AS A KID, my association with the bowtie was my very old paediatrician, Dr. Randall. As a teenager, I wore my first tuxedo – bowtie, with matching cummerbund of course. But even then, I was a rebel. While the norm was a classic black bowtie and cummerbund, I opted for a Pierre Cardin black bowtie, with a subtle white and green floral print.
I can’t say I ever wore a cummerbund again, but the bowtie stuck with me. Of course, I needed an occasion to wear one. The opportunity never really came again until my career in the entertainment industry began. Black tie affairs were commonplace, and very quickly I learned the ins and out of bowtie etiquette. I also learned that I could adapt my formal look to more casual settings. Bowties no longer belonged to only Dr. Randall. With my baby face, the bowtie added a maturity that I often needed to be taken seriously professionally, but it also became a way for me to stand out in the crowd, amidst a sea of standard Canali and Zegna suits.
Bowties are an acquired taste, and they also don’t look good on everyone. Unlike traditional neck ties, loose bowties don’t look good. That may work at the end of the night, as you are headed home, but in public, a straight, traditionally knotted bowtie is what gives you the classy edge that you’re looking for.
Beyond formal blacktie events, bowties have a wonderful, whimsical place in style and day-to-day fashion. One of my favourite looks is to wear a nice seersucker jacket with a light linen-cotton shirt and a fun pastel or funky patterned bowtie, in summer. Pair it with jeans or linen pants and you could attend a wedding at the beach, a family reunion or even a dinner on the town.
When I deejayed at clubs, I would wear a button-down white shirt with a cottonmesh bowtie and jeans. I would wear a linen-cotton open cardigan and then roll up my sleeves. I managed to dress up and dress down at the same time. It was a dapper look that not only sent out a message of my personal style, but that I also enjoyed mixing styles, just like my musical tastes.
Unlike neckties, that often get lost tucked away into a suit or under a sweater, bowties are a statement piece. Keeping your shirts a solid colour if wearing a bowtie is probably advisable. If you are going for a solid coloured bowtie, there are now many fabrics to choose from — a velvet bowtie probably won’t work in summer, so be aware of the fabric, season and where you are going. For me, finding a new bowtie brings on the excitement of where I’ll get to wear it. I know a modern Madras bowtie will work at an al fresco dinner, while my latest discovery, the wooden bowtie, will work at an art gallery opening.
A good bowtie can bring more value to you than an entire ensemble of designer clothing. When you want to gain attention and wish for the focus to be on what you are saying or doing, I promise you a bowtie will make it one step easier to be seen and heard. When I look back, Dr. Randall was approachable, friendly and good with kids. He was old, but I wrongly related his age with his bowtie. In retrospect, the bowtie was actually his playful side. It was his way to appear professional, but to also relate to his young patients.
As I get older, I know there are fewer and fewer ways to seem hip and mature at the same time. It’s time we all rediscovered the bowtie again, and incorporated it into our wardrobes and let our personalities shine.