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It's the season of the bow tie

Move over, ethnic scarf, the bow tie is making a comeback.

The humble men's accessory holds up better than a skinny tie when paired with this season's rugged American looks -- plaid flannel sport coats, suspenders, tweed long jackets and cardigan sweaters. And it's got a rare sensibility that's been embraced by both the iconic (think Theodore Roosevelt, Malcolm X, John Houseman in "The Paper Chase") and the comic (Groucho Marx, Pee-wee Herman, George Burns).

The only thing controversial about a bow tie is whether you knot it yourself or take a shortcut. Those who lack the patience to tie one on might try Paul Smith,, who makes a $110 pre-tied model that comes in black with a white star or white polka dot print.

If the idea of a clip-on doesn't inspire difficult memories of your first dress-up outfit, Jacobs,, has an affordable $25 number that comes in an array of patterns, from multicolored stripes to floral prints in dusty rose and teal (in basic black silk, it's $40).

For purists, Club Monaco,, has $69 tie-it-yourself models, including one in red and black plaid. Brooks Brothers,, is offering a $60 basic black butterfly end "self-tie."

New York-based designer Alexander Olch uses exotic alpaca wool for a gray knit one that's $150 at Opening Ceremony in L.A. (

Band of Outsiders designer Scott Sternberg has included the bow tie in his holiday collection for three years and has a tie-it-yourself version. It's $77 at South Willard,

And for wanna-be purists, a quick Google search will turn up step-by-step instructions (and YouTube videos) for mastering the elusive bow -- or teaching a loved one to do it for you, just in time for New Year's.

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