Bow Tie Bible gives fashion 101 on wearing iconic accessory

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By CATHI AYCOCK

Most people have never actually seen Moses in a bow tie.

That didn’t stop Chuck Blackburn, founder of the International Bow Tie Society, from featuring the iconic Biblical character sporting a cheeky striped version in his new book The Bow Tie Bible.

Moses in a bow tie? The Bow Tie Bible takes a humorous look at this menswear accessory.
Moses in a bow tie? The Bow Tie Bible takes a humorous look at this menswear accessory.

The Bow Tie Bible is a parody, a satire.  Bowties are not a religion. I wrote it as a  seriously funny guide,” explains Blackburn, who wears bow ties almost daily.

The book, an “expose’ on how and why bow ties are a positive alternative to long ties” offers a Ten Commandments of Bow Ties and the beginning, or Genesis, of the bow tie. But before the beginning of the tie tale, we ask about the genesis of Blackburn’s own bow tie obsession.

 Chuck Blackburn
Chuck Blackburn, founder of the International Bow Tie Society and author of The Bow Tie Bible.

Blackburn began wearing the men’s accessory in 1978, well before the current hipster resurgence of bow ties, while he was a sales rep for a menswear and ladies clothing line.

Though Blackburn cites the practical reasons for adopting the bow tie while traveling and working, you get the idea that there is a bigger story behind his passion.

“They are practical. They travel better, you can lean over a meal and not worry about getting your tie in your food. And they are less expensive,” cites Blackburn, who says long ties are considered unsanitary and most hospitals do not allow doctors to wear them because of the germs that reside on the fabric that is constantly touched and rarely cleaned.

While I can’t argue with his bow-tie-better list, I sense an underlying reason for his neckwear affinity. In part, because Blackburn is most decidedly a poster child for a man who is comfortable being a non-conformist.

“Ask a man why he wears a tie. He will say because his father wore one. Or because everybody wears them to the office or for social events. I can walk in a room and be the only man wearing a bow tie. And I like being different. I think it is healthy and shows self-confidence if you aren’t always a conformist,” Blackburn says.

Indeed, the book is sprinkled with quotes such as “To be one’s self, and unafraid whether right or wrong, is more admirable than the easy cowardice of surrender to conformity.” Clearly, wearing a bow tie is more than a fashion statement for Blackburn. It is a tongue in cheek way to acknowledge that this is a man comfortable in his own skin … as long as a signature bow tie is tying up the package.

More than paying homage to bow ties however, the book is also a fashion primer for men ready to take the sartorial leap. Blackburn says he has a secret weapon that makes a bow tie look right on even the most die-hard naysayers.

The Bow Tie Bible is a fashion primer and tongue in cheek history lesson on the iconic neckwear. Bow Tie Bible, $22.99 on Amazon and locally at
The Bow Tie Bible is a fashion primer and tongue in cheek history lesson on the iconic neckwear written by Brentwood resident Chuck Blackburn. Bow Tie Bible, $22.99 on Amazon.

“Men will compliment me on my bow tie. And then say they can’t wear them because they look funny. But they don’t realize they are wearing the wrong size bow tie. Just like a hat needs to work with a woman’s face shape. For a man, the bow tie also needs to fit the face,” explains Blackburn.

According to Blackburn wearing a bow tie is about a simple rule of proportion.

“Properly sized bowties should never, ever be horizontally wider or vertically taller than one’s eye sockets. A bow tie that is too big challenges the professional, sophisticated image that a bow tie will project,” says Blackburn.

So deep is his knowledge and passion for bow ties, Blackburn founded the International Bow Tie Society, dedicated to “leveraging the interest of bow tie wearers.”

“Anybody can join. For $49 for a year, you get a Bow Tie Bible and a bow tie and discount on IBTS products,” says Blackburn.

Since Blackburn is often at social events — his wife is U.S. Rep. Marsha Blackburn, R-Brentwood, — he attends numerous black tie events that require the neckwear. But he says the bow tie works for everyday menswear too.

“I have over 100 bowties in my closet. I shop for them whenever I travel, but I love Brooks Brothers and a small company called Beau Ties of Vermont. I am working on a collaboration with them on some bow ties that will be offered through the International Bow Tie Society,” says Blackburn.

Blackburn favors ties from Brooks Brothers and Beau Ties of Vermont. Pictured here, the Noel River Bow Tie, $45 at Beau Ties of Vermont.
Blackburn favors ties from Brooks Brothers and Beau Ties of Vermont. Pictured here, the Noel River Bow Tie, $45 at Beau Ties of Vermont.

Is wife Marsha a bow tie fan?

“She likes them on me. And she is always the one wrapping presents and making these beautiful bows. But she can’t tie a bow tie at all. Which is all right with me. Wearing them as often as I have, I can tie one with my eyes closed,” Blackburn says with a laugh.