Bow-tie aficionado David Theophilus didn’t adopt his trademark necktie until he was 45 years old, but he has become an evangelist, an ambassador and a manufacturer of the 2-inch-by-5-inch piece of cloth that he believes adds instant panache to the male wardrobe.
“One day, I saw a bow tie, and I just loved the look,” the Elk Grove resident told me. “I put away all my old ties. A bow tie … completes your attire. It draws people’s eyes to your face. It draws them to everything else you have on, and it forces them to engage you in conversation because they’re looking right at your face. … That’s where the conversation really starts.”
Theophilus was working as an ironworker with Local 118 at the time he discovered bow ties, he said, and they weren’t a typical part of his work attire. But he started buying them to wear at church and among his circle of friends.
Eventually, his passion for the ties inspired him to launch online quests for fabrics, colors, patterns and textures that would make him stand out from even the bow-tie crowd.
“I’m originally from New York City,” the 62-year-old Theophilus said. “New York is a fashion hub. It’s a cultural hub, and in growing up, I would always see individuals sharply dressed – great shoes, suits, topcoats, hats … riding public transportation. Every day I was exposed to fashion, and it kind of grew on me.”
Theophilus said his godfather worked at a haberdashery in the city and invited him to start working there when he was just a teenager. It cemented his love of fashion and fine clothing.
Theophilus, however, doesn’t like to pay sky-high prices for his apparel. When he started buying bow ties that made a statement, the prices went up significantly. He saw ties priced at as much as $350.
Sometimes, he said, bow ties weren’t all that unusual, but when they’re sold at an establishment such as Neiman-Marcus or Macy’s, they could easily start at $75 to $125.
“My pockets couldn’t support buying those particular ties,” he said. “I said, ‘I’m going to tear apart a tie and see how these ties are made.’... I didn’t really know if I could (make a tie), but I told myself I could.”
Theophilus readily acknowledged that his first attempt was a disaster, but he didn’t give up. He tried and tried until he wound up with a product that he felt could stand up next to any tie he had purchased. As he made more ties over a six-month period, he said, he slowly began receiving compliments for them.
“I thought that if I enjoyed doing it, why not go into business and start making bow ties?” Theophilus said.
He retired from his ironworking career and started selling bow ties on his website, www.jazzybowties.com, and at fairs and festivals around the region at prices ranging from $20 to $45. At one such festival, Theophilus had an unexpected visitor drop by his booth.
“An individual … walked by my booth,” Theophilus said, “and he said, ‘You have some gorgeous ties. These are the type of ties people want for weddings or proms. Have you ever thought about getting into the bridal field?’ ”
Theophilus told him that he had but that he didn’t have any contacts. It just so happened that his visitor was one of the owners of the House of Fashion Bridal Salon at 2101 J St. in midtown Sacramento. He invited Theophilus to sell an exclusive line of his bow ties at the store.
“He has some now, and I’m still working on more,” Theophilus said. “I walk by his window and I see my display. My name is going to appear in front of my display. I’m trying to elevate what I’m doing. I did 36 wedding ties and 12 prom ties for him.”
Theophilus makes his ties out of leather and fabrics such as silk, cotton,or even cloth designed by big names such as Michael Kors and Oscar de la Renta. He studies colors and textures from the runways of Fashion Week in New York and Los Angeles. He regularly teaches boys and men how to tie the neckwear, but he also sells the pre-tied variety with a band that clips around the neck.
He said he believes that people trust and respect men in bow ties, and he tells high school students that educators will view them in the neckwear as more serious about their academic pursuits. He’s suggested that students start Bow Tie Tuesdays, and he’s even given them ties to do it.
Theophilus loves to tell the story of his son, who had worked at a telecom company for quite a while but hadn’t gotten any attention from the top brass until he adopted his dad’s neckwear. The division chief spotted him in the bow tie, complimented him and asked his name, Theophilus said.