CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — Forget your Windsor, half-Windsor, double-Windsor and four-in-the-hand knots. Bow ties are back.
Long the look of professors, southern lawyers and certain children's television personalities, bow ties are again in the mainstream. They are available at any men's retailer, nearly as common as oxford shirts and wingtip shoes.
Tom Estep, co-owner of "Estep's the Nu Look" on Summers Street, first noticed the up-tick in interest about a year and a half ago.
While he still prefers a long tie, Estep said many young men are looking for something different in their neckwear.
"To me, fashion always comes back. Even the sharkskin suits are back," he said.
The store now carries all manner of bow ties, from solids to stripes, paisley prints and polka dots. Some suits even come with matching bow ties, vests and pocket squares.
"You'll see more of it, I think," Estep said.
Of course, there are some men who have always worn bow ties.
"That's their tie. That's their look," said Anthony Paranzino, owner of the Tony the Tailor menswear shop on Virginia Street.
Paranzino carries several kinds of bow ties at his shop, from patterned casual ties to more traditional formal numbers.
The popularity of bow ties as casual wear has overflowed into formal wear, too.
For years, groomsmen and prom-goers wore vests and Windsor ties under their tuxedo jackets. Paranzino said they are now returning to the traditional bowtie and cummerbund look.
"If they stray from that, I smack their hand and drive them back," he said.
Paranzino jokes each tie comes with a free tutorial as well as access to an emergency hotline, but knotting a bowtie isn't all that difficult.
"Did you tie your shoe this morning? It's the same knot," he said.
Paranzino said longtime bowtie wearers are somewhat skeptical of the Johnny-come-lately crowd, because they know popular tastes will eventually change.
Other longtime bow tie wearers welcome the new interest.
That includes Gordon Gee, temporary president of West Virginia University.
Gee said he receives many questions about his bow ties and is even considering making a "how to" video to teach his students how to tie one.
"It's coming back," he said. "Hold onto your confederate money, too."
He started wearing bow ties when he was about 15 years old, living in a small town in Utah.
"I've always been a nerd," he joked.
He now has 1,000 "active" bow ties in his wardrobe and another 1,000 "retired" bow ties. He's having the out-of-commission ties made into a blanket for his newborn twin granddaughters.
The bow tie has become a trademark for Gee, along with his amicable, down-to-earth reputation with students. It hasn't always worked in his favor, however, as he told "Columbus Monthly" magazine last year.
"Right after I became the president of West Virginia University, a couple of old-time professors came by and said, 'You're not doing very well,' and I said 'Why?' and they said, 'Well, you don't look and act like a university president,'" he said.
So Gee tried to change, becoming more serious and standoffish, until he realized it was making him miserable.
"So I just went back to wearing my argyle socks and my bow ties, and those guys are dead, and I remained a university president for a long period of time," he said.
He told the Daily Mail his signature neckwear has actually come in handy during his time in academia.
"As a university president, it's a lot more difficult for faculty to hang you with a bowtie," he said.
Information from: Charleston Daily Mail, http://www.charlestondailymail.com