Bow Tie Emergency, Vol. 16, Issue 9

Not long ago, Etiquetteer took a phone call from a Dear Friend having a Bow Tie Emergency ("It won't tie!") and it reminded Etiquetteer of that auspicious night about 30 years ago when Young Etiquetteer finally had to learn how to tie a Perfectly Proper bow tie fast.

You may not believe this, but there was a time when Young Etiquetteer could not tie a bow tie and proudly wore (you will really never believe this) clip-on bow ties handed down from a relative. Some of them were really quite lovely, too, but still . . . one could tell they were Not Perfectly Proper.

Etiquetteer a few years ago with a Perfectly Proper satin bow tie, exercising the privilege of "creative black tie" with that red vest.

Etiquetteer a few years ago with a Perfectly Proper satin bow tie, exercising the privilege of "creative black tie" with that red vest.

One fine autumn day an executive at Young Etiquetteer's place of business passed on an invitation to a ball to be held in two month's time. Young Etiquetteer used that opportunity to purchase a brand-new tuxedo with all the trimmings. It fit like a dream after the usual alterations, and Etiquetteer confidently appeared at the haberdasher's late on the afternoon of the ball to collect it, and to purchase a cummerbund and tie. With only hours to go until the ball began, imagine Etiquetteer's horror on discovering that the haberdasher had no clip-on bow ties. He didn't even have one of those pre-tied bow ties on a satin strap! All there was to go with that black cummerbund was a traditional black satin bow tie.

Commencing a fine state of panic, Young Etiquetteer hurried home and began preparations, slipping studs into that pleated shirt front (ruffled shirts had, by that time, mercilessly fallen from fashion), buttoning on suspenders, and then (deep breath), confronting a harried but well-coiffed vision in the bathroom mirror.

People say "Oh, tying a bow tie is like tying a shoe." Not so - when did you ever try to tie a shoe around your neck? Slippery satin made creating a knot that much more difficult. But after about only 20 minutes - only 20 minutes - Young Etiquetteer got it tied in a knot sturdy enough to last the evening. The ends didn't exactly match, but then Young Etiquetteer had just read in Paul Fussell's Class thatcrooked bow tie was an upper class indicator.

The ball, at one of the finer hotels, turned out to be a lovely evening. But oddly, the most memorable detail all these years later was the sight of a man attending this black-tie evening in a tan suede sport jacket. Not Perfectly Proper!