Jeremy Calhoun revitalized the bowtie as fashion — and in the process, created museum pieces
J. DENTON BRICKER | Contributing Writer
Though they have fallen in and out of favor with fashion throughout the years, one thing hasn’t changed: Bowties remain a symbol for individualism, from Charlie Chaplin to Abraham Lincoln to Winston Churchill to … well, Pee-wee Herman.
Jeremy Michael Calhoun considers himself a modern advocate for the neckcessory. A designer and artist, Calhoun’s romance with the bowtie started with a birthday party theme and expanded into a passion.
Calhoun was planning a party and wanted an item that would allow for a plethora of unique accessories friendly to both of the sexes. That’s the first time he turned his neck knot into fashionable art.
“I was thinking to myself that men don’t have a lot of accessories to wear — and what we do have is pretty basic. A bowtie just says something that a tie doesn’t,” Calhoun says. What’s unique about Calhoun’s designs is that the majority of his bowties are made from unconventional materials, which he claims makes it not only a fashion item but also a conversation piece.
“During the party, I had three bowtie changes. I started with one made of newspaper, another of yellow duct tape and the third was a pinwheel that actually spun when you blew on it,” says Calhoun. His successful birthday extravaganza led him to continue create custom pieces for specific, local black tie events for him and others — for example, creating a bowtie out of birdseed for the annual Bloomin’ Ball fundraiser.
But Calhoun believes that bowties are not just for formal occasions. His unconventional materials further accentuate that point.
“I would like to design one out of the classic American beach ball material for a pool party, or design a mustache inspired piece for Cinco De Mayo,” he says. “I’ve had clients completely change their minds about bowties and their place after seeing my designs. Also, all of the works I create come with permanent heads and adjustable straps, which helps to break down that fear of knowing how to tie a bowtie.”
Calhoun’s clients have worn his works as fashion and have also displayed them in shadow boxes as art giving the pieces new life. Even his own father was converted to become a bowtie lover.
“My dad is a little country — loves his Wranglers, would never be caught dead in a bowtie. So I designed one for him out of fishing bobbers and he loves it. It can be OK for even a manly-man to wear one, in part it is simply because of the materials it is made of,” says Calhoun.
That doesn’t mean the accessory is limited to men — or the neck. Witnessed Lagy Gaga, Rihanna and Diane Kruger, who have all worn bowties in some form. Calhoun agrees that they can be just as appealing to women.
“I’ve made many bowtie heads for girls and placed them on headbands,” he says. Though he does not believe that bowties are limited to the gay community, he does believe they will always have a special niche close to our hearts.
“We have never been afraid to sport bold fashions,” he declares. “I’m completely Miami when it comes to color in fashion, and neckwear isn’t the only way to inject some vivacious hues into your wardrobe.”
The bowtie designer also recommends wallets and belts as an easy and simple way to make an ensemble pop with added color. As community director for the ilume, Calhoun had the chance to feature his work last year at the ilume Gallerie; 31 pieces from his collection sold out over a weekend. And with the holiday party season upon us, his work continues to be in evidence — and in demand.
Bowties have continued to gain some mainstream prominence evidenced through media. Darren Criss on Glee shed his Warblers tie only to grow into a diverse amount of colorful and casual bowties. Modern Family star Jesse Tyler Ferguson was a guest judge on Project Runway, which featured a bowtie challenge to promote his Tie the Knot Foundation, a nonprofit charity benefiting same-sex marriage.
Look good and make an individual statement for yourself and the LGBT community; sounds like a win, win. Take that, Pee-wee!
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 29, 2013.