Jacob O’Gara stands out in his college classes. Surrounded by typical students donning sports team sweatshirts and tennis shoes, O’Gara opts for brown leather desert boots, dark rolled jeans, a striped belt, a crisp button-up shirt, and a bow tie.
A what? A bow tie.
O’Gara started wearing bow ties when he joined his high school’s debate team during his senior year. After realizing his debate skills were less than impressive, he looked for something to make him appear more prepared. “I decided that if I was going to be tongue-tied I might as well be bow-tied,” said O’Gara.
Among thick-rimmed glasses and preppy cardigans, bow ties are back. GQ said that when men started wearing bow ties a few years ago, “instead of looking all old-school, they looked thoroughly right-now.”
O’Gara wears the ties to both formal occasions and to casual get-togethers and he knows he is one of few. “When I wear bow ties they become the center of the outfit,” said O’Gara. “Even if you only wear one once you’re forever known as the guy who wears bow ties.”
GQ said it is perfectly acceptable to wear strap-on bow ties like the ones O’Gara wears or even clip-on ones thanks to lines like Band of Outsiders. O’Gara gets his from The Tie Bar which boasts a huge selection of colors and materials. Anyone can pull off a bow tie; try dressing it down with a casual jacket or keep it simple with a plain black one.
The bow tie is more than just a fashion accessory. “Some people think bow ties are formal, but there’s also this eff-you element,” said O’Gara. “You can’t wear them in the professional world, you won’t get hired. The ultimate expression of going to the corporate world would be trading my bow ties for black ties.”
The moral of the story is that before you add one of these ties to your collar, keep in mind the message you’re sending. “The bow tie hints at intellectualism, real or feigned,” said Warren St John of The New York Times. “Wearing a bow tie is a way of broadcasting an aggressive lack of concern for what other people think.”
Follow Tamara at @tamfeingold