Bow ties, braces separate the man from every other buttoned-down guy in town


TC What's a 28-year-old doing in a bow tie and braces?

Being Robert Knott, of course.

Mr. Knott, director of annual giving for the Baltimore Archdiocese, takes pride in not looking like every other buttoned-down guy in Baltimore.

With a collection of 60 bow ties and 20 pairs of braces (his wife counted), he's developed a reputation for his eye-catching ensembles.

His attire has even caused some friends to label Mr. Knott, who lives in Rodgers Forge, a "slave to fashion."

"That's not true," he says adamantly. "I won't crawl out on every thin branch that fashion offers."

What's with the bow ties?

I like them. People who know me say they're me. Bow ties give a man a broader playing field. I can wear patterns that would be overbearing in necktie form. There's also something Old World about them. Plus, I don't get my tie dirty while eating soup.

How long have you been wearing them?

Virtually all my professional life. I started out wearing them in 1990 while working at the University of Baltimore. Dr. H. Mebane Turner [president of the school] always wore bow ties. It struck me as a great look.

Do you ever get razzed about them?

A friend tells me I look like the Pepperidge Farm man. People have an aversion to bow ties. They think you need a degree in engineering to tie one, but it's the exact same process as tying your shoes.

Word is, you're a meticulous dresser. Is that true?

I am. I won't put something together unless it works absolutely. The color of the braces with the bow tie with the shirt. It's more dynamic, and it's obvious that more thought went into it.

How would you describe your style?

Traditional with an eye toward what is contemporary.

How do you find that middle ground?

It's tough. I'm not one for wearing an Armani suit one day and a bow tie with braces the next.

This hasn't always been your chosen style, right?

I went to an all-boys military school from first through fifth grades. From Day 1, it was a rule that we had to maintain polished shoes and pressed uniforms. You wore a lot of wool pants with stripes down the side, blue shirts with black ties and hats with patent leather brims. It was goofy.

How did that affect you?

It underscored the importance of a proper appearance.

What happened after that?

In college, I played guitar in a couple bands. I had very long hair and a couple earrings in my left ear. It was horrible. I was highly contemporary. I wore ripped jeans and T-shirts, your garden-variety college wardrobe.

What made you switch?

I wanted to eat.

Where do you shop now?

I buy suits at Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, shirts at Brooks Brothers and ties at Eclectic and Nordstrom.

Who would you most like to take on a shopping trip?

I wouldn't mind going with Bryant Gumbel if we had room for his ego to come along. He can strike any number of appearances. That kind of dexterity works well.

Is your style different on the weekends?

Comfortability -- there's no other rule then. I wear cardigans and khakis and a lot of Ralph Lauren. You pay for more than you get with him, but his best items are made for the weekend.

If you could change one thing about the way you dress, what would it be?

I wouldn't have Baltimore be so button-downed at times. Nine out of10 guys you pass on the street are wearing the requisite single-breasted suit. I might add a double-breasted suit to my wardrobe.

Do you know some dressers? Let us know. Write to Mary Corey, The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, Md. 21278.

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