Gordon Gee

Bow Ties Growing in Popularity in West Virginia

Gordon Gee

Gordon Gee (Source: Wikimedia Commons by Joebengo)

Zack Harold of the Charlestown Daily Mail reported last week that bow ties are staging a comeback in West Virginia in the United States. While this type of neckwear has recently enjoyed increased popularity throughout significant chunks of the English speaking world, there’s likely another reason for this trend in this state.

Gordon Gee has returned as the president of the University of West Virginia. While not innumerable, Gee’s fanaticism is rather prolific. Harold reveals that the university prexy currently has about a thousand “active” ties with another thousand “retired” ones. This fanaticism is rather impressive, but that has garnered him some disdain while president at Ohio State University. The Daily Dayton News reported that OSU spent $64,000 on bow ties and related items over a few years for Gee.  It’s really hard to concede this, but that’s a bit excessive for a university president. Just sayin’.

However, his signature neckwear has served him well in the past, and that’s partly why it has stuck. Despite his detractors, he is known for positive relationships with the student bodies of the institutions he presides over. The bow ties are part of his amicable and down-to-earth persona that has enabled him to enjoy a lengthy university administration career.

As an academic, he has experimented with his style and temperament. Harold cited an article with Columbus Monthly in which Gee recounted how during his first round as WVU’s president, two senior faculty members chided him for his fashion and demeanor; he didn’t look or behave like an administrator. So, Gee tried acting more seriously and ditching the bow ties. It made him miserable. “So I just went back to wearing my argyle socks and my bow ties, and those guys are dead, and I remained a university president for a long period of time,” he said.

Beyond helping boost his morale as an academic, his beloved neckwear also has practical application for his job. “As a university president, it’s a lot more difficult for faculty to hang you with a bowtie,” he said. He’s certainly using his noodle.

Gee is not the only university president to don bow ties. Mizzou (University of Missouri) jefe R. Bowen Loftin is another. Further, as the Chronicle of Higher Education notes, there are several university presidents who wear bow ties.