On this, our nation's National Bow Tie Day, I would like to make a heartfelt plea to my Sherlockian brethren. Or a maniacal rant, depending upon your point of view.
There has been a rise of bow tie usage among elder Sherlockians in recent years. Some would say that it has always been a part of our culture, that it's a harmless practice that does not lead to harder fashion choices, and that it has something, somehow to do with Sherlock Holmes if you wear a bow tie of the correct colors . . . . if you've ever tried to hold a bow tie intervention, you know all the excuses. But it is time, with a new generation of Sherlockians moving into leadership and a fresh chance to help our less fortunate brethren, to end this visual vice once and for all.
They say that no one hates smoking as much as an ex-smoker, and, full disclosure, I am a reformed wearer of the bow tie. It took decades of self-reflection, the concern of caring friends, and just seeing the sad outcomes of those chose the bow-tie path. Living in Illinois, one can't help but be haunted by what that bow tie cost Senator Paul Simon when he ran for governor against a future prison inmate and lost. But I'm not coming from a place of shame in my past, but holding out the hand of hope.
A flirtation with the bow tie is almost a regular part of the geek/nerd developmental arc. As said individual learns to integrate with actually good-looking fashion motifs, the bow tie will typically fall away, save in those who double-down on the practice rather than admit their mistake and moving on. Society, however, has not been helpful to those poor souls, tossing them the occasional cultural bread crumb, as in the notorious "new Doctor moment," two incarnations ago.
Early in his run, Matt Smith's Doctor Who quipped, "Bow ties are cool!" and the fans went wild. But a Sherlockian must ask themselves the following questions:
a.) Are you Doctor Who?
b.) Are you cosplaying Doctor Who?
c.) Are you confused about which fandom you are in?
If the answer to any of the above is "yes," one might be excused for wearing a bow tie on appropriate occasions. But as a life choice?
Sherlock Holmes would not wear a bow tie, lest it was the white collar-decorator of the "simple-minded Nonconformist clergyman." It's hard to imagine him tolerating a tuxedo, that single mainstream acceptable use of the accessory. And does it somehow make one look more literary when combined with eyewear? Add a fluffy-feathered quill pen, and maybe so.
Vests, watch chains, tie-pins, maybe French cuffs . . . all acceptable nods to Holmes in fashion. But that bow-tie? Seeing a friend don a purple/mouse/blue Cub Scout neck scarf might be less disheartening than seeing them fall into that bow-tie fashion spiral of doom!
Yet what can we, the concerned, do to help our poor Sherlockian brethren lift themselves up from that dark place of the throatwear?
Can we find something more visually palatable that they might be drawn to, to wean them off the Devil's bow? The cravat, perhaps? Holmes did cravats! Watson did cravats! Even Lestrade did cravats! The cravat and smoking-jacket -- or better yet, dressing gown! -- combination might have that classic suave look that could lure the most single-minded of bow tie wearers away from their addiction. Sure, it might seem more of an around-the-mansion look, but better to keep them indoors for a time whilst the general public forgets their unfortunate past fashion choices. You can tell them about the outdoor uses with ulsters and pea-jackets eventually.
Social change of this magnitude takes time, I know. But we are a hopeful people, and one day . . . yes, one day . . . one, bright and sunny day . . . you know where I'm going with this . . .
We may see the last Sherlockian to put on "his last bow."
(Cravat Day is October 18. Let's see what we can do.)