A New York Times writer once commented that “a list of bow tie devotees reads like a Who's Who of rugged individualists.” I couldn’t be prouder to include myself in that list.
I can’t take credit for my bowtie habit. Unbeknownst to many, my brother Michael joined the Blues, Episcopal Academy’s all-male a-cappella group. The school bowtie was the group’s signature look and endeared them to alumni, parents and fans across the Main Line. Through that experience, my brother taught our father and me how to tie my now-trademark bowtie.
After graduate school in Williamsburg, I worked at Philadelphia’s WASP-iest firm – Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP – where partners judged staff and rookies through their horn-rimmed spectacles. As a rugged individualist, I quickly realized that, by adopting the firm’s senior leaders’ WASP-y dress code, I would gain instant credibility. My closet already held the prerequisite worsted wool and tweed, and my limited bowtie selection quickly became the talk of the office. I produced numerous events on behalf of the firm, at which my bowtie identified me as the host, architect and concierge. As the legal industry slid towards business casual, I took my stand as a bowtie guy.
After work, Philadelphia’s young women seemingly ignored my then-portly frame and identified the redheaded bowtie guy as a potential suitor. Grooms wanted me in their wedding parties so I could tie their bowties. Brides introduced me to their bridesmaids. Moms and grandparents chatted me up like I was Winston Churchill. Along the way, girlfriends, family and colleagues all contributed new bowties to my collection, which now occupy an entire dresser drawer. For the young woman from Texas to whom I am committed, my bowtie fulfills all of her “Gone With The Wind” dreams. I still laugh when Sherman (a fellow redhead) burns Georgia.
Finally, I'm inspired by my friend Kunta Littlejohn. Hospitalized during his cancer battle as a young man, Kunta never gave up. His friend Dhani Jones, then an University of Michigan football all-star, asked him what he, as a student-athlete, could do to help his friend. Kunta, a huge bowtie guy, had a motto: “If you want to be anybody, you’ve got to rock the Bow Tie.” So Dhani wore one every day in support. The two friends continue to wear bowties and founded BowtieCause.org, which creates bowties to raise money for charities.
As the Founder and Chief Bowtie Guy of my own legal marketing firm, my bowtie identifies my unique approach to helping professionals to find new clients. It’s my immediate example of setting yourself apart in a busy marketplace. I believe firmly in business development strategies developed by bowtie-wearing salesmen through the 20th century. I supplement and improve said strategies by applying them to modern digital tools like LinkedIn, blogging and email marketing. All the while, the Chief Bowtie Guy practices what he preaches.
On National Bowtie Day (August 28), I encourage you to find your own bowtie, whether actual or conceptual, that identifies you as a rugged individualist in your network. Put yourself on this list.