Why do architects wear bowties?
It’s a jaunty yet dignified look. Are architects aware that the bowtie is…. well, theatrical.
It seems to be the architect’s exclamation mark! Don’t they realize it is best used sparingly?
These are questions people may well ask – in a parallel universe in which people are curious about architects and take an interest in their work. As things stand in this world, even architects’ wives may care little about what architects wear or don’t wear.
But let’s imagine there are some people, somewhere, who are interested enough to question this phenomenon of the bowtie.
How would you answer them? Does the bowtie help us to ‘crack the code’ of architects and architecture?
1. The usual and most plausible explanation for this profession’s attachment to the bowtie is that the bowtie is practical for the architect working at the drawing board: it does not dangle over the drawings (or keyboard).
2. Like distinctive spectacles, the bowtie is standard dress code for the Architect who has proven his/her design talent.
3. Architects must earn their bowties (and spectacles, and mutton chops) in the way that people in the military must earn their stripes.
4. Bowtie = Cultural Capital. Particularly ‘design’ capital.
See Bourdieu on cultural capital:
5. An architect may be outstanding at documentation, but this talent, without design acumen, does not entitle them to the bowtie.
6. In fact the bowtie may signify entitlement. Architects’ wives may know that the bowtie announces the architect’s sense of entitlement.
7. If this is so, then the bowtie is the most ironic of all sartorial flourishes, given that architects, however ‘entitled’ they may feel, operate in a world that pays them little heed.
8. When a building, constructed with considerable ‘modifications’ to the architect’s considered design scheme, eventually collapses, the architect’s bowtie says I told you so.
9. The bowtie may be chosen by the architect who wishes to remind others that he/she is a highly trained ‘professional’. Some might feel the need to assert this when surrounded by builders, contractors, tradesmen, governmentbureaucrats and clients who do not value such professional training and qualifications.
10. The donning of a bowtie often signals that an architect has at last achieved considerable recognition in their field. This is no small feat as architects are harsh critics of each other and may demonstrate enthusiasm only for little known architects in faraway lands and/or dead architects . See “A jealousy of architects” at https://architectswives.wordpress.com/2008/09/21/a-jealousy-of-architects/
The next post will consider the paradoxes that the architect’s bowtie embodies. For some interesting commentary on architects and their bowties check out this site: