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Transitioning the chapters of life - Chapter one - hey, what's with the bow tie? · 16.03.19 by colin newell

I was sitting with my lovely wife Andrea at the Fernwood Coffee House today at noon. Between bites of a breakfast egg bagel and sips of black coffee (and her sampling her London Fog…) we reflected on the passage of time – and how we grow and change.

Cutting to the chase: “What’s with the bow tie?” She asked.

Right. Bow ties, in the 21st Century trigger a lot of different responses – and it all depends on where you are. I work at a University (in IT) and in my wandering between classroom buildings, my lab and the cafe, my attire is usually business casual; in the Springtime, shirt and slacks – in the summer, an Aloha shirt and blue jeans. I never, ever wear shorts. What I wear is dependant on the day of the week and the time of year. Many places, schools, Universities and colleges have a casual Friday. We have flipped that on its ear and do a formal Friday. Some of the staff wear ties, scarves, fancier head gear and yes, even bow ties. It is simply a timeless look that works anywhere at anytime. At least that is what I tell myself. Today, while popping into a bookstore for some items, I was asked by the staffer at the counter if I was “going to a birthday party…” “Uhm… no I hesitated then I realized that I was dressed as a magician that would be going to a birthday party! Impression, then response!

Truth be told, Victoria B.C. is not an urban centre with a high awareness of fashion. Go to an opera in Victoria and the listener next to you is just as likely to be dressed for a hike or a dig of the root vegetables in the back garden. And not that this offends me much – actually it offends me a bit. I truly believe that clothing is not about elitism (at least entirely…) and more about the expression of “I care about my appearance!”

And yes, I am an extrovert and I am a bit of an attention suck. For what other reason would I pay attention to fashion trends and make an effort to stand out… well, at least a bit. “But where does this begin?” she asked.

“Well!” I exclaimed as I took a lung full of air.

In 1979 while attending a series of courses at one of the local colleges, I noticed a 21 year old classmate who stood out from the rest. He was wearing a Harris Tweed sport coat. I’d seen elbow padded professors wearing these beat up old classics but I thought it was their exclusive reservation. It’s wasn’t and on this blue jean clad student, it worked. It got me thinking about how we make impressions based on the image that we present. My career choices would always put me in contact with the general public so I had to craft some kind of “package” – over time, this “look” would evolve into a fashion forward sense that changed with the times. My 1st suit for my first date near the Christmas of 1980 would be a cotton corduroy thing from a mall Mens store. It was a modest beginning. Interestingly, I did not buy a tie for this outfit and my date at the time reminded me of the necessity of achieving “balance”. There could be no balance with a three piece suit and no tie.

It was a beginning. The 1980’s offered a wealth of quirky choices for men while remaining somewhat centred in the fashion mainstream – and as it would turn out, the “stream” of fashion in Victoria, at the time, was little more than a rivulet. That would change, little by little, over time.

Flashing forward, I have been working at a University since the late 1980’s (now around 6 years away from retirement!) and that is a few items of clothing under the bridge. The biggest transition is yet to come. It’s thought that graduation, marriage, death, divorce and retirement are among the most stressful of transitions. One takes stock and wonders what it will be that they will be next. Reinvention. It’s a thing. It’s healthy, too a point I guess.

So. The bow tie. For me, it is an expression of, “Hey, it’s still me and I’m still here and I still care…”

When I stop caring… well, let’s not go there.


Colin Newell is an about town writer, food and coffee guy, member of the Canadian Media Guild… and always on the hunt for a great cup of joe and a sharp looking tie.


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