The traditional geek (or nerd) attire usually includes a bow tie, and since not many people wear them anymore (though some pretty interesting people did), I suppose any bow tie, taken seriously, is a geek bow tie. According to my good friend Bill Schiano, there are only four professions allowed to wear bow ties: Lawyers, physicians, academics – and circus clowns (more on this here.). Initially I wore bow ties in deference to my two academic mentors, Jim and Benn, the latter who refers to his bow tie wearing as a "cheap way of earning distinction" among other reasons. Now I wear them because, well, I got used to them. Beats fashion, and according to the New York Times, the bow tie is back this year. That’s the great thing about being obstinate about your wardrobe – sooner or later everything will be in vogue again.
Incidentally, the only real bow tie is a self-tied bow tie. Instructions here. Make sure you don’t tie it too perfectly, though – slightly askew is the thing, aim for rakishness bordering on the sloppy, an at all cost avoid the pre-tied curse.
As all geeks know, the Internet is shaped like a bow tie, which is another reason for wearing them. At least it used to be, though this figure is Web 1.0, created before blogs and social software became prevalent. I assume a more current version would have a beefier knot.
Anyway, for a true geek – where do you get your bow ties, and what kind? There are lots of companies, but most of them sell the boring formal ones, the preppy ones or things you would not be caught dead in. My personal favorite is the Beau Ties company, a small outfit in Maine which produces good quality ties in interesting patters. Here is a selection for the geekily inclined:
One of my personal favorites (actually, my favorite bow tie, adorning my web page) is based on the geekiest artist of them all, M. C. Escher (and if you don’t know why, that is because you haven’t studied the mandatory literature). This one is called the Escher blue, there are many other varieties, but I like the color as well as the intricate design:
Here is one for the Boingboing kind of geek/nerd, a space invaders pattern:
More Escher, this is the classic fish-duck-lizard pattern:
Here is one called "greyhounds", also Escher:
This one is a design based on a MOSFET diagram:
Lest this turn into a Beau Ties advertisement, here is an introduction to the weird world of the wooden bow tie (repeated piano warning). Shown below is a dark stripe version, made from maple/walnut and other woods. (Since this is not a self-tie, it is a no-no for me, though.) A few years ago there was a company selling bow ties made out of clear acrylic (kind of like plexiglass) with inserts in them (barbed wire, for instance), but they seem to have folded:
A side effect of bow ties is that they provoke people, something I have found to be true on panels and other discussions, even on TV. It helps your argument because your opponent is busy looking at your neckwear and you can surprise by being more reasonable than people thought possible. I may backfire if you take yourself seriously and get Jon Stewart as a visitor (video), but overall the effect is good, methinks. Besides, your students will remember you, even if you don’t.