Due to the encouragement of our friend and southern style photographer and writer Caroline Fontenot of Back Down South, I've been reaching for the denim jacket pretty frequently during this crazy bow tie-wearing run. It really only works with khakis, in my opinion. Denim head to toe would be a little too ... I don't know ... too much denim.
I know I sound like a broken record, or a One-Note Johnny as one of my professors used to say, but I like the way you can casual-ize things when you throw in a piece like a denim jacket. Khakis and penny loafers (and some would argue, even a bow tie) are already technically "casual". But it's all relative these days.
I could be mistaken, but it appears from Caroline's Instagram feed as though her husband Mark has grabbed a pair of Oak Street Bootmakers penny loafers just like mine. I'm going to be vain and assume that she's coaching Mark on his wardrobe purchases and daily ensembles with a bookmark in my blog series. Yeah right. That guy's got a great personal style.
I should mention that the visual identity of Caroline's blog was created by my neighbor and colleague in all kinds of mischief, Mr. Stephen Crotts. Pretty snazzy logo, don't you think?
I'm looking forward to meeting Caroline next weekend in Charlotte. They've been gracious enough to do a post or two about us on their blog. I might have to throw the Levi's jacket on again in hopes that she snaps a photo of me. (Vanity! All is vanity!)
Not all is vanity. I'm glad to have friends like Mr Cameron Bunce, bona fide artists, who keep it real for us. Here Mr Bunce is giving a handful of us our fortnightly impromptu art history lecture. Compelling. We were gathered for The Dead Preachers Society of Ebenezerville, and it spilled over into a critique of pop culture superficiality as exemplified in movie posters and DVD covers.
Oh yeah! The bow tie! This is a sold-out Vito, easily my favorite bow tie of this last summer. Ellie found two orphaned halves and reunited them. And now that I wore it, I have to sell it. Buy it, love it, thank me later.
We've talked a good bit about bow tie attitude. The discussion is really a bit overblown, actually. Bow ties don't really communicate all that much, inherently. And yet there is a certain amount of chutzpah required when rocking said piece of haberdashery.
I like to think of it like any other pursuit. You're an individual. You've got peculiar idiosyncrasies, a unique gift mix, particular passions, and a temperament all your own. You've got to take that 'self' with you into everything you do. Half the battle is convincing yourself that you're not a fraud. The other half is figuring out a balance between confidence and humility. It doesn't serve you or anybody if you're a punk; nor does it do anyone a favor if your self deprecation is not so much humorous as a perennially employed defense mechanism.
It's not so much about "image" or even "self-image". It's more about poise, countenance, bearing. How do you carry yourself? How do you respond to different environments? Are you uptight? Are you provocative? Are you pushy? Are you a pushover? Or have you learned to take yourself less seriously, and take others, and your calling in life, more seriously? There's the difference. You can wear a bow tie and still put everyone at ease. (So much for Tucker Carlson's funny line about a bow tie basically being a middle finger protruding from one's Adam's Apple.) Likewise, you can wear jeans and a t-shirt and still immediately demonstrate that you care about things, including your calling, and that you do in fact know what you're talking about. It's not the clothes that make the man (was it Alan Flusser that sort of said that?), but the countenance that makes the man. Same for ladies.
I think this idea goes a long way toward establishing the difference between vanity and personal style. Your poise should put people at ease, regardless of what people's initial reaction to your style may be. It used to be that a man's wardrobe in particular was about gentlemanliness--the art of wearing the right thing at the right time so as not to make people uncomfortable. But in our day, when everything is done with a high degree of self-consciousness, and in which there is no established "uniform" for the workplace, for dinner, or even for the Inaugural Ball, you're going to have to set people at was by your poise rather than your clothes. You're going to be "out of uniform" to someone in any situation these days. You'll have to let your bearing bear you along, and bear others along.
All this from a photograph where I'm looking like a punk. Huh.
At the end of the day, The Cordial Churchman can sell you bow ties. We can't make you cordial. You're going to have to look to another Supplier for that sort of quality.
But we'd still like to sell you this bow tie: a new Donegal Tweed in gray with subtle flecks of awesomeness. 100% wool. Diamond point. Poise not included. When you buy it, $29 goes to help change lives in Haiti.
As Cordially as Possible,
PS-- My comrade and distance mentor Steve Childers gives some sage advice on how to maintain poise and spiritual equilibrium. We thought it was so good that we put it on our chalkboard in the kitchen.
When you get a new pair of blue jeans, you kind of have to wear them every day for a good while. Even if it's Sunday. With a new pair of 501s, blue jeans were my Sunday's best.
Throw on a bow tie, some longwings, a sport jacket with a crisp, linen, TV-fold pocket square (hand-rolled by Ellie some 2 years ago), and you have a respectable Sunday swag going, regardless of what my former Presbyterian self would have told you.
Sunday's bow tie, known as The Jackson, is available in our store. This is the very last one left, unless we happen to stumble upon a stash of lost Jackson fabric in some recess of the studio (which, if it should occur, would probably be approximately a decade from now). In other words, if you like this (which you should), get it like right stinking now or you'll regret it for the rest of your life. Do you really want to live with that sort of regret? Think of the money you'll save from avoiding the therapy....
Today I went to hear my good friend Andrew teach Sunday School at Ebenezer Presbyterian Church. Dude knocked it way out of the park. So much so that I bought him pizza. (For those of you who're keeping score at home, that's pizza and beer for 3 consecutive days for me. There might be a problem that calls for an intervention. The pizza, that is.) Anyway, I was excited for a good excuse to bust out my new Bill's Khaki's Wool Donegal Limited Edition trousers. Ellie declared that they were "grown up without being 'old man'." Now, I'm no enemy of the old man look, but if what she said is true, sweet.
I reached for a bow tie Ellie made last winter: dark navy (or 'light black'??) silk with embroidered horns from a necktie on one side …
… tartan plaid on the other side. With all reversible bow ties, of course, you want a little of the back side peeking out for visual interest. You can twist and turn them to do whatever crazy stuff you want (like yesterday's tie), but when you're going to a Presbyterian church, probably the 'peeking out' thing is about enough. Never forget the first rule of bow tie wearing: You're Already Wearing A Bow Tie. This rule helps you know when it doesn't matter if you go bonkers with multiple sides and twists and turns and peekings out. And it also helps you remember when to cool it. (I just made that rule up. Pretty good, huh? Just remember, I'm a professional.)
Ebenezer needed a mug of me for a conference at which I'm speaking there in March. Now, I'm usually pretty modest about being photographed, but for a good cause, I'll concede--but it won't be easy. Figured I'd have Andrew snap a photo of me out in the churchyard. Remember churchyards? All churches used to have them. Especially ones that are 225 years old like this one. That building in the background is one of the oldest structures in the county. An old schoolhouse, I think.
I really like the center court "E." You could play hoops in tweed and bow ties with an "E" like that on the court.
I've heard that there was a day when showing off one's socks was thought of as risqué. I guess because technically they're underwear. While I fully support the judgment that t-shirts are underwear and thus should not be worn (or seen 'peeking through') on the outside, I'm just going to go ahead and wear my foot-underwear for all to see, with the "go bold or go home" maxim being my guiding principle. It's a great way to add a little punch to an otherwise understated ensemble. Or more punch to a what-the-heck-why-not ensemble.
And of course, the socks seem to draw (at least my) eyes to my Oak Street Bootmakers penny loafers. George, the founder, said that the supple leather on these would stretch wonderfully to conform to my feet. They don't need "breaking in" like most leather shoes. They just kind of "make room." Love these shoes. I'm looking forward to some photos of George in our bow ties now. This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Okay, there you have it. Run on over to the store and grab this one-of-a-kind bow tie before it's gone. All of it goes to kids in Haiti. Happy Sunday.
Cheating. Two days worth of bows in one post.
Went with the Chalmers on Friday. A reversible Pendleton style Albuquerque-esque with deep red chambray that is no longer available as such on our store. (Stay tuned for a non-reversible replacement with the fabric we do have left.) Spent that day in the mountains near Hendersonville, NC. Ate at the Flat Rock Bakery, which is always delicious. Played poker with Battleship pegs (I'm resourceful!) very early that morning. Ellie sunk all our battleships. Grab Friday the 13th's exclusive bow tie here.
Saturday the 14th found me in the seersucker reversible wool Puckett bow tie, and found us at Historic Brattonsville for Hog Butchering Day. Deacon and Owen learned all about curing cuts, stewing livers, making pork rinds and Scottish eggs, and how pig fat becomes soap. The evening found Ellie and I in the NoDa arts district enjoying brew from Smelly Cat Coffee and tunes at the Evening Muse from The Explorers Club and Elonzo.
I also wore my new pennies from Oak Street Bootmakers. Simply amazing. There's nothing like the first time wearing leather-soled shoes out and feeling the crunch of the leather against stray chunks of gravel. You'll be seeing these lots in the future. I look forward to doing a few posts about these handmade-in-Chicago loafers. For now, just enjoy the pretty leather.
You can get January 14th's Puckett in classic butterfly for a $4 discount on the store, until it's gone.
The consensus is that this photo turns out to be more creepy than funny. Oh well. Spent some time with some colleagues on the 7th floor of a YMCA in Uptown Charlotte today, and had to seize the photo op with the CPR dummy.
Spent the rainy morning in my Wellies, which garnered the typical equal mix of compliments and funny looks. A stylish black colleague was among the complimenters, and after asking about the boots and how they relate in sartorial history to the bow tie, decided that my nickname out to be Wellie. So if you want to call me that, I'll gladly answer to it. Goes nice and ridiculous with "Ellie", too, huh?
Of course it cleared up and got sunny and warm later. The Wellies, sweater and tweed jacket had to go.
The bow tie of the day today is the Dedrick--a great example, in my opinion, of how to wear madras in the winter. Stay away from pastel colors, and you're legit from my perspective. The one-and-only Jan 10 Dedrick is available right now on the store--at a $5 discount. You can order one in any cut here.
Thanks for reading,
I think that if I had a couple pair of Wellies, I could easily live in some shabby place like Seattle. I've been waiting, ever since returning from holiday vacation in Ohio, for South Carolina to hurry up and be rainy. I'd been noticing all the ladies around here who have great rain boots, and wishing there were a manly option. (You may debate the manliness of the entire notion of wearing such things when not gardening or hunting, but you'll not convince me.) I found these from Le Chemeau, and they're just the ticket. Absurd. Provocative. Utilitarian. Incredibly styling. Classic. Thanks to Ellie for a fantastic Christmas gift!
But this is about bow ties. And what a bow tie we have here! I'm going on the working assumption that whatever I part with, I'll eventually be able to replace with something at least as cool. That assumption is a stretch when it comes to this beauty.
This was one of the first bow ties Ellie ever converted from a necktie. Vintage silk. Teal blue with a red & white floral foulard pattern. Diamond point. Bursting with throwback personality. Don this to an audition for Bagger Vance II, and you're not going to be an extra; you may just replace Will Smith.
The great thing about being a "bow tie person" is that people already don't know what to make of you. That is incredibly liberating, allowing you to wear delightfully ridiculous things like Wellies. But the first step is to get yourself a bow tie. Start with this one. Available until it's no longer available, at our store.
It's week two. Our bow of the day is the Morrison, named for my good pal. Houndstooth in blues on one side, olive on the other. One of this Fall/Winter's best sellers, and easily one of my favorites. Rendered here in narrow butterfly.
When you're just learning how to put a more traditional men's ensemble together, you can get pretty intimidated about what goes with what. Lots of people write to say they think they've got the guts to try a bow tie, but don't know what to wear with it. Here's the first thing to know: anything goes with a white or light blue oxford shirt, a navy blazer, khakis, gray trousers, or a gray suit. Get each of these things, and you essentially have a traditional wardrobe.
But at the most basic level, find a bow tie that looks appropriate for the season, put it with a white or blue Oxford and a blue blazer, and you're at once traditional and oozing personal style.
Today is an example of a variation on the basic bow tied uniform: a university stripe Oxford with a houndstooth patterned bow tie. Uni stripe Oxfords--especially blue--go with almost anything except ties that are striped in the same scale. Mixing up the pattern scale keeps things from getting too busy, but adds a level of interest that isn't achieved with a solid shirt.
We enjoyed a fantastic dinner today prepared by the first ever Cordial Churchman employee, Kay. It's hard to imagine having been able to sustain a business had we not had Kay's help and enthusiasm. Nowadays, she's running an international aid ministry, which makes her the most successful survivor of the Cordial Churchman sweat shop. Her agency will be the recipient of all the proceeds of our 366 Bow Ties sales. We look forward to telling you more about the partnership as it develops. It looks as though we'll be focusing our help on Haiti, perhaps with an opportunity to visit there later in the year.
Kay and Heiko and their 3 children spent a decade living and working in Berlin, and they have lots of neat Deutsche paraphernalia around the house. Kay is one of the most amazing non-professional interior decorators on the planet, I'd wager. Their home is beautiful without being even slightly pretentious or extravagant. Like in clothes, a good eye, a few basic principles, and a developed personal style seems to be the key.
So run over to the store, grab yourself a Morrison bow tie. Grab this one in narrow butterfly. Or grab one in another style. Grab one for your boss, your assistant, your preacher, your professor, your husband, your son, your girlfriend, your dog. Stick it with a blue or white shirt--or a uni strip, and make your an everyone else's world a little more interesting, and a little more classic, all at the same time.
PS, we had a Downton Abbey premiere party this evening. I "dressed up" to go as a period bicycle repair man. Ellie looked as fabulous as--nay, more fabulous than--Lady Mary.
Bow ties on Saturdays are going to be tricky. It was incredibly warm for January, perfect for my boy Owen's backyard birthday party. So I picked something that was kind of summery, but not seersucker or linen.
This used to be called the Patrick when it was a reversible bow tie with another fabric on the reverse. Get this for St Patrick's Day. Madras and bold, but not "loud". I write from the Chick Fil A playground, which stinks worse than a high school locker room. But the boys can run off their sugar high.
Run over to the store and grab today's tie. More interesting prose promised tomorrow.
. Buy it or it's gone.
Found both a corduroy shirt and a knit wool zip-up sweater in the back of my closet--in the "I'm Too Fat For This, But Someday" thrifted pile. Navy and gray gave me another shot at yesterday's Solidarity Palate. The red velvet doesn't really hint at brighter days, though. Instead, it embraces the bleak midwinter and meets its frosty throwdown with a cheap shot of luxury and warm elegance. What is the deal, however, with these ridiculously long sweater sleeves? Tuesday's sweater's sleeves were also much too long, but this is just nuts. I cuffed them 3/4 of the way to my elbow. It's a "detail"--right? Put that on Tumblr...let's start the next big thing.
Ellie tailored these trousers for me this morning. Wow. What a woman. More on this in another post, I hope.