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Bow ties are making a comeback
Bow ties are making a comeback

Call it nostalgic neckwear if you must, but any way you twist the trend, bow ties are back.

Sales of the ties, dismissed for years as a quirky accessory for your crusty old chemistry professor or oddball uncle, are up. Even as sales of traditional ties are down, the popularity of classic fashion looks is driving the re-emergence of bow ties into the mainstream.

“There’s a definite resurgence of using them in everyday dress,” said Anne Alcocer, a manager at Brooks Brothers in downtown Minneapolis. “We’ve seen a lot of young guys come in and ask us about bow ties.”

Brad Sherman, vice president of Hubert White, a downtown Minneapolis men’s store, said that the bow ties “are one of the things that we get a huge audience for.”

As bow ties made their appearance in pop culture in recent years, showing up everywhere from television to NBA locker rooms (LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard have all shown an affinity for bow ties), they caught on with a younger audience in search of what Sherman called “Americana” fashion.

The beauty of the bow tie has long been in the eye of the wearer. For some, it’s a not-so-subtle expression of individuality. A few have chosen the bow tie as a quiet way to protest workplace regulations that a tie be worn. A handful picks the bow tie over its more traditional counterparts as a way to evoke an image of intellectualism.

For others, like Twin Cities comedy legend Dudley Riggs, wearing a bow tie is simply a matter of practicality. Riggs began wearing bow ties in the ’50s because it was easier to tie a bow tie while walking between acts of his comedy show.

“It’s interesting to me that people are once again embracing them,” he said. “I’m cheered by the idea. I hope it holds on.”

Striped bow ties have been particularly stylish, but the timeless polka dot bow tie has also been given new life. Beyond the staples, though, bright colors and eye-catching patterns have been popular throughout the spring and summer. For more formal occasions, solid bow ties are still the standard to which all other neckwear is held.

But today, bow ties aren’t limited to dinner parties and senior prom. Keith Dorsett, owner of Elsworth’s men’s store in Minneapolis, recommends the bow tie to a young professional as a way to differentiate himself from his competition in an increasingly difficult economy.

Dorsett believes every man should keep at least one bow tie in his wardrobe, just to change things up if for no other reason. But for others who wear bow ties regularly, it takes on a special meaning that’s difficult to capture in any other way.

“There’s always been a sort of assumption that it was an architect or an artist or an advertising person who wore bow ties, but I really think it’s a guy who has a lot of confidence in his style and wants to express it in a particularly bold way and he uses the bow tie to do that,” Sherman said. “Someone who just wants a little panache, something different that nobody else has. Somebody who doesn’t quite want to fit into that round hole all the time wears a bow tie.”