”
Randy Hanauer, who, along with his father, Randall, and mother have run men’s apparel manufacturer R. Hanauer, in Fort Mill, S.C., for 24 years, says for spring they are selling a lot of stripes, as well as citrus, greens, pinks, lavenders and yellows.
“I think it’s fashionable now because it hasn’t been in the forefront in a long time,” said Hanauer. “Things that are old are new again.”
Bow ties are also enjoying a return to grace via pop culture. Fans include David Beckham and Justin Timberlake, teen pop heartthrob Kevin Jonas, and TV characters on Gossip Girl, Ugly Betty and Mad Men.
Marco Barba, sales associate at Harry Rosen at Yorkdale mall, says the season’s tailored and tighter shirts mean more minute bow ties.
“They’re getting smaller for the hip look,” he said. “Christian Dior, Gucci, all the Italian brands are doing tapered suits ... in that sense everything is getting narrow, so the shirts are slim fit, there is a smaller lapel, and therefore the trend is smaller bow ties.”
Sherman said he can think of many iconic men who have worn bow ties in years past and he enjoys being a member of that tribe.
“I associate a bow tie with so many dashing, bold, defining men that if it gives other people that connotation …,” Sherman laughed. “The best part is everyone from Andy Warhol to Kermit the Frog have worn bow ties and if I share in the company of them, I think it’s a life well led.”