Menswear expert G. Bruce Boyer is a fan of bow ties. He’s not such a fan of pre-tied, clip-on bow ties, however.
“You can tie a bow tie,” Boyer writes in “True Style: The History & Principles of Classic Menswear“. “If I hear another grown man say he can’t, I’ll shoot myself.”
Boyer has no patience for men who claim they can’t figure out how to tie a bow. If you’re going to wear a bow tie, it simply needs to be one that you tied yourself.
You can always identify a pre-tied bow tie by the fact that it’s just a little too studied. Perfectly straight, perfectly symmetrical, and perfectly balanced. Just like plastic surgery, clip-on bow ties just look too perfect to be real. Boyer says it is one of the most obvious signs that you’re a style amateur.
Many men wear these pre-tied bow ties because they feel they can’t tie a perfect bow tie, or that they don’t know how to. That misses the point.
“You tie bows all day long,” Boyer writes. “A bow tie is simply a bow that happens to be tied at the throat.”
Bow ties are supposed to be imperfect and worn with a little bit of what Boyer calls “sprezzatura”, a disheveled elegance by way of studied carelessness.
“Perfect symmetry is not a goal worth pursuing here,” Boyer writes.
Though Boyer provides no help when it comes to actually tying a bow tie (he says that not knowing how to tie a bow tie is childish, which is fair), we’ll throw you a bone. The steps are pretty simple:
You won’t get it right the first time. That’s fine. Just practice until you get a bow you like.
The most important thing to do after a bow tie is tied? Leave it alone. If you re-tie it in the middle of the day, people will notice, and that’s just not a conversation you want to have.
“Fix it and forget it,” Boyer writes.
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