The Long Necktie Is Dead, Long Live the Bow Tie


From time to time, I feel it necessary to report on the necktie wars. Sadly, the news is dismal. Neckties are in retreat, and in many instances, they have disappeared.  

Father鈥檚 Day this month is already causing stress. The rule was always when in doubt, give a necktie. Certain to please. 

But if you give the old boy a necktie this year, you know it will never see the light of day after the insincere raving about how lovely it is. 

The next several weeks will see children hopelessly crowding men鈥檚 haberdashers, seeking that sure-to-please gift. 

I predict that men who have never stuck anything so much as a ticket in the upper left pocket will be inundated with pocket squares. Before pocket squares were what they have shrunk to, they were full-size handkerchiefs, albeit of silk or something that looked like silk. 

In an emergency, pocket squares could be whipped out for valuable service: drying a tear, wiping up a spill, or signaling across an airport concourse. Now they are a pathetic reminder that men still like a bit of color and have some fashion flair 鈥 despite the unkempt area around the neck, leaving the shirt-wearer looking like a half-made bed. 

The great tie makers like Liberty of London, Fumagalli of Italy, Hermes of France, and Ralph Lauren of the United States must be in despair. There are hundreds of fine tie makers, especially in Northern Italy 鈥 some of which have been lovingly working with the region鈥檚 silk for generations. 

Men can now go tieless, where once they were forbidden. Those ties kept on hand at clubs and restaurants are no more. Just this past month in Washington, I saw tieless men at an opera at Kennedy Center, at the city鈥檚 two dominant clubs, the Cosmos and the Metropolitan, and even in church. At a funeral in London, I was the only man sporting a tie 鈥 a bow tie, to be exact.

Bow ties remain the preserve of a select number of wearers, and they are onto something

I wear one because of Tucker Carlson. Years ago, before Fox and all that, Tucker wore bow ties. When he was between TV gigs, I invited him to be a guest on 鈥淲hite House Chronicle,鈥 my PBS and SiriusXM program. At that time, Tucker wore bow ties, and, as a gag, I donned one for the interview. Afterward, I found that people love men in bow ties. 

So, liking to be loved, I stuck with a bow tie, and it has paid untold dividends for me. I am given special attention on Amtrak and airplanes. Recently, a flight attendant threw her arms around me, saying that my blazer and bow tie reminded her of the old days when passengers were smart dressers and were nice. 

I have checked with other bow tie-wearers 鈥 from a dentist to an economist 鈥 and all report they get this special magical treatment. A frequent remark is, 鈥淭hank you for wearing a bow tie. You remind me of my father鈥 or grandfather. 

I find many men who would like to experiment with a bow tie are hesitant because they don鈥檛 want to make a mess of tying it. Don鈥檛 worry, get the pre-tied version. They generally look better and don鈥檛 windmill as much as a poorly tied one. My secret is my wife, who is a whizz at tying a bow. Otherwise, when traveling, I go pre-tied. 

So, here is a thought: Stop agonizing over wallets, belts and sweaters in the men鈥檚 emporium. Get dad a pre-tied bow tie. He won鈥檛 dare not to wear it for you. And when he goes out, even down to the convenience store, he will be praised. He may even get a hug, and that is a super Father鈥檚 Day gift in my book. 

On Twitter: @llewellynking2 

Llewellyn King is executive producer and host of "White House Chronicle" on PBS.