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A Knotty Problem

November 11, 2014

A few years ago in a  history class I saw a film of life in Sydney in the early 1900s. A fascinating part of this was the decline in appearance (link) seen today. While we all know the past dressed up more courtesy of English tradition, its always fascinating to see streets of suits, and know that workmen would change out of their work clothes at the day’s end and back into suits! Today, I don’t expect worlds of suits! But, I do expect that in large hubs there will be at least the possibility of decorum.

You see, its extremely hard to find a bow tie that you can do up yourself.

Let me give you the whole story.

I had to go into Chatswood to pick up some items for my formal recently. Chatswood, for those who don’t know, is a suburb near Sydney with medium density zoning laws. Its got a fair few businesses, and not 1 or 2 shopping centres but 3 shopping centres in addition to rows of shops.

In short, Chatswood is about the largest place you’ll find short of travelling into the city itself.

After fixing a watch battery and investigating corsages (which I was turned off by price; also, florists are surprisingly busy it seems), I made my way to the major departmental store Myer to pick up formal hire. Now, the outfit came with a clip on bow tie. But, I wanted a real bow tie, especially since my outfit’s collar was designed in a way that wouldn’t obscure the clip perfectly.. Firstly, you don’t look like an idiot who doesn’t know how to tie a bow tie when somebody sees the clip. Secondly, any hand-done tie looks better than a pre-done one. Now, truth be told, I hadn’t ever practiced tying a bow tie and didn’t 100% know how to do it up, but that’s because nobody in my household had one!

So, I asked if Myer had one. No… not one. Then only received a few every few months, which they said sold out pretty quickly. I say to myself “there’s got a be somewhere else”. I’m loathe to go, but I decided to check out Oxford and Zara – high end fashion which I generally think is a bit pretentious and unnecessary – and guess what… no bow tie that isn’t a clip on! High street fashion? That depends on the street…

Not to be deterred, and highly curious now, I decided to exit Chatswood Westfield and enter Chatswood Chase. I first went to David Jones, another major departmental store. No, nothing there. I then tried a store which a person at Myer had recommended called Brooks Brothers. They had an impressive shopfront, well dressed and friendly staff. However, the friendly gentleman at the counter regretted to inform me that they had recently sold out of bow ties as it was ‘wedding and formal season’ and that it would be ‘a couple of weeks’ until they were replaced. Well, at least they actually have regular bow ties…. Unlike David Jones, Zara and Oxford which never have them.

On my way walking out of the chase I decided to chance it with a store I had walked straight past because of an appallingly garish advertisement of a suit that looked… terrible. But then I looked at another advertisement on a shop front. It cried, with its ‘good deal’ sales tone “2 classic suits for $1400.”

Knowing that you can get tailored suits for less than that through Hong Kong, my awareness was immediately increased, and I was made extremely wary. Nevertheless, I wanted to see if even this “inflated” price store had a black bow tie.

And they did. They had… one hand made bow tie. And as the lady smirked when quoting the price “its pure, 100% silk”. Code: Bloody Expensive bow tie.

With my wallet not wising to be without money, and not wanting to go against principles of value (wears vs. cost) , I eventually left and went back to get the formal hire outfit.

This is a long, self-indulgent story. But what should you take away:

  1. If you want to find a bow tie that isn’t clip on, you have to go into the city, or pre-order well in advance.
  2. Writing ‘semi-formal’ as a dress code is forcing people to wear clip on bow ties
  3. More generally, those in society may want to reflect that a lack of dress standards is partially a result of a lack of classy options at shops!
  4. You will pay through the nose for rare items As a shop assistant said “we can’t sell them in volume, thus their price is high”
  5. Some of the high end fashion shops have absolutely horrid shop assistants. Zara, Oxford, this final store…
  6. Contrarily, Myer had decent service when I asked, and Brooks Brothers (though probably higher end) was also very friendly
  7. Value always counts. Price isn’t a determinant of ‘value’. For clothes, consider value as (price / divided by no. times worn).
  8. Which leads to the final point… the brand of clothes you wear does not matter. One. Bit. What matters is fit.

Well, we’ll leave it there. Good ladies and gentleman, hopefully you are better equipped to solve the knotty problem of finding a bow tie!

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