Southern Lawyers Aren’t The Only Ones Who Wear Bow Ties



Despite a notoriously bland conservative dress code, the legal profession is friendly to bow ties. For instance, when many people think of bow ties, they link of southern lawyers. Further, there’s retired US Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens who is well known for his neckwear.

It is important to note that many types of men other than attorneys wear bow ties, and of the legal eagles, it’s not just the southern lawyers who sport the fashion. The Record‘s Stephanie Akin profiled several New Jersey lawyers who wear bow ties in her July 18, 2015 article “Bow-tied North Jersey lawyers strive for a courtly look.”

First, seeing this article made me happy.

Second, it doesn’t surprise me that it was easy for Akin to find subjects to spotlight. I’ve also lived in the Mid Atlantic Region, and I’ve seen as many men wear bow ties as I’ve seen elsewhere.

Third, it was a lot of fun to read about the specific lawyers featured in the article. From what I read, these blokes definitely fit in with how I see many members of the fellowship. Given what bow tie quotes reveal about members of this clan, these gents both command respect and have big personalities.

Akin notes that the legal profession certainly requires some restraint by stating:

In certain other venues — Brooklyn, NBA news conferences, GQ magazine — these colorful accoutrements might be undergoing a resurgence of sorts. But in courtrooms, traditionally resistant to fashion trends, a bow tie is still reserved for lawyers who want to make a statement. It is immediately recognizable. It lends an air of levity. And amid a sea of gray suits and cap-toe shoes, it looks like a bit of a risk.

Thus, of all of the lawyers she asked, she more or less got the same names from most she asked. These risk takers include criminal defense lawyers Brian Neary, Harley Breite, Michael Koribanics, retired Hudson County prosecutor and Superior Court judge Geoffrey Gaulkin, and Ballard Spahr Partner and former state Supreme Court justice Roberto Rivera-Soto.

Breite explains his neckwear allegiance by saying, “I’ve been an attorney for 22 years, and I’ve worn a bow tie since my very first day… I’ve just felt that it was something that would remind me that I didn’t have to become part of the herd, that I could assert my own personality and maintain my individuality.”

Koribanics explains that wearing bow ties are part of his strategy when defending his clients; he states, “Bow ties are very interesting because they do have that serious side, but most of the people who wear them have a sense of humor. It also tells somebody that you’re not afraid to put yourself out there, and I think that’s effective for a client.”

Neary partially started to wear them to overcome his blue collar background. “It’s that scholarly professor kind of thing in the courtroom,” he told Akins. “It’s the image of who I am: the glasses; the gray hair.”

Gaulkins likes to make people smile.

For the look’s detractors (like John T. Molloy who wrote the famous 1975 mens fashion book Dress for Success), Akins points out that successful lawyers like Justice Stevens and Watergate special prosecutor Archibald Cox famously wore them.

There are also practical reasons why lawyers wear bow ties. Rivera-Soto told Akins that he wears them since they stay out of the way. When he was younger, he would frequently stain his neckties, and he solved that problem by switching the type of neckwear that he wore.

Oh yeah… While Breite defends his choice to wear pre-tied bow ties, I side with all the other lawyers Akins spoke with about the tie or not to tie matter. TIE YOUR OWN!

It’s these tidbits that make articles like these fun to read. Knowing that such men are part of the fellowship, make all of us more interesting.