Style / January 2018

How to Pull Off Alternative Neckwear

The Rake explores the myriad adventurous adornment options open to the man who has tired of the conventional neck-tie.

Indigo People's Iguru eagle print batik dyed bandana worn with a Breton stripe and denim shirt. Photograph by James Munro.

This publication’s fearless leader, Wei Koh, was once invited to the home of Ralph Lauren, who’d chosen to attire himself that day in shorts, a fisherman’s sweater, and a vintage motorcycle jacket. “You look fantastic, Mr Lauren,” Wei remarked. “How do you manage to pull off such an audacious look?” The greatest of all American designers shrugged and simply replied, “Confidence.”

This is precisely the quality required to successfully deploy what we’ll call for the purposes of this article ‘alternative neckwear’. Sporting a standard neck-tie — or even its quirky sibling, the bow-tie — is a highly conventional, conservative move. Going tie-less, in these days of ever-increasing informality, is even simpler… and even less courageous. But employing alternative neckwear? That takes testicular fortitude, my friends.

Bravest of all non-standard neck adornments is the much-maligned bolo tie. Comprising a cord of leather with decorative metal tips, fastened around the collar with an ornamental clasp (often Native American silverwork, inset with topaz), the bolo tie was invented in the late 1940s, and has since become a Western style staple — the official neckwear of Arizona, Texas and New Mexico. In film and real life, it’s been memorably worn by a collection of rebels, bad boys and outcasts, including John Travolta’s Vincent Vega in Pulp Fiction, John Cryer’s Duckie in Pretty In Pink, Bruce Springsteen on the cover of his Tunnel of Love LP and musical iconoclasts Joe Strummer, Bob Dylan, and Leonard Cohen on stage.

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Christian Barker

Christian Barker is The Rake's Asia editor-at-large, a frequent contributor to this site, and an enthusiastic consumer of fine whiskies, sashimi and classic disco music - ideally in unison.