My Dear Sons,
I know I'm regularly telling you to get your shoes off the middle of the floor. Or out of the back yard. Or off of our bed. I hope you don't think we're "anti-shoes". I especially hope we're not badgering and discouraging you by our insistence about something that's obviously not the end of the world.
But of course being a young gentleman is not about simply avoiding world-ending mistakes. It's about learning how to be yourself without forcing others to be someone other than themselves. And, believe it or not, shoes, and what you do with them, are a daily opportunity to practice emerging gentlemanliness.
WHERE YOU TREAD WITH YOUR SHOES COUNTS FOR GENTLEMANLINESS
When you go into someone else's home, they have opened up to you their most personal space. They may have spent time picking up before your arrival to present their home to you as a place where you feel welcome and comfortable.
The first thing you can do to express your gratitude for their hospitality is to, undramatically, courteously, ask them
"Would it be best for me to remove my shoes?"
Say it in a way that makes them feel like it's absolutely no big deal whatsoever if they say "yes, that would be kind of you." You're not there to pass judgment on their 'house rules'. You're there to reciprocate their gesture of hospitality with your own gesture of submission to their customs.
Even if you just came from the shoe store with new sneakers or just had your penny loafers re-soled and shined by the cobbler, make this gentlemanly gesture.
WHICH SHOES YOU WEAR COUNTS FOR GENTLEMANLINESS
Someone once said "If you want to know if someone is well-dressed, look at their shoes."
Young men: we don't put our clothes and shoes on to "impress". We put them on to set others at ease through our situational appropriateness.
One time, I walked into a very traditional, downtown gothic revival church in the South with Birkenstock sandals on. This was a mistake, because I was thinking about my own comfort, and the expression of my own personality. I wasn't thinking of the congregation as my host, and myself as a guest.
I've also showed up to sporting events in wingtip shoes, which probably also gave the community assembled there the sense that I didn't care about the context. Instead, I probably made them feel like I was trying to assert my feigned superiority over them. I should have slipped on my Birkenstock sandals.
HONOR PEOPLE WITH YOUR SHOES
The key, young men, to a gentlemanly life, is to take every opportunity and occasion to honor others with your demeanor, attitude, speech and gestures. All the "PUT YOUR SHOES WHERE THEY BELONG!" grief that we're giving you now, if we admit it, is really just our present frustration with tripping over your tennis shoes for the 392,405,301st time.
Yet, we can all learn to look at these situations as exercises in others-centered gestures of gentlemanliness. Forgive us for when we've been merely exasperated. And we'll all work to gently remind one another of how we might honor those who are hosting us, not least with the things we do with our shoes.
Your Loving Father,
If you're going to be in a huge box of a building bathed in florescent lights for a week, you might as well bring some bow ties, meet some awesome people, and renew friendships with Cordial Churchman enthusiasts.
That's exactly what I did at the TD Exposition Center in Greenville, SC for the 41st General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in America.
It's actually hard to believe how fast the days and the week flew by. It was soul food to be with such good folks. As usually happens when we show up at an event like this, I got to teach a bunch of folks how to tie bow ties, I got to sell a good 8-10 people their first bow tie ever, and I got to meet people who have been buying our bow ties exclusively since we first started back in 2009.
Presbyterians love bow ties.
In fact, it was my very first Presbyterian pastor who introduced me to bow ties back in Ohio. When we moved to Columbia, SC, he sent us to First Presbyterian Church, where I probably saw 50 gents rocking bow ties upon our first visit. It was great to get to see him again at this event, and to put a new bow tie into his wardrobe.
Being as The Cordial Churchman does perhaps 90% of its business online, we work hard to add the personal touch to our customers with handwritten notes and handcrafted custom bow ties. And yet, there's nothing quite like meeting the people who appreciate the work we do.
I enjoyed the face-to-face cultivation of these friendships with our dapper Presbyterian customers so much that we've been kicking around a new idea. We're considering coming to see some of you. What if The Cordial Churchman came to the 3 cities where we have the most customers and we all had ourselves a get-together? We could get a jazz band, some champagne, and get all gussied up. We could have a Cordial Churchman pop-up shop and perhaps an official bow tie for the event.
It could be a blast.
Chew on it. Let us know what you think. We'll let the idea percolate for a bit, and then make a proposal or two.
On a sad note, I met a pastor at this event named John Appleton, from near Charleston, WV. We talked about his congregation. We talked about how he was involved in starting a farmers' market in his town to bring the community together. We talked about getting together when our family did our usual drive through his neck of the woods on our regular trips to Ohio. And after pondering it for a day, John selected his first ever bow tie.
I got a call from another pastor friend just a few days later telling me that a pastor-firefighter had been killed at a fire. My friend attended the funeral, and saw that the gentleman was being interred wearing a bow tie. He asked the widow about it, and she said that her husband had come home from the General Assembly with his first ever bow tie, and was really excited about it. So she decided to have him wear it one last time. Her husband was my new friend John Appleton.
[caption id="attachment_3352" align="alignnone" width="492"] John and Lisa. John introduced me to Presbyterianism and bow ties. So he's kind of responsible for both of our careers.[/caption]
You know, here's the thing: What made this event so special was not bow ties or Presbyterians. Bow ties and Presbyterians were just the occasion. What made this event so special was the people. The friends. Young high school gents who were trying to figure out how to make their lives count. Old men who've been wearing bow ties and preaching for twice as long as I've been alive. Ladies who wanted to treat their husbands to a piece of fine neckwear. Fellow church planters who know exactly what it's like to be me. People serving in the military all over the world. Pastors serving in France, Japan, Germany, and everywhere else.
As C.S. Lewis once said, you and I have never met a mere mortal. The people we come into contact with may very soon be departing this life and on to the next. This was the case for my new friend John Appleton. I'm saying a prayer for his wife, his family, and his church tonight. And I'm going to remember that it's all about people.
Thank you for the privilege of serving you, and of getting to know you.
I thought I’d share with you this interview. It’s ironic that they removed the questions from the published interview format, because now it looks like I’m just providing answers to no questions at all! But I assure you, they supplied questions, and I answered them in their order. Ha.
They asked me about The Cordial Churchman, about what I wear, about how I got interested in clothing, about what it’s like to have a small business, about where I’ve been educationally and vocationally, and about what really gets me going.
I hope you enjoy. Read here.
Day 264 is a handsome silk reversible. My high school colors, in fact---blue and gold. Classic cut. Grab it here before it's gone.
Day 263 is about as classic as it gets. I was offered an honorary doctorate at an Ivy League school just for wearing it.
Silk, of course. Navy and red.
And don't yo like the chambray detail on the band? Nice touch, Church Belles. Grab it here. All $29 (can you believe it's just 29 bones??) go to Haiti. _______________________________________________________
Day 265 would represent only 100 days left of this project ... if it weren't a leap year. Actually, it still might. I always get confused with these calculations. Do you count inclusively? Exclusively? I dunno.
The wools are coming out, and I'm happy about that. This one is particularly nice. Yours hear for $29, all of which goes to Haiti. Grab it here. _______________________________________________________
Day 262 is a sharp, classic batwing navy foulard of vintage necktie silk. Get it here.
You've got to love the smart, near-geeky shape of the batwing bow tie, no? Some think it doesn't go with their face, or their body shape, or whatever. Pssshhhh. _______________________________________________________
Day 261: more classic repp stripe-age. Diamond point cut this time around. Please don't buy this. I want it for myself. No. I'm being selfish. You can buy it. Besides, all the cash goes to Haiti. Yes, do buy it. (But then give it as a gift to me!) Here it is: go get it.
Usually we can't get them to be happy and be in bow ties. Owen's favorite line is "Lame. I don't want to dress like Papa." He's a pre-teen at age 4. But this time around, they both decided they wanted to be magicians, so they needed a bow tie and a cape to go with their wands. Okey Dokey.
Today was the first day for tweed. Great to get my favorite Donegal out, with the elbow patches and all.
And Day 270 called for a straight batwing silk repp stripe X gray velvet reversible. It's really one of my favorites of the year. Yours for $29, all of which goes to Haiti. Grab here.
The other great thing about Autumn is that it's now sock season.
Yesterday's bow was actually also one of autumnal Donegal, but this time in the bow tie. Half of it, anyway. Check out this gorgeous tweed with a reversible cotton plaid in diamond point. Grab it here.
More autumnal awesomeness: boots. Wolverine 1000 Mile boots, to be more precise.
And scruff, too.
Saturday night I got to see and hear The Secret Sisters from Muscle Shoals, AL. Good tunes in the Old Town Amphitheater. And a good occasion to wear --- you guessed it!--- a bow tie.
This vintage necktie silk crossed with rust velvet in butterfly shape -- Day 267. Can't ever get this one again after this one's gone. Grab it here.
Was pretty wiped after the show, I guess.
A weekend ago we at The Cordial Churchman enjoyed our second appearance at the esteemed Indie Craft Parade in Greenville, South Carolina. This was a delightful experience, as it was two years ago, and one that we look forward to sharing with artisans and crafters in the coming years.
Somehow in all the hustle and bustle of selling bow ties, showing guys and gents how to tie one of these suckers, and making very, very strategic trades with Sweeteeth Chocolate (!), I forgot to snap a photo of my bow tie of the day in action. But here it is in its boring, static form.
Sheesh, you can't even quite tell that this is dark navy blue. Ah well, you'll have to take my word for it. Half vintage necktie silk; half red linen. Sharp as nails. Get it here.
We also had the pleasure of meeting a couple fine young television journalists with SCETV at The Cordial Churchman studios this past week. Ellie and I clumsily told the story of TCC's origins and prognosticated about its future. Let's hope these journalists are also stellar editors so that they can come up with something coherent that doesn't make us look like the goobers that we kind of are! Ultimately, it will be available for us to see here.
I chose a distinctly fall and winter bow tie: a gray tweed wool diamond point. Simple, but smart, you'll agree.
Grab it here.
Ahhh, Sundays. Love them Sundays. That's a pretty table there, but pretty quickly after the photo was taken, it was covered with hot dogs, pickles and chips and crowded with kiddos and grown ups for a delightful Sunday supper.
And here was the setting for said meal: a beautiful home in Historic East Town Rock Hill, SC. Our friends recently moved here partly in order to be really close to where our church meets and ministers. I'm glad they did, because that means frequent hot dog suppers!
Picked a super duper skinny reversible silk bow tie---navy with polka dots and gray, made, I'm assuming, by Dominique, our most abstract visual artist and haberdasher---for my Sunday swag. Snappy smart, I think. Kind of hipster, too, whatever that means.
There may be more super duper narrow bow ties coming your way, but this is one of a kind. Grab it here.
Friday I found myself attending the inauguration of Reformed Theological Seminary's new Chancellor, Mike Milton. I enjoy all the pomp and circumstance of these occasions. It's also stimulating to hear from and interact with folks who have been working in my field for longer than I've been in existence. It helped remind me that, D.V., I'll have another of my own lifetimes to do some neat, meaningful things.
I chose a great, subtle, versatile, classic shaped, season-stratling bow tie for the not-exactly-summer/not-exactly-fall occasion.
See these subtle hints of blue and red in with the neutral foundation? See the fantastic texture? Go and get it.
And don't forget that all these proceeds go to Haiti, to help children get a good education in a stimulating, life-changing environment.
At first it appears to be your average colorful diamond-point plaid bow tie from The Cordial Churchman. But don't be fooled.
The thing about having a couple seamstresses who are art school graduates is that, when faced with the need to come up with 366 unique bow ties over the course of AD 2012, they don't fret.
On side one, you can display the punchy, bold primaries of the plaid and the quirky yellow linen. On side two, you can tone it down and Autumn it up with the subdued reds and hunter greens of a a classic plaid paired with a green chambray with yellow undertones.
Twist and turn to create several other possible configurations. A remarkably versatile and personality-rich bow tie if there ever was one. Get it here.
You may have noticed that I'm pretty obsessed with my Wolverine 1000 Mile boots. Pretty much wearing them every other day lately. Boy do I love these boots.
Liberty of London fabric. It's a big deal. And you can't deny that it's beautiful. It's also luxurious and very much top shelf. This is your chance to grab it before it goes public. You won't find anything comparable for so low as we're offering it: $49. Plus, all the cash goes to Haiti.
Grab it here.
Speaking of luxurious bow ties, how about this throwback from The Cordial Churchman archives: The Johnny Cashmere. Simple gray with all the cashmere fluffy awesomeness you'd expect from that supreme fabric. Classic Cut, and sure to be a classic of your Fall/Winter 2012 wardrobe----if you jump on it now.
When I saw this in the studio, I couldn't wait for cooler weather to rock it. Thankfully we had one of the most pleasant pre-Autumn days yet, and the university stripe button down and Bill's Khakis fit the bill with this killing-me-softly bow tie.
And---surprise, surprise!---I threw on the Wolverine 1000 Mile boots again.
First, note the Wolverine 1000 Mile Boots. Okay. Good.
A striking reversible: vintage blue striped necktie silk on one side; yellow medium-scale gingham on the other. Cut in our very popular straight batwing shape, which yields a thinner bow and a fatter knot, and instantly increases your IQ by 15%.
The great thing about reversibles such as this is that they're multi-seasonal. During the autumn, keep the blue silk facing forward and you have a subtle yellow peeking out from behind the batwing bow. Come spring, usher in the sunshine with the bold yellow gingham front and center. In transitional seasons (ahem---like right now), twist as you tie the bow and get a combo look. (See above.)
Run and grab it here.
You'll never believe it, but I was the only one wearing a bow tie to watch their kids take a tae kwon do lesson. I think that Master Pak was pretty intimidated.
Every now and then I go on these 3 or 4 day stints where the only thing I snack on is fruit and vegetables. I get filled with self-righteousness and look down on people eating coffee cake and Doritos.
But usually I'm the one eating the scones and chocolate-covered pomegranate bits. And the bow tie feels tight. And the collar feels tight. Etc.
Caption: "Papa, is this one of your self-righteous, fruit-only days?"
I really love this bow tie. Like, really love. Don't you? 100% linen, from a vintage necktie. A handsome, bright-but-not-obnoxious green. Yellow and blue foulard. Dang. Go and get it.
But even better (if you can imagine such a thing): 1000 Mile Boots from Wolverine. We had a week or so of cooler weather in August, and I think I wore these beauties like 4 days in a row. (You're not really supposed to do that; you're supposed to let the leather have a breather. Oh well.)
I'm delighted that Wolverine sent Ellie and me each a pair of their coveted 1000 Mile boots for our 366 Bow Ties for Haiti project. And I couldn't think of a better boot investment to make. Go get yourself a pair.
Me and my lady. She went away for a weekend. And I missed her sorely. She came home. And there was great rejoicing.
Run and grab this patch madras bow tie in classic cut. Can't go wrong.
(See those 1000 Mile Boots again?)
Simple blue gingham. Classic cut. Classic style. Can't go wrong. Get it here.
Taken in our home in Columbia, SC, while I was in a melancholy mood thinking about the fact that we were losing our bees tenant ever. And missing that lovely house. Looks like we may have gotten it rented, though.
A beautiful silk paisley in narrow cut. Wow. From a necktie. Only one available, ever. Get it.
Ok, that's it for now. Don't forget that all of these bow ties go to help with a school in Haiti. Hopefully we'll get to visit that school before long.
Taken in the beautiful marble (I think?) stairway of the Gettys Art Center, Old Town Rock Hill, SC,where The Cordial Churchman's global headquarters reside.
This is a really handsome bow tie, I think you'll agree. A butterfly cut. Plaid. Works for both the summer and winter in medium-weight cotton. A fatter cut yields a more buxom bow.
100% Linen. Available now, until the moment when someone else snatches it from your clutches. $29, a bargain at twice the price. Grab it here.
Silk. Diamond point. Awesome.
Do I have your attention now?
This is a gorgeous silk bow tie converted from a vintage necktie. Note the purple and teal foulard pattern. The silk is either midnight blue or black. Who cares. The thing is gorgeous. If you don't buy it, I'll wear it until there's nothing but a few silk threads and a slider left of it. Your call.
Grab it here.