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Posted on January 19 2012

In response to Lawrence Schlossman's denunciation of bow ties in the New York Times, GQ and on his blog:

"To: Lawrence Schlossman, 24
  From: James A. Van Sant, 81

Subject: Bow Ties


Do we even live on the same planet? Probably not, but you have a long way to go, so I'll give you the benefit of the doubt and talk to you in plain English and pretend that you are well bathed and freshly shaved and smell good (Trumper's Lavender and/or natural Witch Hazel)

Bow ties are for elegant men, men self-assured and confident in their masculinity, clean and who tend to be trim or even thin in build. It's hard to say from the NYT photo today what you really look like, but I have a hunch bow ties do not become you because of the shape of your face and the message they convey, which is likely not your message. So you dislike bow ties, big deal! But you are right not to wear them yourself, yet you should not recommend against them for other types of men...

...Women adore bow ties. The ones I know (and that dips down to as young as only age-40!), love to "fix" a man's bow tie as they think a woman can tie better than a man, and ultimately it might come down to the fact, like a shoelace at the end of a long day, some women I have known like to untie the bow, and they come open much faster than the Windsor/fore-in-hand. You can take it from there.

But here is why I write and take a moment of your valuable time: You are very unfair to bow ties, which have a much longer history than fore-in-hand ties, and as you mature in your line of work, you will see that bows have an important place in successful male dressing. In fact, any man in "fashion public relations" (my God!), needs to know and revere the history of fine bow ties, and master when and how to use that element of men's fashion. For one thing, they are sexually much more subtle than some big dong of a fore-in-hand, pointing down at its bottom to a guy's crotch - ugh! Women don't like that, nor do tasteful men. Also, bow ties never are besmirched with gravy, grease, butter or Scotch whiskey. They are up and under the chin and out of the way, yet they add a splash of color and a touch of wit, or can in the right hands. Furthermore, and this is subjective, I find them light hearted and to women they suggest nimble fingers. I'll say no more on that one.

I suspect, playing Dr. Freud for a moment that you don't like bow ties because you instinctively know they are not right for you/you are not right for them - however you wish to express it, same bottom line. You should steer clear, but do not hesitate to recommend them for others. To be "against" any element of clothing is ridiculous. They are all fine; the trick is to find the right time and place to employ their strengths. In the same issue of the NYT with your photo I find wing-tip oxfords in leather, nicely done by Cole-Haan, BUT with pink leather inserts! Pfaugh! Now, there is something you can really dislike and you are right to do so.

Then, in the same NYT, take a peek at the photo of actor Kutcher (or was it in this morning's WSJ - I can't be certain), who has greasy long hair yet is wearing a bow tie, and as nearly as I can tell from a newspaper photo, it works - because it is SO casting against type, so wrong, that combined with his impish smirk, it sets up an outrageous polarity that can't help but amuse. Clothes, you know, can and often should be light and deft in effect and amusing, don't you agree?

That's enough from me. I wish you best of luck and a good hot bath and shave.