Here I sit on the couch the Sunday morning after the big Atlanta HRC Gala – aka Gay Prom. An inspiring evening filled with powerful messages, people, and fashion. I earned the Excedrin Migraine coursing through my veins -as I reminisce about the previous night.
Something that tickled my fancy more than expected was the sea of bow ties. On a typical day I stand out like Bill Nye. One of my frequently used hashtags is #DapperDork. I own it. That’s fine. At the Atlanta HRC Gala I felt at home amongst all the beautiful penguins.
For some like my friend Grey, it was a first time outting in a bow tie. Mad respect to Grey for not going pre-tied lest he be 86’d from the pre-event photo-shoot. Instead he chose to watch several YouTube videos, practice, and arrive promptly at our house in his Brooks Brothers best. A lovely first effort at the art of the bow tie. A time or two during the evening I would step toward Grey for a minor adjustment for which he was grateful.
Bow ties are not for the faint of heart nor the impatient. Even to someone like me who dons a bow tie nearly every time she leaves the house, each time offers a new challenge. Maybe the collar or shirt neck size is atypical. Perhaps it’s a reversible bow tie and you’re trying to get the contrasting pattern just right. The material and thickness of the tie can also throw a curve ball. Unlike a standard four-in-hand tie you can’t fake a proper bow tie. You can’t slip knot it on and off at your convenience.
I’m getting ahead of myself here. As alluded to above, I’ve been a tie wearer for years. My style has evolved over time thanks to the inspiration of some exceptional influences. The four-in-hand was my standard for quite some time. And yes, at times I got lazy and would slip-knot them on — cutting valuable time out of my morning routine. On occasion I would decide that a bow tie was needed to round out my outfit du jour. When these times arose I would dip into my small stack of pre-tied bow ties (inside I just audibly gasped). For a time this was fine.
As my style continued to evolve so did my cred. Friends would ask me if I knew how to tie a bow tie because the one I was wearing had a perfect knot with pristine wings. Raised on tales of Pinocchio and George Washington I could not tell a lie. Every time I revealed that I had not tied it myself I felt a sense of shame. I knew I was ready to invest in self-tie bow ties and the time to learn how to master the art.
I watched the YouTube videos. My favorite is by Jesse Tyler Ferguson in support of his TieTheKnot.org line. The best part of this video is him descending from a calm, cool, and collected state into one of total frustration — as did I. YouTube failed me.
As one who learns from doing and feedback I actually had a friend teach me in person standing beside him and mimicking his actions. When I got home I stood in front of a mirror and practiced time and again.
The first few weeks were touch and go. I was so close to giving up a half-dozen times and slipping a four-in-hand on in its stead. For me the trick was figuring out how to consistently find and thread the secret hole pocket. I’ve found diamond tip bow ties make the threading a tad easier. To my fellow #DapperDorks reading along — you know of what I speak. I can’t diagram it on a card. No video I record could replace the touch required to unearth the mystery. Each bow tie is different. Imperfect. It is those imperfections that out the bow tie as self-tied.
At the Atlanta HRC Gala Dinner & Auction one of the many donors was Kirrin Finch. To those not familiar with the brand I strong recommend checking out their product line and mission. Not only do they have unique ‘unisexy’ shirts but also bow ties made from their shirt fabric scraps. They donated a bow tie to the event for the silent auction. I walked over to the table to show Grey, telling him about the brand and how I just bought the exact one a few days earlier. Overheard by another guest, he tried to poo-poo Grey from bidding. I had convinced him to bid on the bow tie. In fact, as Megan and I were leaving for the evening I was stopped by Mr. Sullivan informing me that he won the bid and was excited about his new bow tie. Sharing bow tie love. That’s a thing.
Today I fancy myself something of a bow connoisseur. Last April 1st I pranked my friend and work-wife Magaly with an elaborate scheme. I asked Patrick to stand atop a cube and take a picture of Magaly and me every time I approached her cube and she looked up at me. Each time I wandered away I disappeared into a nearby cubby and changed into a different bow tie. She looked up and Patrick took the picture. Each time he took the picture I immediately posted it on Facebook for posterity — and proof. This happened 4 times before Patrick realized what was happening and another 4 until Magaly asked, “Were you wearing that bow tie a minute ago?” I finally got to say, “No. Look at this.” I showed her the Facebook thread and she reddened like Rudolph’s nose.
Bow ties aren’t for everyone. Perhaps you enjoy a pre-tied from time to time and are agnostic to the ways of the bow tie. That’s fine. Not everybody can be a Jedi Master. Even I will wear a non-self-tie from time to time. The line I draw in the sand is if the neckwear cannot be mistaken for a real bow tie it is fair game. I have a hotdog bow tie, one with Scrabble tiles, and a Willy Wonka-esque blue wrapped candy one.
For me the mindfulness and artistry involved in the morning routine provokes inspiration that a cup of coffee cannot bring. It is the icing on the cake — the whipped cream on your Unicorn Frappuccino® Blended Crème — the ribbon on a a gift of endless possibilities.
To bow tie or not to bow tie. A wise mentor of mine once said, “Do or not do. There is no try.“