While visiting the Ottawa Christmas craft sale at the Nepean Sportsplex, my wife and I popped in to this lovely vendor’s stand selling back cushions that use vibration to sooth aching muscles. As my wife paid for one while I sat in awe testing out this innovation, I was asked by the attendant if what I was wearing was for church.
To backtrack, I was wearing a 100% cotton Original Penguin bow tie, Calvin Klein dress shirt, dark jeans, Kenneth Cole loafers and watch, all capped with a red jacket by Austin Reed (yes, with a handkerchief in the breast pocket).
I responded “no” to the lady. I stated that I was merely dressed up because I felt like doing so. But it was more than that, I said. I dressed up the way I feel most men should dress up. I further said to her that I wanted to be the fashion change I wanted to see in the world. She thought that was great. My first exposure to this motivational way to think about the change in the world in general, and particular, fashion was Gandhi, who espoused this core value of humanity while he strove to make peace in the world. I read it about a year ago in his biography, and his vision has stuck with me ever since.
I will say that I am not a fan of wearing clothes that look like I just got out of bed. Sweatpants, pants whose belt line hangs around ones knees, irritates me. But wear what you want. My martial arts training has prepared me to address situations where I may not necessarily agree with what you wear, I will defend your right to wear it. That is what democracy is all about, just as my grandfathers and grandmothers played their inspirational roles throughout the Second World War to secure my rights, and the rights all all peace-loving democracies and people, to say, and wear, whatever I want.
You have your freedom to choose whatever you want to say, wear and write.
I have mine.
As we moved on from the craft sale, the query about why I was dressed up continued as I purchased some wine for dinner from the LCBO (Chateau Argandens 2015 and Louis Latour Pinot Noir 2016, for those wine connoisseurs out there). Maria, a very nice sales rep there, asked me if what I was wearing was for any specific reason. To that, I said yes. It was my wife’s birthday today.
I felt good about being asked about my casual but elevated style of dress. Which got me to thinking about bow ties.
It’s interesting wearing a bow tie. There is something almost inquisitional about people’s behaviour when I walk out and about wearing my favourite bow ties. It’s really neat. It’s as if a bow tie breaks the conversational ice and gives people an opening to start a conversation.
This, I like.
I often hear statements like “Nice bow tie”, or “Great tie”. Such gestures of good will is another great way for me to continue a conversation, what I find lacking sometimes at the coffee shop, the water cooler or on the bus. I will even reciprocate when I see another person wearing a bow tie. I will ask them where they got their tie, or just compliment them on it. A simple approach is often easiest to make the other person feel great about themselves. It’s genuine. There is a characteristic about the bow tie that shrinks the boundaries of dialogue between two, or more people. It’s like the bow tie creates an synergistic aura, an energy that fuses the conversational divide between people . But you may be indifferent to bow ties, or hate them, and not even shoot a glance at it, let alone try to create a conversation from it. That’s OK.
I was given this book about bow ties from my daughter for Christmas last year. It’s a quick read but there is this quote in the book that I really like and fall back on often.
The book, aptly entitled “The Bow Tie Book”, is illustrated by James Gulliver Hancock. The quote is by Christopher Callis, Esquire. It’s as follows: “A man that refuses to wear a bow tie is a man that is afraid to experiment. A man that is afraid to experiment is no man at all”.
While I find the quote a little confrontational, almost ire-inspiring and politically charged for my taste, I do see the hidden point of the Callis statement. I do agree that a man, or a woman for that matter (as bow ties lay claim to no specific gender or sexual orientation) should try wearing one if they haven’t already. I mean, I have seen some handsome men, who are no less a man that one that wears a bow tie. I think of the Malboro man as I right this. But in a more general sense, I believe Callis is suggesting through his somewhat callous statement that men should get out of their comfort zone, tackling their avoidance of fear to “experiment” and explore the unique, and often emotionally uplifting sensation of wearing a bow tie. Wearing one does not make you geeky, pompous, crass, boorish or ill-mannered, even though cultural perceptions may differ with that thesis, or the one put forth by Callis. I think it does the opposite. It give you a bit of awe-inspiring character.
Given the Callis manifesto, I use it try to get out of my comfort zone, in general. It’s the things that I can look back on and say “I can’t believe I did (or wore) that.” Stepping beyond what makes me comfortable is what I have done over the last year. In the Callis context, I have taken a step out of my fashion comfort zone and have begun to embrace experimentation with new suits, bow ties, funky shoes and even fedoras. The latter came from my re-connection this past summer, after visiting San Francisco, with the classy tunes of Frank Sinatra and my elevated desire as a result to seek out some stylin’ headwear.
I like to think that people, like me, have an emotional connection to what they wear and use emotions as drivers to choose what they decide to don, and exhibit, on any specific day. You may ask questions to yourself about what others wear. Why does little Johnny always wear the blue and orange t-shirt every day? Why does big Tony only wear beige pants? Why would tiny Sheila ever want to wear black all the time?
Does it matter? To others, it does.
The bow tie is an expression of the emotional state that I strive to achieve every day: happiness.
The type of clothes and the colour choices of those who wear them is a reflection of their emotions, I think. We have to respect that, even if we don’t agree with other people’s choice of garment. For me, the bow tie gives me an emotional boost, fueling my confidence and sense of cultural refinement that I think is missing in the world.
For me, dressing up a little on the weekends, when society says it’s natural and OK to wind down and don a t-shirt and jeans, is fun. As I wear suits all week, dressing down a little and choosing a causal dress shirt, with a conservative or flamboyant bow tie, is a reflection of my emotion. Sundays are great for exhibiting my fashion best.
In this case, the happiness I get from dressing the way I do is based on my motivation to be the change that I want to see in the world.