The Bow Tie in History: Mark Twain

Posted by Lacey Wilcox on January 11, 2015

The bow tie makes a bold statement. It’s a piece of fashion that only the most cavalier can don with confidence. Some of the most influential men in history have shaped the modern world after shaping the triangular knots around their necks. If the bow tie makes a bold statement, it’s only fitting that the boldest persons should favor this dapper, timeless staple.

A statement couldn’t get any bolder than when issued from the pen of Mark Twain. The sartorial southern satirist, with a penchant for cigars and white suits, often donned the boldness of the bow tie.

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He began working as a printer’s apprentice at age 12 and began publishing articles and cartoons for an adult audience soon after. Known as Samuel L. Clemens then, he was a self-educated, voracious reader and public library loiterer. His early ambition was to be a riverboat captain. “Mark twain” was actually a term used to describe a safe water depth for steamboat travel. Of course we all know “Mark Twain” as the “father of American literature.”

His first sustained writing work was in the form of travelogues. He roughed it out west, went to Europe in 1867, and visited the Holy Land during a time when world travel was in its infancy. Twain embraced science and technology with all the vigor of a futurist. It was his relationship with men like Nikolai Tesla and Thomas Edison that spawned sci-fi type stories like A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Twain’s boldness was ahead of its time.

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Twain’s boldness made him broke almost as much as Donald Trump. He had incredible financial troubles, and his sharp social criticism made him a target for blacklists and other forms of restriction. While most recent generations have had the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as required reading in high school, Twain’s contemporaries were shielded from its attempt to dismantle common hypocrisies.

Hardly a bolder statement could be made by hardly a bolder man than Mark Twain. Of course, he usually made it while wearing a bow tie. He spoke cleverly and unfavorably of many popular institutions like the state of American politics, social injustices, and cultural vanities.

Hemmingway said of Twain, “All modern literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn.”

Cover Credit: Michale J. Deas

That’s high praise indeed. While we can’t guarantee you’ll make the same historically formative impact in your world of work with a handmade hardwood bow tie, we can guarantee it’s a good start.

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