Return of the bow tie

Younger guys are starting to embrace, enjoy the classic accessory


Published: Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, January 27, 2011 at 9:48 p.m.

You can't ignore a man in a bow tie.

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Gainesville's Raul Prado, 23, models a bow tie, which is making its way back into men's fashion.

Aaron Daye/Staff photographer

Just like a woman wearing ornate jewelry or sky-high platforms, this men's fashion accessory is meant to stand out and turn heads. And lately, they've been getting a lot of attention — especially from the 30 and under set.

From college students to young professionals, young men are now wearing the style once thought to be reserved for college professors and grandpas.



Gainesville's Raul Prado, 23, started wearing bow ties a year ago. He mastered the art of tying a perfect bow tie after studying instructional videos on YouTube. He loves to wear bow ties now to “show off” his skills.

“It's definitely an eye-catcher. ... It's nice, classy and it's old school, definitely different than a traditional tie,” said Prado, an engineer.

At the recent Golden Globe Awards, more than 30 celebrities showed up on the red carpet with bow ties instead of the usual sleek black necktie. Many veteran actors such as Robert De Niro, Warren Beatty, Dennis Quaid and Kevin Spacey wore them, but several younger actors — Jake Gyllenhaal, Armie Hammer (“The Social Network”), Ryan Gosling and five of the stars from “Glee” — also chose the classic look.

The bow tie has also found a presence off the red carpet, appearing on TV characters on “Gossip Girl” and “Mad Men” to music performers such as The Jonas Brothers, Justin Bieber and Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz.

Bow ties are usually synonymous with black-tie events, but nowadays they can be found in any scenario at any time of the day.

Aldon Peoples, 21, is a teacher at Fessenden Elementary School in Ocala and currently working on a clothing line called Coeur. He said he puts on a bow tie to go out to lunch or to a nightclub.

“People are starting to dress a lot more sophisticated and bow ties seem add the icing on the cake when wearing button up shirts, cardigans and v-neck sweaters,” he said. “Not many people wear a bow tie except on special occasions, so when it's incorporated to an everyday wardrobe, it adds a nice chunk of dapperness and/or class, as you will.”

Peoples said he gets compliments when he wears a bow tie, but for Prado, the reactions are quite mixed.

“People think you're either a professor or that you're snobby,” he said. “I've heard everything from ‘You look nice' to ‘You're pompous.'”

Gainesville-based fashion designer Bobby Kelley, known to most as Bobby K, recently added three bow ties to his growing collection. On New Year's Eve he wore a magenta pink and white polka dot bow tie with pink suspenders. Kelley, 28, already put together a spring outfit to go with a baby blue and yellow plaid bow tie.

“It's a youthful look and not as cliché or dated as a traditional tie,” said Kelley, who's worn bow ties for about three years. “Bow ties will be the next big trend for guys when dressing up, and I think it'll be like that for awhile, at least until the fall season.”

Since 2007, Matthew Turner has sold a small quantity of bow ties in his men's and women's boutique Wolfgang, 1127 W. University Ave. in Gainesville. They're not a huge seller at the store, but customers ask about them once every few months, he said.

“There is a very small percentage of guys who are willing to give them a try. ... I think they have become more and more popular in the past five years or so, especially with the rise of the Americana revival in men's fashion, taking cues from early to mid-1900s menswear, although now they are becoming a bit too trendy in larger markets, much like the mustache,” Turner said. “In smaller markets such as Gainesville, however, they are still gaining in popularity.”

Garrett Garner, policy assistant to Gainesville Mayor Craig Lowe, started wearing bow ties six months ago after his girlfriend talked him into buying one. Now, he's a bonfide bow tie lover. He got six as Christmas gifts from family, boosting his collection to 12. Every Tuesday he wears one to work. Garner, 24, nicknamed the style routine “bow tie Tuesday” and tweets about it.

“You have to be confident. It's not something you can fly under the radar with. It's certainly something that people will notice,” said Garner, who gets his bow ties from Amazon.com and Men's Warehouse. “If you have to wear a tie, you might as well have fun with it.”

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