Review: The Bow Tie Club
Not too long ago I was contacted by Kirk Hinckley, one of the founders of The Bow Tie Club. He asked if I would be interested in reviewing a product for them, something I was more than happy to accept. Among their achievements include President Obama wearing one of their American-made bow ties to his 2012 inaugural ball. They also have only 6 employees, making it a very efficient operation since much of their production is made-to-order. Additionally, they were early in adopting the world wide web for commerce.
I am not much of a bow tie wearer myself. I mostly own a couple in black satin silk, one in grosgrain, for the very occasional black tie event. However, I can't help but appreciate the love and care on display here for all of their bow ties. Hinckley had been at Brooks Brothers, Jos. A. Bank, and Nordstrom prior to starting his own company in 1994 with the express purpose of making bow ties in the United States of America at a reasonable price. It started as a mail order catalogue but wisely made its way to the internet in 1996. Co-founder Corinne Hsu also started helping design original patterns that were better suited to the smaller size of bow ties. The husband and wife team now provide quality bow ties to aficionados all over the world, made proudly in Maryland.
But what does that mean to the average bow tie wearer? They offer more variation on shape and width than I've seen anywhere else (save for true bespoke bow ties). Seven different shapes are available, including straight edge and diamond point, for their made to order service. It takes an additional two weeks and there is no upcharge for this service except $5.00 for the butterfly in 3" and 3 1/2" width. There are also three different A basic butterfly, 2 3/4" width and 15-18" neck self-tie, is in stock for all their fabrics. This is a pretty streamlined way to go about things and keep their costs down, considering that shape and size works for most everyone. Kirk informed me that they can make bow ties to fit smaller or larger necks than the default options by special request, so those with smaller necks than 13" or larger necks than 22" can rest easy. On top of that, there are three different options to wear them, self-tie, pre-tied, and clip-on. I would avoid the clip-on type if possible since, in my experience, the clamps tend to leave imprints on one's collar. Clip-ons are useful for theatre productions, however.
Pre-tied bows are a source of much opprobrium in the menswear community. They never look as good as one that's tied by yourself, tend to be made of cheap materials, and look, well, cheap as a result of that and the too-perfect shape. Fortunately, they do things a little differently at The Bow Tie Club. Instead of just wrapping a uniform piece of fabric around the centre of the bow and stitching it in back, they carefully knot the bows by hand and stitch them into place, helping them achieve a more natural, self-tied look. I would implore able-bodied hands to consider the number of people who simply cannot tie a bow tie themselves due to lowered dexterity. This is something that was brought up to me by a customer when I worked in a menswear shop and suggested he get a self-tie bow instead of pre-tied. I think offering an option between pre-tied and self-tie would be nice too. Training bow ties, as I've sometimes seen them called, come already knotted and fasten in back, but can be undone and tied again if one desires. If this sounds cheesy or pedestrian to you, just remember that one English shirtmaker whose name begins with "T" and ends with "R" makes their bow ties this exact way!
I was sent the Stella, which my friends Dan, Matt, and Peter said resembled a Piet Mondrian artwork. Indeed, there is another tie in their colour block line called Mondrian. The colours are surprisingly versatile and work with a number of different suits and sports coats. The pattern is printed directly to a thin silk twill which looks quite robust. The insides are not incredibly stiff or thick, but they and the silk recover pretty well. I stress tested it first by wearing it for an eight-hour day. The wrinkles were deep, but mostly released with a bit of light steam from the iron, without pressing. I've had to press other bow ties in my collection after wearing them for a few hours since they won't recover with just steam. This is already a plus.
Part of this eight-hour stress test involved being out in public (with my mask, of course) and running errands, where the bow tie garnered many compliments to the tune of, "Say, that's a nice suit!" While one should always dress for themselves first and foremost, it would be disingenuous to say that I don't enjoy compliments on how I look. The original designs by The Bow Tie Club are definitely attention catching. I commend the direction by Corinne on them. While they're not what I'd usually wear, I think all the modern dandies out there will be pleased as punch with them. Combined with my pocket round from Bespoke JB and Pride mask from PeachTee, it was the perfect modern dandy outfit.
If I were to nitpick anything, I wish there was a little more formal wear selection beyond black and white satin. When asked about it, Kirk let me know that they have offered black grosgrain and white marcella in the past without many sales of them. While they could offer them made-to-order only, I understand that it may not be worth keeping the fabric on hand in the first place. Such is the way of things declining in formality I suppose. I also wish many of these special fabrics were available in neckties, particularly the Scottish wool tartans. I'm a Buchanan by marriage and something like the Buchanan Hunting Wool Tartan, in both bow tie and necktie, would be perfect for me. But, of course, that's not what The Bow Tie Club specializes in and I respect that.
|Goes perfectly with this cutaway collar.|
|Simple, unfussy packaging.|
|The packing slip includes a little more information about the design.|
|All you need to know.|
|A simply lovely outfit.|
|Before and after some light steam.|
The Bow Tie Club offers affordable bow ties, made in the USA, at great quality, with a varied selection of interesting patterns. Bow tie lovers will not be disappointed.