Monday, March 16, 2015

Bow Ties: The Necktie’s Cooler Older Brother

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Originally published in ChicagoStyle Weddings' 2015 Spring Supplement Magazine

When actor Jesse Tyler Ferguson of ABC’s Modern Family “popped the big Q” to his now-husband Justin Mikita in 2012, they didn’t inform their friends with some lousy phone call. No, these entrepreneurs put together a hilarious YouTube video and used their status update to promote a higher cause.

They combined their engagement announcement with their introduction of Tie The Knot, a non-profit charity that sells designer-style ties to garner awareness and gather funding for organizations that work toward marriage equality.

“I really wanted to get involved in the fashion world in an organic, easy way. I also have a great passion for gay rights and marriage equality,” says Jesse. “It was Justin’s idea to combine those two desires into one venture, thus Tie The Knot was born.”

In the announcement video, Jesse says, “Each tie will be produced in limited quantity to inspire uniqueness and individuality, and all the proceeds will go to various organizations who are in the trenches fighting for the civil rights of gay and lesbian Americans every day.”

What could be cuter than a couple putting up a tie stand to fight for their right to marry? Maybe a puppy in a bow tie, and yes, the video has one of those, too. We’ll wait while you go view the video at

Jesse, Board President, and Justin, Board Secretary, have made education a big part of Tie The Knot’s mission. The blog on its website offers weekly round-ups of marriage equality news as well as company news.

It’s not uncommon to see Jesse rocking a bow tie. “I love fashion. Bow ties are a fun accessory that really have a great impact on an outfit,” he says. This love is what inspired this niche business of bow ties. “Guys, if you wear a bow tie (even with a causal look), at some point in the day someone will say to you, ‘I love your bow tie.’” It’s classic and modern, proper and funky, and this interplay of expecta- tions and surprise is what draws people to Tie The Knot.

With guest designers to spice up the collection, Tie The Knot offers a stunning array of traditional patterns and modern designs. Designed by Patricia Michaels from ­Project Runway, The Patricia Michaels bow tie ­features a graphic crossed feathers design that plays with the shape of the tie in an unexpected way. “We had a ton of fun collaborating with her on that design, and it’s one of my favorites as well,” says Jesse.

“I am currently drawn to one that is slightly similar in execution. It’s called The Inspector. It’s a skeleton key that looks like it’s tucked into the knot of the bow. It’s very striking, and we have been getting a lot of great feedback on it.” With a white sketched key against a rich, navy background, it’s easy to see why this 100% silk tie is getting so much attention.

From a traditional foulard past a zany ­zig-zag and on to a contemporary graphic, there’s neck flair for everyone.

With Tie The Knot’s latest collection, there’s a lot for Chicagoans to be excited about. “Our spring collection is inspired by the city of Chicago, actually. We wanted to pay homage to the area where Tie The Knot was born. Our partner, The Tie Bar, is based in Chicago after moving from Naperville, Illinois,” says Jesse. “We also did a bit of work fighting for Marriage Equality with ­[Lieutenant Governor of Illinois] Sheila Simon in Springfield, Illinois, so this part of the country holds a special place in our hearts and in the story of Tie The Knot.”

With a partnership that ties (ha!) them to the Chicagoland area, Jesse and Justin’s accessories are sold exclusively at The Tie Bar, where $20 of each $25 tie and $25 of each $35 tie bar goes toward the fight for marriage equality.

“We have supported a number of ­organizations fighting for the equality of the LGBT community. Human Rights Coalition, National Center for Lesbian Rights, Freedom to Marry, and the American Civil Liberties Union are just some of the many organizations that we have supported financially,” says Jesse.

“Our method has been that we’ve targeted a state or set of states which we would like to drive our public education campaign and finances into, and then we partner with an organization on the ground there to help increase visibility around their work. It’s been successful in many states including California, Utah, New Mexico and Illinois.”

While Jesse is working toward a more modern world, he knows that when it comes to men’s wedding fashion, tradition will always prevail. Pinterest may seem to be full of barnyard weddings featuring grooms in mismatched DIY wool suits, but in reality, tuxes are still in.

“Anyone looks great in a formal, well-fitting tux,” says Jesse. “If you want to ­modernize your tux, opt for a shorter jacket length and skip the cummerbund.” If you want something non-traditional, Jesse suggests a bold alternative. “Shorter, more cropped jackets are becoming popular, but they aren’t for everyone.”

Accessorizing is no longer just for the ladies. “Something that I love that a lot of designers are doing right now are fabric lapel flowers. has a great line of them made out of traditional menswear fabrics (herringbones, checks, etc.),” says Jesse. “Also, bold, colorful socks add a fun, subtle punch of color.”

For their own wedding, Jesse and Justin wore custom tuxes from Band of Outsiders. “We got married in NYC in July so we tried to stick with lightweight materials. We also wanted to update the traditional tux so Justin picked a dark grey color for his tux, and I went with a deep blue.” The lightweight formalwear also came in handy during the reception where Jesse and Justin tore up the dance floor. “We wore Lavin sneakers in lieu of hard-soled shoes because we planned on a lot of dancing.”

Plan ahead when you’re planning your look for your nuptials. “People are really embracing khaki cotton, linen or light-weight summer suits. For spring and ­summer weddings, you will see a lot of linen and seersucker bow ties in shades of blue and purple. Patterned ties – geometric prints, florals and paisleys – are also on-trend right now.”

When the big day arrives, Jesse has some advice: “Relax. Everyone, everyone looks good in a tux. Also, if you are tying your own bow tie and you are nervous about it, do a few practice rounds first or have someone on site who can help you out. There are some great ‘how to’ videos on YouTube.” Jesse has one himself that (slightly) demystifies the process.

If even a video tutorial can’t save you, clip-ons are a viable alternative, but Jesse thinks it loses a bit of its power. “When I see a guy in a bow tie that he has tied himself, I appreciate his effort and his appreciation for fashion. To me, what makes the bow tie so cool is that no two are tied exactly the same. It’s charming when the bows are a bit uneven or messy.”

While Jesse believes bow ties will never go out of style, he suggests skinny ties for grooms who want to shuck tradition. “Skinny neckties seem to be making a big comeback, especially in weddings. It’s a hip way to dress up a tux,” he says.

In terms of style, Jesse identifies with his character on Modern Family, Mitchell Pritchett. “I find myself borrowing from Mitchell’s closet on the set. I have worn a few of his suits on talk show appearances. I’m sure he wouldn’t mind,” he says.

It seems that Mitchell borrows from Jesse’s closet to even the score. “We use a lot of Tie The Knot bow ties whenever possible. In fact, Mitchell is wearing one in the new family portrait with Lily and Cam that hangs above the fireplace on the Pritchett-Tucker set.”

“We have a great wardrobe department, and I love the way they style Mitch,” says Jesse. With his understanding of what Mitchell likes to wear, Jesse finds himself giving style advice to his character. “The other day we shot a scene where Mitch enters the scene coming from a jog. I wore my own gym shorts because I thought he needed to be showing more leg and the basketball shorts they had me in just were not doing it for me!”

Outside of Modern Family, Jesse was thrilled to be invited to represent Tie The Knot as a guest host on season 12 of ­Project Runway. “I am such a geek – it was the small things that really excited me: being in the work room, sitting next to Nina Garcia during the Runway and, of course, Tim Gunn! I would go back in a heartbeat if they wanted me.”

With the power to connect people, foster better understanding of marriage equality, and transform a “nice” outfit into a “you-look-freaking-fantastic” outfit, the bow tie is what a real superhero wears. Successes in California, Utah, New Mexico and Illinois have given Tie The Knot the confidence and exposure to unite and conquer.

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