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Bow Ties Go From Southern Staple to Must-Have Accessory

Brush off your bucks, get your white jeans out and steam your seersucker. Now that Memorial Day is in the rear view and the mercury is climbing, it’s time to pull out summer staples. And in the South, where sartorial rules are still Holy Writ, that means it’s officially bow tie season. Once seen as a stuffy standby for professors and Southern gentleman alone, the bow tie has come full circle to become a must-have for everyone from the fashion set such as Brad Goresky, Fashion Star‘s Ross Bennett and Lanvin designer Alber Elbaz to Hamptons prepsters.

Cordial Churchman Marwyn bow tie

But just because you’re not a Southern dandy or one of fashion’s most beloved designers doesn’t mean you can’t wear a bow tie yourself.

“A lot of guys are looking for different ways to wear them,” said Greg Shugar, the owner of the Tie Bar, a popular Web site for ties, pocket squares and more. Bow ties aren’t just in silks and satins anymore, either. For summer, guys are reaching for ties in season-appropriate fabrics from cottons and madras to seersucker and more.

“Cotton bow ties hold well and tie great knots,” Shugar adds.

Andy and Ellie, The husband and wife team behind The Cordial Churchman,  have been creating bow ties since 2009, when Ellie was using up leftover seersucker fabric from a romper she’d been crafting for her son. Researching online, where many menswear fanatics gather at message boards, Andy and Ellie began creating bow ties that the fashion-hungry menswear set had been wanting — colorful fabrics, different cuts, including the batwing (traditional), butterfly (old-school) and diamond point (super traditional), and out-of-the-ordinary choices such as chambray and seersucker.

The business has boomed, but Ellie is still working from home to spend time with her kids, while Andy models her wares and runs the brand’s blog. Here’s an insider’s secret: They recommend a quick visit to YouTube for a quick tutorial on tying.

Special order pre-tied bow ties are available, too. For more information on the Cordial Churchman, visit www.thecordialchurchman.com

Tie Bar seersucker gingham bow tie

For the biggest selection of bow ties — over 1,000 and counting — the Tie Bar is where you can start — and get lost in. With every shape, size, color and fabric imaginable, the site has become a go-to for guys wanting to outfit their groomsmen and value-savvy men who want the latest styles without paying premium prices. By selling online, Shugar can keep costs down and offer an unbelievable variety of bow ties (along with pocket squares and traditional ties). Their tutorial (above) is the easiest we’ve found. To see their full selection, visit www.thetiebar.com.

J. Crew Red-stripe bow tie

For one-on-one lessons, you’ll have to head to a store. Get to a place where prep reigns supreme, whether it’s J. Crew or Ralph Lauren (This menswear editor got his technique down at an RL outpost.), and the sales associates will be more than happy to show you the in-out-tug-and-pull that comes with tying the perfect knot. Remember, though, the beauty of the bow tie is its imperfection. Even the most seasoned knotter knows that a little asymmetry lets everyone know that you tied it yourself.

“Guys looking to add more punch have propelled gingham and madras,” Shugar said.

After you’ve got the technique down, make like a true Southern gent and collect everything from stripes to ginghams and plaids and pour yourself a mint julep. You’ve earned it.