My inspiration came from the silk I found while traveling in Bangkok Thailand. I bought just a bit hoping to make something with it. My mother had taught me to sew when I was young, probably to keep me from bothering her while she worked on her own projects. I started with a regular tie, but found that it took too much fabric, too much time, and wasn't even very unique. The bow tie solved all those problems. Once I made my first a friend, who is a designer herself , encouraged me to make a few more and asked if she could sell some at a street fair then turned me on to Etsy. The original goal was to make them for myself and as gifts but I've had good response from people who wear bow ties (or want to wear them) and have trouble finding patterns that really appeal to them. It's fun to know that people are wearing my handcrafted neckwear.
What types of fabrics do you look for when creating your ties? Is there anything you shy away from?
I generally look for loud colors and crisp patterns. I feel like the man with the bow tie will never be someone that just blends into the crowd, so the tie might as well be colorful and catching. Stripes and polka dots are great, I've been happy with a light blue paisley with orange, purple and green highlights that I found but I use some solid colors as well. My friend brought me a stunning bright blue raw silk from India and I can't wait to see what it looks like as a tie. I also make dupioni silk black ties and white ties for formal occasions, since moving from a clip-on to a hand-tied bow tie can add a tremendous amount to a tuxedo.
Are there any particular style suggestions you can recommend to guys who want to dabble in this look?
Smile; be confident.
What do you think about clip on bow ties? Is there a time and place for them?
No way! I think any man that has worn a hand-tied bow tie would agree. Part of this is the uniqueness of the hand-tied bow tie, part of it is the process of getting dressed up, part of it is the slight imperfection implicit in tying your own tie vs. the boring perfection of the clip-on, part of it is the fact that the only reason the clip-on bow tie exists is that bow ties are so rare, no one has learned to tie them. With YouTube (his favorite can be found here ) there's no excuse for not learning and once you try one you'll never want to go back.
You are originally from California. Has your style changed since moving to New Orleans?
I wear bow ties now! Also, some of my friends and family back home have been exposed to this "exotic" Southern Style and are now sporting bow ties on the west coast.
I haven't adopted most of the stuff I see here, but I do like the formal clothing in the South, and hope to increase my wardrobe in that area. My linen slacks are my favorite.
Define Southern style.
I don't think I could do that as well as you, and I hope to know your definition, although it's probably a fluid work-in-progress encompassed by your blog. One of the things that's always stood out for me about the South is that people will dress up no matter how hot and humid it is, and that has necessitated a style of light colors, loose fits, and great fabrics like seersucker and linen. I think that bow ties play a big role in traditional southern style but since I'm new to the South I don't feel limited by classic southern patterns and colors. I enjoy experimenting with different colors and patterns and expanding the possibilities of what men can wear.
Ben's unique designs can be purchased through his Etsy shop.