Why Is the Media Obsessed With Bow Ties?
When I saw the first line of yesterday’s L.A. Times story on NFL linebacker Dhani Jones, I knew I couldn’t read any further. It says: “There’s a bow tie revolution going on.”
Jones explains that he’s trying to urge other pro athletes to join what he calls “the resurgence of the gentleman” – and that they should all start by wearing bow ties. But someone needs to tell both Jones and the Times that bow-tie wearing is far from revolutionary, in fact, it’s long been an obsession of the media for no apparent reason.
Seemingly every man in the public sphere who sports one on a regular basis draws constant attention for it – and I simply can’t figure out why. If journalists mentioned a woman’s affinity for scarves or a particular style of suit each and every time a woman was profiled, we’d deem it sexist, or at the very least, unnecessary and kind of weird. And yet, writers can’t help themselves when it comes to pointing out a man’s bow tie.
Take columnist George Will. Though he’s been wearing a bow tie for public appearances for decades, he changed course for a few TV spots in October and wore a traditional long tie. This shocked Stephen Colbert so much that he did an entire segment called “George Will’s Long Tie,” and insisted on sporting a bow tie in order to “restore balance to the universe.”
When Rep. Earl Blumenauer, a Democrat who is also known for wearing bow ties, challenged Will on some of his climate change assertions, the showdown was quickly dubbed the “battle of the bow ties.”
Back in June, the Huffington Post asked its readers who they considered the best dressed Supreme Court justice. When John Paul Stevens, famous for his bow tie affinity, landed at No. 2, the site created a photo slide show of other “decorated gentlemen” who wear bow ties, including Tucker Carlson, “Gossip Girl” character Chuck Bass and fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld.
When I worked as an editor at a legal newspaper that ran a daily profile of a state or federal judge, the reporters couldn’t help but mention when a male judge had a habit of wearing bow ties. I always thought it irrelevant and bizarre.
The Associated Press tells journalists to “use the same standards for men and women in deciding whether to include specific mention of personal appearance or marital or family situation.” Like I said, I can’t think of a single article of clothing that a woman would wear that would compel a writer to mention it every single time he or she saw one.
Bow ties are a completely appropriate, unremarkable piece of professional clothing. If John Paul Stevens or Tucker Carlson suddenly starts wearing a propeller hat, or an enormous neckpiece with a clock on it a la Flava Flav, then I would understand the relevance in mentioning it. But until then, lay off the bow tie mentions, people.