We are only through the first day of the impeachment hearings, but the court of public opinion has already given their verdict: the blue, orange and cream bow tie of one George P. Kent is a star.
Via the hashtag #GeorgeKentsBowTie, Twitter declared the American diplomat and US State Department official’s look “a winner.” The New York Times called it “a declaration of independence.” The Daily Beast dubbed Kent a “fashion icon.”
Why the hullabaloo over a prettily tied silk noose? Bow ties are historically the favorite neckwear of weaklings, nerds, fops and academics. In Washington, where long red or blue neckties are the norm, the bow tie is a relative recluse. When they’ve appeared at all recently, bow ties are often an intentional anachronism, a symbol of regressive traditionalism, the stuff of the Young Republican Club, or a cute way to get into character on Seersucker Thursdays.
But it’s precisely because of the aesthetic void created by black-suited lobbyists, consultants and think tank wonks that Kent’s bow tie sings so conspicuously.
“Today we are talking about George Kent. We aren’t talking about Bill Taylor [the ambassador to Ukraine],” says Mark-Evan Blackman, 61, the former chairman of the menswear design department and current assistant professor at the Fashion Institute of Technology. “[Because] George had on the bow tie.”
Blackman, who chides Kent’s decision to match his tie to his pocket square during the hearings, argues that rather than a symbol of passivity, the bow tie has become an emblem of power.
“The bow tie’s message has changed almost 180 degrees,” says Blackman. “When you see a guy wearing a bow tie, it’s because he has made a conscious decision to be the only one in the room looking that way. More often than not he’s owning it in a very powerful manner. There is a reverence, an assurance, a swagger that bow-tie wearers have.”
So how, and when, should one demonstrate their masculine prowess with a striped, polka-dot or paisley strip of silk? Anywhere or anytime you want to be noticed, according to Blackman. But there are rules, he says:
“You have to own the look. Learn to tie the tie. It’s not harder than tying your shoe, and it’s always a conversation-opener.”
“Ties are investments and a good one is going to last you 20 or 30 years.”
Go big (but not too big).
“You can take a chance with a bow tie, so get something that is fun, but not more major than your personality. Your personality should lead, not the bow tie.”
“A bow tie should always be worn with a shirt that complements the pattern or color. Don’t always think it has to be worn with a white shirt or a basic shirt. It doesn’t. If you can make a plaid shirt and a striped tie work, it’s even that much more arresting.”
Don’t go overly matchy, a la Kent.
“Kent’s tie and pocket square combination was a major mistake. But I’ll forgive him. He made a noble attempt to [show] what he stood for via his bow tie.”