George Will To Sell Bow Ties At Episcopal Church Auction


OK, that an Onion headline. In other words, a joke. It’s the punchline; now for the setup.

It used to be that Brooks Brothers was popular shorthand for the establishment, showing  up in lyrics for “Harvard Blues” and the libretto for “Guys And Dolls.” Even in the year 2000 “the Brooks Brothers riot” was coined to refer to the Republican voting recount during the presidential election.

But perhaps because Brooks is worn equally by both parties, or because it no longer symbolizes the WASP establishment — or because such an establishment barely exists anymore — the brand is not serving as shorthand for well aged curmudgeons on the right. At least not this week.

What is? Tassel loafers and bow ties.

Earlier this week I was watching a news clip online and was shocked to hear an old correspondent quoted at length by the assemlage of talking heads. Michael Brendan Dougherty is a longtime Ivy Style reader and e-mail colleague, and he’s now with the publication The Week. He wrote an essay on how the rise of someone like Trump could was predicted 20 years ago. The piece was widely shared and quoted, and the passage that seemed to get the most traction, especially on TV, was the one in which Dougherty got to show off his sartorial knowledge:

What so frightens the conservative movement about Trump’s success is that he reveals just how thin the support for their ideas really is. His campaign is a rebuke to their institutions. It says the Republican Party doesn’t need all these think tanks, all this supposed policy expertise. It says look at these people calling themselves libertarians and conservatives, the ones in tassel-loafers and bow ties. Have they made you more free? Have their endless policy papers and studies and books conserved anything for you? These people are worthless. They are defunct. You don’t need them, and you’re better off without them.

You also probably heard this week that Ivy Style Hall of Famer William F. Buckley’s magazine the National Review drew plenty of criticism for its anti-Trump issue, which seemed as much about reiterating the magazine’s own ideology to whomever might be listening as it was about skewering the populist politician.

Now this morning I catch a story about Teddy Roosevelt Mallach, descendant of the 26th President and author of the new book “Davos, Aspen, and Yale: My Life Behind the Elite Curtain as a Global Sherpa.” Mallach goes after National Review and the old guard of aging conservative pundits, George Will specifically, and guess what article of clothing he chooses to mock them with?

Will would have to close his swank salon in upscale Chevy Chase and come to the realization that we no longer inhabit the quaint 18th century world that so enthralls Will and his toney, all talk, no action ilk. His brand of politics and talk shows ad nauseam would come to an end. He might have to sell all his dated bow ties at the Episcopal Church secondhand auction…

As was recently discussed in the comments section here, clothing send signals. And as this is an election year, be careful what you wear. — CC

51 Comments on "George Will To Sell Bow Ties At Episcopal Church Auction"

  1. Of course the biggest sartorial story in this election cycle so far has been the saga of Marco Rubio and his Cuban heels.

    You can be mocked for dressing too much like the conservative cliché, or you can be mocked for not hewing tightly enough to the stereotype. Anything to avoid discussing policy. That of course is fine by the candidates, especially the GOP candidates, who seem uniformly devoid of policy positions.

  2. George Will us an agnostic. More likely a Unitarian auction.

  3. But would Unitarians buy bow ties?

  4. As a long time NR subscriber (shocker) and an enfant terrible of both Burkean conservativism and Bucklean Individualism, I understand the perennial shift by conservative policy makers and pundits towards the wonk side of politics. This shift is rooted in the 50-60’s when Buckley/Kirk/Burnham etc. began to counterbalance the pseudo intellectualism of the Left with well researched articles, position papers and policy making. It was only by this means that the “Conservative Movement” gained any sort of credence. Conservatives had always been viewed as simple-minded reactionaries, conditioned to screech “No!” at the first sign of progress. Unfortunately we’re now swinging back towards those strong misanthropic, populist (JBSociety, and reactionary sentiments; clothed in black bulky shouldered suits, broadcloth shirts and sheen soaked, double Windsor knotted ties.

  5. Orange Fiji | January 24, 2016 at 2:07 pm |

    I own plenty of bow ties, and NONE are for sale! Bu if they were, I would sell them to the Catholics!

  6. Ward Wickers | January 24, 2016 at 2:39 pm |

    You’s gotta love it. The Republican party is in a shambles. Yes, shoot the bow ties! Funny how they all jump on the same bow tie bandwagon–lemmings or are the bow ties the best they can do? Wise up and get your act together, GOP. Otherwise, Hilary will be tweaking your bow ties ’till 2020.

    Sorry, WFBjr, but have to disagree. All the conservative research, position papers and policies led to two foolish, very expensive, and very lengthy wars, a near collapse of the financial system, bailout welfare for the corporate and Wall Street culprits, and an economy that never trickled down, only up, way up. You’ve now got those Republicans who feel they have become net economic losers throwing out the bow ties, along with the rest of the Party. They could almost be Democrats.

  7. Ward Wickers | January 24, 2016 at 3:29 pm |

    Off-topic question: Has there been any posts on Hutton Desert Boots? The site search didn’t come up with anything other than Jim Hutton and Cary Grant in “Walk Don’t Run,” wearing desert boots. I see that Hutton will be making them again–due February. Is this on the radar?

  8. @WardWickers look at the family tree and its offshoots of the YAF (Cato, Heritage, FRC) and you’ll see scant support for any of the boondoggles and misadventures which you cited. Your examples are indicative of the Eastern Establishment, liberal, Keynsian wing of the GOP (Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Bushes) not the conservatism and libertarianism of Burke, Kirk and Buckley.

  9. Marc Chevalier | January 24, 2016 at 5:08 pm |

    It’s telling that the canny Koch brothers have not worn sack suits and necktied OCBD shirts to public events since 2008.

  10. “…Because National Review is really not significant anymore. It’s readership has dwindled. Its editor surely ain’t no Bill Buckley in any way, shape, or form…”

    Whoa. “ain’t no Bill Buckley.”

    Many would agree. But, still. Whoa.

  11. NaturalShoulder | January 24, 2016 at 6:39 pm |

    Glad to hear Michael Brendan Dougherty is a fellow Ivy Style reader. While I enjoy his work at The Week, more importantly he is the founder of The Slurve which is the best source of daily baseball news.

  12. Ezra Cornell | January 24, 2016 at 8:25 pm |

    As an Ivy enthusiast and a bow tie enthusiast, it always annoys me that women protest how female politicians alone are judged by what they wear. Can you imagine a candidate for public office, let alone the presidency, wearing a bow tie? Look at the Republican debates: blue suit, red tie (maybe blue if you are feeling feisty). How tedious and unimaginative, but that’s because if they try anything else it would be the story (e.g. Rubio and his boots). I say if Trump really is an outsider, he should prove it by wearing bow ties!

  13. Marc Chevalier | January 24, 2016 at 10:48 pm |

    The news media’s collective head exploded when President Obama wore a tan suit last summer (to a press conference).

  14. Donald Trump rather famously wears Brioni. I wonder if he’ll feel any pressure to switch to made-in-USA, perhaps Oxxford.

  15. Ward Wickers | January 25, 2016 at 9:35 am |


    I appreciate your point. It also highlights the factious nature of the GOP. Eastern Republicans, Conservative Republicans, Libertarians, neo-cons, evangelicals & the religious right, and, inter alia–and my all-time favorite, the Tea Party Republicans. It’s what scares me about the current GOP — who’s really in charge? To me, it’s reflective of Mencken’s notion of running the circus from the monkey cage.

    Anyway, shoot the bow tie wearers. That will save the GOP.

  16. Ward Wickers | January 25, 2016 at 9:39 am |

    Last night, I couldn’t fall asleep thinking about bow ties and who wears them. Have you ever wondered why women haven’t adopted the bow tie? They wear slacks and OCBDs, regular ties, business suits, and pants. Why don’t they wear bow ties? Do they know something men don’t?

  17. WFBjr,
    Might one not argue that broadcloth is far more traditional and conservative than Oxford cloth (or any other cloth, for that matter)?

  18. Marc Chevalier | January 25, 2016 at 10:48 am |

    Public tolerance of daywear bow ties depends partly on those ties’ shapes and rigidity.

    Diamond points seem to be the least despised by most people. Flat-end batwings are somewhat tolerated, but flat-end butterflies raise the hackles of many.

    Bow ties made of foulard, crepe, and other thin, soft silks –preferably with thin (or no) interlining in the wings– have an insouciant floppiness; they seem to be less denigrated by the public than the rigid bow ties made of repp silk and hard-finished twills, with stiff interlining.

  19. The discussion here seems to be all over the place, so I don’t think the following will be irrelevant. I just finished reading Adam Begley’s biography of John Updike. He includes this great anecdote: In fall 1975, Updike bumps into John Cheever, who was teaching at Boston University, on Newbury Street in front of–where else?–Brooks Brothers. Of course, they go in together and Cheever buys two pairs of tasseled loafers. Lamentably, John O’Hara wasn’t there too. That would have been perfect.

  20. Since politics is fair game at the moment, whatever one’s criticisms of today’s GOP and conservative movement, the modern Democrat Party isn’t much better – just better at winning – but a horrible mishmash of policy and grievances.

  21. Barrack Obama pursues a minimalist Chicago style in his Hart Shaffner suits. Donald Trump famously cuts it in boardroom Brioni. Ben Carson has recently taken to SuitSupply, so that he can easily be identified as the most outlandish. Bernie Sanders has a wink to Ivy Trad by sporting buttondown collars almost exclusively, but his suits come from everywhere except the pressing table. I don’t know about Cruz or Rubio, but both of those gentlemen’s suits never seem to fit right, and I wonder if that’s on purpose to appear as if they bought them at JCPenney. When he was running for president, John Kerry used to put a Carhartt canvas barn coat over his dark suit in order to appear like one of the unwashed masses. Now, as Secretary, Kerry conspicuously shows off his Vineyard Vines neckties. I wonder how much of this is designed by an image consultant or by each person’s individual taste?

  22. Burke, if there is a great beyond, howls with laughter at what the modern conservative movement has become. Historians of the the “movement” (like George Nash) fail to appreciate what a thoroughly modern movement it is. (In this way, it’s like Christian fundamentalism, which was a 20th century revolt against a much older, traditional understanding of Christian doctrine and Scriptural interpretation).

    And, in spite of all the lofty claims that Heritage Foundation wonks make upon Burke and Adam Smith and political philosophers extending back to Aristotle, how comically shallow it really is. (in reality, mostly a reaction to the New Deal). The closest thing to an underlying, unifying philosophy? Probably opposition to higher taxes that support a political bureaucracy centralized in D.C.
    That’s flimsy stuff. Anybody can raise a fist to bureaucracy.

    Aside: Lots of pics of Cheever sporting the tassels, but they’re here, there, and everywhere.

  23. @Ward from Jan 24 2:49

    You are absolutely correct. Republicans could almost be Democrats.

    I associate bow ties more with Nation of Islam than Republicans or Democrats. George Will, incidentally, is a member of the establishment and is not a conservative. That hair part isn’t fooling me either.


  24. Boston Bean | January 25, 2016 at 1:50 pm |

    Brooks Brothers is now Milano Fit + Red Fleece + Black Fleece with a few traditional crumbs thrown to those of us who still want to dress like gentlemen.

  25. Bags' Groove | January 25, 2016 at 5:30 pm |

    I finally got around to reading Begley’s “Updike” and was surprised to learn that Updike’s very first piece for “The New Yorker”, “Friends from Philadelphia”, was written in reaction to the sardonic tone of “Oh Youth and Beauty!” which Cheever had written for them a year earlier.
    But frankly, though I’ve read several of his books, including labouring through his great tome of short stories, I’d never call myself a Cheever fan. Nor would I call myself a John O’Hara fan. However, I think John O’Hara’s Yale issue could possibly be an intriguing subject for Christian.

  26. S.E. — Thanks for posting the link to Cavett’s interview with Updike and Cheever. The entire interview is about 30 minutes long and is a must-see, an opportunity to peer into the world of two writers (in tweeds and Oxford buttondowns with perfect collar rolls) from a vanished age. The conversation is just brilliant. Of course, per Bag’s Grove, there is the third John, O’Hara, another prolific New Yorker writer whose life and work have generated four biographies (compared to two for Cheever and one for Updike). O’Hara, like Cheever, didn’t go to college but he was obsessed with the Ivy League and, in particular, Yale. And Brooks. But he was a writer’s writer, and perhaps, in the end, the best of the three Johns.

  27. @ Bag’s

    I’ll have to see if I have “youth and beauty,” which sounds very Oscar Wilde, or right up my alley (not THAT alley).

    I enjoy Cheever very much but tried O’Hara’s “Samarra,” and couldn’t get past 30 pages.

    For Updike I like his golf stories.

    Curently rereading Thomas Mann’s “Death In Venice,” (speaking of youth and beauty) which I did a big paper for way back in school. And Daniel lent me that fascinating and controversial new French novel “Submission.”

  28. Henry Contestwinner | January 25, 2016 at 9:46 pm |

    Ward, I can’t believe you don’t remember the largish floppy bow ties that women wore with their “suits” in the 1980s.

  29. The Wapshots were good reads. Cheever was such a debauched man. Updike seemed more buttoned down but his stories were always so filled with debauched men. Auchincloss is my querencia.

  30. As that trad icon Kramer said, “He has a clean look, scrubbed and shampooed.” But, “I don’t find him all that bright.”

  31. Ward Wickers | January 26, 2016 at 12:11 am |

    Several comments about Edmund Burke in these comments. You might be interested in what follows.

    When I was in graduate school, I did some research on members of congress and whether or not the way they voted adhered to the Burkean ideal of following the will and interests of their constituents. Those who were Burkean, would be expected to reflect their district’s desires in their voting; those who weren’t, would vote differently.

    On the first passes, the data was all over the lot. What turned out to be important was the competitiveness of the district. In non-competitive districts – i.e., those districts in which the congressman or women won their election by a sizable majority – the representative did follow a Burkean model. In other words, the representative’s voting record closely tracked the desires and interests of the district. When the election was close, however, the representative deviated wildly from the Burkean model, frequently voting against the district’s interest.

    Instead of following their district’s desires, congressional representatives from competitive districts voted along party lines. Competitive districts apparently gave unclear cues to the representative. The congressional rep found it better or easier to vote along the lines that the House Majority Leader and Whip were pushing, not their district.

    It suggests that the Burkean model works well when everyone is similar. Introduce heterogeneity, however, and the Burkean model begins to fall apart. With greater differences, other influences can become more important than the interests of those who elected you to office.

  32. Bags' Groove | January 26, 2016 at 4:22 am |

    Sorry, but I find your comment somewhat condescending.
    If you’d fully read my response you’d have noted that I suggested John O’Hara’s Yale issue as a possible subject for Christian.

  33. Bags' Groove | January 26, 2016 at 5:58 am |

    When it comes to my favourite late twentieth century American writers it’s always been a contest between John Updike and Philip Roth. I’ve all their books, and I’ve also devoured Updike’s other writing, his essays and reviews, and anything he wrote for “The New Yorker”.
    But I’ve only one solitary signed Updike first, “Golf Dreams” (by coincidence), sent to me the moment it was published from the great man’s favourite bookshop in Salem (owner quote: “John pops in all the time. I’ll get him to sign his next book and I’ll send it to you”.) which we’d happened upon during one of our much-cherished New England jaunts.
    As for John O’Hara, I somehow picked up “Ourselves to Know” and “the Big Laugh”, both of which I seem to remember enjoying, and some others i’ve now quite forgotten.
    That’s the thing. Writers’ works have to stick in the mind. That’s how I found myself with all of Bellow’s books, for example, and most of Mailer’s, not to mention most of Steinbeck’s and Hemingway’s (my early twentieth century favourites).
    Lastly, Thomas Mann. Death in Venice, yes (after the film, of course), and some short stories, but I can’t remember reading much else. However, Philip Roth says he reads “Mario and the Magician” every year and considers it the perfect short story.

  34. @Ward very insightful, thanks for sharing. Burke was a strong advocate for the natural aristocracy and the conjunctive idea that a man with 5 shillings doesn’t have the same “say” in government as the man with 500 pounds. You could say that in a narrow margin victory the constituents represent men with 5 shillings and a landslide represents men with 500 pounds. I’d be interested to see how many of the politicians voting against there constituencies best interest met the natural aristocracy criteria. I’d ratiocinate that Burke would approve of a politicians deviations from the will of their constituents if the constituents were in favor of legislation that perpetuated the anarchical “natural rights of man” and vitiated the “natural law.”

  35. Ward Wickers | January 26, 2016 at 8:54 am |


    We didn’t think it quite as noble as that, but, truthfully, we didn’t have the depth of data to answer that question. Like all constructive research, a tiny bit gets answered and a wider range of new and even more interesting questions emerge.

  36. Bags’ Groove–How odd. I did “fully” read your comment (there wasn’t much to read) and duly noted your suggestion to Christian about O’Hara’s Yale “issue.” What did I say that was “somewhat condescending”? Condescending to whom? About what? Please clarify. I am perplexed!

  37. Marc Chevalier | January 26, 2016 at 11:07 am |

    This is the best political and literary conversation to have blossomed in a blog’s “Clothes” section. What was the original topic again?

  38. In the same political/conservative/sartorial vein, anyone catch Rumsfeld’s collar roll on “Morning Joe?” My God, it was glorious!

  39. Bags' Groove | January 26, 2016 at 1:03 pm |

    Condescending towards me, of course, because following my comment about O’Hara’s Yale issue you then lecture me on the very same subject as if I’m somehow unaware of his resentment (or obsession, as you call it) at not attending Yale, and his further resentment when Yale didn’t offer him an honorary degree.
    So nothing odd about it at all.

  40. Marc Chevalier | January 26, 2016 at 1:23 pm |


    What! For nearly eight years, Rummy’s neck was welded to a tab collar. He’s going soft, eh?

  41. Bags’ Groove–Good Lord. Don’t be so touchy, old boy. Clearly your comment indicated you were aware of O’Hara’s Yale obsession, though it wasn’t obvious that your use of the term “issue” was intended to refer specifically to the the matter of the honorary degree. In any case, my followup comment wasn’t intended to lecture anybody, including you, about this. I simply stated for readers who may not know much about O’Hara that he was obsessed with Yale (there are countless references to Yale throughout his stories, novels and letters). Within his life-long obsession with Yale–I’m sure you know all the famous anecdotes, what Hemingway said, etc.–he later became resentful, as a respected and highly successful novelist, that Yale wouldn’t offer him an honorary degree. The president of Yale at the time, when asked about it, made a devastating remark that reflected one of the great flaws in O’Hara’s character. It’s also a remark that is broadly relevant today as it cuts right to the heart of the never-ending debate here and on similar blogs about “authenticity.” But since you know all about O’Hara’s Yale issue, I’ll let you tell it, if you want to. I don’t want to steal your thunder.

  42. Ward Wickers | January 26, 2016 at 4:07 pm |

    Missed Rumsfeld today. Although i never favored his Mideast policies, I always admired the guy. I loved the way he would dismissively respond to the inane questions from the press corps. He made up for the dearth of charisma throughout the Bush-Cheney tribe.

    Marc Chevalier

    See what bow ties can do?

  43. Bags' Groove | January 26, 2016 at 4:18 pm |

    Okay, let’s call a truce. And don’t worry, you wouldn’t be stealing my thunder. I assumed that anyone familiar with O’Hara would already know the story. It’s probably a little too sorrowful for Ivy-Style’s delicate souls, anyway.

  44. For those with an interest in Burke, Yuval Levin wrote a wonderful book on Burke and Jefferson two years ago.

  45. Truce it is, Bags. No hard feelings. We’re just having a conversation and a rather erudite one at that, I must say. Cheers.


    This is the same shirt he was wearing on “Morning Joe.” It’s certainly not Brooks as the cuff button position isn’t low enough. A rather stiff looking collar but the length is quite nice

  47. Ward Wickers | January 27, 2016 at 2:39 pm |


    That was a good interview. I hadn’t seen it before. Thanks for posting.

  48. Vern Trotter | January 27, 2016 at 5:53 pm |

    There is a lesbian rabbi on the Upper East Side who wears bow ties along with everything else vintage Brooks Brothers. Run into her every so often. I gave her one of my bows a few years ago and she never forgot. So it is not true that women do not wear them.

    George grew up in a university town (Champaign, Illinois) during the heyday so it is not surprising he is what he is, attire wise. I cannot remember the name of the Ivy store that was in Urbana but there was one in every Big 10 town.

  49. Old news.

    Signifiers are malleable, especially when abused by verbose windbags.

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