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Posted on Feb 20, 2015 in Andy blogs, Bow Ties, Bowties, contest | 17 comments

Free Boys’ Bow Ties?! A Cordial Giveaway


Kids are Cute. But are they photographable?

This past autumn, we had our talented friend and neighbor Ashlee Wells of A. René Photography take some family photos for us.

There’s something about the way Ashlee engages with children that just plain works. What on paper might seem to be an impossible assignment–getting kids to cooperate and look cute for photographs–miraculously happens with Ashlee’s magic touch.

You can provide the genes. You can provide the jeans. You can deck them in button down shirts and Cordial Churchman boys’ bow ties.

But you have to have a photographer like Ashlee, or else.

Everything about our experience was much less difficult than we imagined, even when our kids sometimes seemed intent on derailing things. And the final product made us wonder if perhaps we had the cutest family on earth. Bias factored in and all.


How about some free bow ties?

It feels a little like winning the lottery, I suppose–getting great photos of your handsome boys. So we figured we’d do what people do when they win the lottery: give people a cut.

In this case, we’re going to give away one of each of these three snappy boys’ bow ties. Repeat: not the boys themselves, but their bow ties. (Morally-speaking, it’s probably only a small step from exploiting your kids’ cuteness to giving your kids away in a contest on your blog. But anyway…)

While we’re passing our children’s hearts, souls, and cute smiles around in morally tenuous ways on the Internet, here’s how we’ll do our contest …

Contest Rules and Fine Print

  1. Interrogate your kiddos. You round up your kids and interrogate them thus: “If you win a bow tie, tell us about one super special thing you’ll do while wearing it.” You can coach them a little, but the answer needs to be uniquely theirs.
  2. Share their awesome answers. Post their responses, along with their first name, age, and where you’re from. Share them in one or more places: in the comments on this blog post, on this Instagram, on this Facebook post, or to our Twitter.
  3. We’ll judge your kids’ responses. That’s right. All of us. The Cordial Church Belles, our cute kids—all of us. We may factor in criteria including, but not limited to, cuteness, elaborateness, ridiculousness, romantic-ness, funny pronunciations typed phonetically by proud parents, and the like. Contestants’ responses will be judged and announced Friday, February 27.

Finally, your Bow Ties and their Models

Now, here are your options, on our cute kids:


Above, it’s Blue chambray. This goes with everything, year-round. Pre-tied with velcro fastener. Owen here demonstrates the cordial nonchalance that pairs well with the blue chambray.


Professor Deacon is sporting a navy corduroy bow tie. If you’re a cerebral youngster, you’re probably going to want to opt for this one. Deacon is contemplating a science experiment he’d conduct in this bow tie.


Last, we’ve got Cliffe in his gingham navy bow tie. This is a timeless pattern, and will work especially well for spring, Easter, or…


…for melting your mother’s heart with cuteness. (Blonde curls not included.)

And moms, if you’re getting caught up in the cuteness here, keep in mind that we can make dads (and/or moms!) matching grown-up bow ties. Perfect for Easter or heart-melting.

Alright, friends. There you have it. Kids, let it rip. We’re looking forward to your entries!


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Posted on Feb 11, 2015 in Andy blogs, EIGHT Great College Football Uniforms, Special Offer |

EIGHT Great Unis: No. 1 – Ohio State

Disclaimer: It’s my blog. Any bias that may be represented in these rankings is solely attributable to the fact that, well, it’s my blog.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, let’s get down to business.

No. 1 – The Ohio State Buckeyes

The Buckeyes of Columbus, Ohio have been donning the scarlet and gray on the gridiron since their inaugural campaign in 1890. While the club went 1-5 that season, they looked great doing it.


It’s very tempting to abandon the whole bow tie enterprise altogether and immediately begin making 1890 Ohio State football uniforms. I would wear that hat all day, every day. I might get asked for ice cream cones or haircuts, but I’d persevere. And how about that lace-up-front jersey?


1916 – Chic Harley

(Note, all these old jerseys pictured are paintings from this great website, are catalogued at their blog, and are for sale. If you don’t want to commission us to make you a uniform, and would prefer the painting, you now know where to find them.)







Ohio State’s uniforms have not been uniform throughout the years. But you can see the continuity. There is a Buckeye uniform repertoire that is drawn on, and cycled through. There are sharp divergences–like the vertical stripes of the 1910’s. But for the most part, you’ve basically got gray pants, scarlet home jerseys, and stripes on the sleeves.

Eventually the Buckeyes uniform gods decreed there would be large block numbers, and the rest is history.


1968 – Rex Kern


1973 – Archie Griffin

Throughout the modern era, the black accents have wandered from the shoulder numerals to the trouser stripes and back again. In the national championship game this January, the Bucks donned the Nike Diamond Quest jersey with black shoulder numerals, referencing this variant from a half century ago.


2015 – Top: Ezekiel Elliot; Below: Anonymous wounded ducks


There’ve been some fascinating alternate uniforms for special occasions in the recent past. If you have read any of my posts in this series thus far, or know anything about me at all, you’ll be able to guess that I love the alternates that reference the past– or at least feel like they do:

2012 - Braxton Miller. Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

2012 – Braxton Miller. Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports


2010 - Jordan Hall

2010 – Jordan Hall

NCAA FOOTBALL: NOV 21 Ohio State at Michigan

2009 – Zach Boren

And then there are the attempts to make the traditional uniforms “modern” for modern-sake. I dislike these:

2012. Lame. Stop please.

2012. Lame. Stop please.

2013 - Carlos Hyde: great; attempt to be sleek in the use of black: not great.

2013 – Carlos Hyde: great; attempt to be sleek in the use of black: not great.

In the end, what makes a great college uniform is the refusal to simply be modern for no other reason than to update things. My Buckeyes have been vulnerable to the temptations of novelty, more so than Michigan, Notre Dame, and Alabama. I tip my hat to these programs for staying the course.

But in the end, the Scarlet and Gray, I am confident, will settle back in, making reference to tradition and pulling occasional details from the archives in fresh ways that honor its history rather than capitulating to the demands of sleek. Nike will push a big fat check across the desk, suggesting that the Buckeyes could be the next Oregon Ducks. But a good athletic director will cordially push the check back from whence it came, and insist that tradition trumps titillation.

It’s possible that I’m being crotchety. I am always willing to take that risk.

But when you look at it from another angle, the diversity within the stable Buckeye uniform tradition gives OSU an advantage over the rigidity of, say, Penn State or Alabama. A departure from the exact specs of a Nittany Lions uniform is automatically a heretical, ghastly departure. Not so for the Bucks.

And that’s how style and tradition work. When the approach is one of incremental flexibility, consistently drawing on the archives, you run the risk of making Mr Grumpy Pants types like myself unhappy because “you couldn’t just leave well enough alone.” But, while I (and you) reserve the right to complain when the flexibility feels heretical, I also admit giddy delight when the new-old details are, well, right where they should be. When the alternate uniforms salute the dead Buckeyes of yore. When Nike gets it right for once.

This is how it works in the world of suits and loafers, blazers and dungarees, bow ties and pocket squares, too. Or, at least in my reckoning. Honor the tradition. Tweak the details. Pull surprises out of the archives. Make everything old new again.

Here’s to my Buckeyes, their uniforms, and their undisputed National Championship.

A Reward for Persevering Readers

If you’ve read this far, tolerated all my very contestable pontifications, and endured my rampant homerism, I have a treat for you. For the next couple days, you can take $8 off the Barrett bow tie, in honor of the Bucks’ 8th national title. Apply the discount code “JTtheQB”.


2014 - J.T. Barrett

2014 – J.T. Barrett

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Posted on Feb 10, 2015 in Andy blogs, Neck Ties, Personal Style |

Cordial Camo? An Experiment


I don’t hunt. I’ve never even considered joining the military. I’ve never been paint-balling. I don’t even care to go outdoors, really. I have never discharged a firearm. While I’m thankful for the liberties I enjoy and am proud of my grandfathers’ WW2 service, I am more than a little ambivalent about militarism. After all, I have a master’s degree in European history, and am very aware that nineteenth-century nationalistic fervor and militarism made the twentieth century the bloodiest in history.

All of this might suggest that I would be the least likely person to purchase camouflage pants.

But when I made a recent trip to my local purveyor of Levi’s, I stumbled upon these. Next thing you know, I was saying “yes, yes, I know” to friends and parishioners who stood baffled at my unlikely choice of trousers.


There are a couple of factors that went into my admittedly hasty purchase.

First, there was not a cargo pocket anywhere in sight. I assume that I do not need to explain why that would be a deal breaker.  The rear pockets do have flaps, which I quickly tucked in so as to de-macho-ize them in one fell swoop.

Second, these trousers essentially fit like something between a pair of relaxed chinos and cozy jeans. The fit pretty much banished the possibility that someone would mistake me for an army chaplain heading to deployment.

I immediately thought of these as the sort of thing Nick Wooster would pair with a coat and tie, just to be … pushy.

Turns out I was right:


Nick Wooster in Dockers Camo Alpha Khaki at Dockers F+W 2012

But the question remains: Can camo be cordial?

“Cordial”, to me, anyway, is another word for gentlemanly. When it comes to what one puts on, it all has to do with the crucial question a gentleman asks: Am I, by wearing this, stepping into the tradition of style and adding my own interpretations and innovations here and there, while dressing appropriately for the occasion–putting others at ease and perhaps even contributing to their delight?

Here’s where I come down, therefore: if the occasion makes it appropriate to throw on a pair of camouflage trousers, then sure–it’s plenty cordial to do so.

I wouldn’t wear them in place of chinos to a traditional church. But I’ve enjoyed wearing them with a coat and tie and brogues at the fairly casual church I started. Not every week, but now and then. And, seeing as my line of work allows me to wear jeans, which I often do with a bow or neck tie, swapping the denim out for camo actually dresses my Tuesday up a tad.

Of course, this may not be your style. Or, you may have the kind of lifestyle in which the only appropriate context for these suckers is when you’re out hunting. In either case, move along–nothing to see here. To each his own.

photo 1

Today I threw on a classic blue oxford cloth button down, a thrift store waistcoat, the Janningsnecktie — a rust herringbone tweed with a point-end from The Cordial Churchman, which you can certainly own yourself. (Grab it here.) I know that my ancient Allen Edmonds penny loafers need polished something fierce. But for whatever reason, I feel like the beat-up state they’re in makes sense given, you know, I’m wearing camo. (I also like to wear my Wolverine 1000 Mile boots with them.)

So, the trousers themselves: Mine are Levi’s. Nick Wooster’s are Dockers.

In any event, I’m curious what you think. Ridiculous? Genius? You tell me.

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Posted on Feb 6, 2015 in Andy blogs, Bow Ties, Personal Style, Pocket Squares, Special Offer |

The Making of a Happy Sartorial Couple

“Whimsical floral bow seeks grounded square”

People often ask us what goes with what.

Our response? Pair a daring accoutrement with an item that’s not competing for attention. You want to have one, or two at the most, pushy elements in your ensemble. The rest, if you don’t want your outfit to garner comments like “how flamboyant” or “is it Halloween?”, should be subdued. This allows the pushy elements to do their pushing without pushing the whole outfit into “why does it look like you’re wearing 14 Hawaiian shirts at the same time” territory.

What exactly does this principle (“one pushy, the rest subdued”) look? How do you pair accoutrements in a way that isn’t “matchy-matchy”, but instead complementary?

Or, to put it even more specifically, “What in the devil am I supposed to wear for such a festive occasion as a Valentine’s Day date?” (Or its complement: “What in the devil am I supposed to give my Valentine for Valentine’s Day?”)

Behold, four happy couples:

IMG_0675 IMG_0674 IMG_0671 IMG_0669

Four punchy bow ties in iconic floral Liberty of London fabrics. Blind date with a soft-spoken, complementary cotton pocket square. Four happy couples indeed.

Notice: subdued doesn’t simply mean “solid colors”. You can have patterns without those patterns challenging the star of your outfit to a who-is-gonna-get-more-complements competition.

Friday and Saturday only, add our hand-picked pocket square to your choice of Liberty bow ties for just $5. Pick your happy pair now. Click here.

Place the Liberty bow tie in your shopping cart, and the $5 pocket square will appear in a pop-up window. Put the square in your cart, and you’re good to go.

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Posted on Jan 28, 2015 in Andy blogs, EIGHT Great College Football Uniforms | 2 comments

EIGHT Great Unis: No. 2 – Notre Dame

There are a lot of reasons for me to not like Notre Dame football:

I’m a Protestant minister who still actually thinks the Reformation was a pretty good thing (blunders notwithstanding).

I’m a product of mostly public education: public high school, Kent State University, the University of South Carolina.

I’m a Midwesterner with a pretty incredible “home team” a mere two hours down I-71 from where I grew up in Akron, OH.

And, for whatever reason, the cumulative force of Irish-loving personalities in my youth did not give me altogether positive associations with the team from South Bend, Indiana.


No. 2 – The University of Notre Dame Fighting Irish

My high school buddy and teammate Joe Vardon, who now follows LeBron James everywhere he goes for the Northeast Ohio Media Group, tried valiantly to integrate some Irish Blue-and-Gold traditions into Tallmadge Blue Devil Blue-and-Gold rhythms. I think at one point we had a “play like a champion today” sign to smack on the way out of our locker room.


Interestingly, one Laurie Wenger painted the sign at the beginning of the Lou Holtz era. It’s been reproduced tens of thousands of times, and Wenger gets all the cash from its licensing–which helps to pay her medical bills associated with her MS. “People think that sign has been up there since Christ was in diapers,” Wenger says. It’s been more like a quarter century.


And that, dear readers, is the power of tradition. There is a thing called the invention of tradition. In fact, there’s an annoying book written by a Marxist sociologist named Benedict Anderson that invented the invention of tradition, that every graduate student in the humanities has to read. But inventing tradition itself is not annoying; it’s beautiful and genius.

And you can invent tradition a lot easier if there’s a long history of actual tradition to append it to. Play like a champion today gets associated with Touchdown Jesus, which makes Notre Dame seem as ancient as the eternal Son of God himself, which makes everyone think that Notre Dame football players have been playing like champions since at least the Pax Romana.



I forgot. This is about uniforms.

But I suppose there’s a segue in here somewhere. Ah–yes. Notre Dame has been wearing navy and gold, with big white numerals, since at least Saint Peter’s ascension to the Papal throne. (#donttellpresbytery)

The invention of tradition makes it easy to believe–makes us want to believe–that there’s actually gold in the gold paint on Irish helmets–and that there has been forever.

The invention of tradition makes it easy to justify having no last names on the backs of Irish jerseys–even in the age of the Individual, and even if Penn State breaks with tradition and puts surnames on the backs of their uniforms.

The invention of tradition makes us believe that Rudy is a true story. Oh–wait. It is a true story? Well, the invention of tradition makes us believe that the impossible–suiting up and taking the field for the Irish even though you really have no business doing so–is, in fact, possible.


No one does the invention (and the maintenance) of tradition like Notre Dame.

Even when a Johnny Come Lately underwear athletic wear company like Under Armor gets the contract to make Notre Dame uniforms, they give us about the most “traditional” approach to a snazzy base layer compression shirt that one could imagine:


Put the Irish on the natural turf of their Midwestern stadium in November, with its diagonal lines across the end zones, playing someone like Navy or Perdue or USC, and you can observe with your very eyes the Platonic forms of archetypal American sport.





If you’re looking to gussy up your Irish style, consider this from The Cordial Churchman:



Note: this will work well for Penn State fans, too.






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Posted on Jan 27, 2015 in Andy blogs, EIGHT Great College Football Uniforms |

EIGHT Great Unis – No. 3: Penn State



Before we get into the Nittany Lions’ unis and the narrative behind them, I’d like to point out a peculiarity I stumbled upon today. Heading into the 2014 football campaign, a fella posted the 14 best collegiate uniforms, in his reckoning.

Have a look.

Alright. Do you see what I see? That’s right. The first 13 are all either bold innovations or alternate uniforms for special occasions. There are wild styles from Nike for Oregon’s 2014 campaign (RIP). There are Akron University’s very, very gold helmets (shout out to my wife, a Zip). Lots of flashy or quirky stuff from NC State, BYU, Stanford, and the like.

And then, who’s number one? Penn State. Other than Notre Dame (whose uniforms, they mention, may get some tweaks due to a new contract with Under Armor), the Nittany Lions are the only traditional uniform in the whole batch. And they’re NUMBER ONE.

Even a fella who is enamored with novelty retreats to tradition when it’s time to crown the best uniforms in college football.

Does this go a long way in validating my insistence that tradition may be the crucial factor in building a collegiate gridiron brand with staying power? I believe it does.

NCAA FOOTBALL: OCT 18 Michigan at Penn State

Okay, on to Penn State themselves.

All the stuff with the Sandusky scandal happened during my decade-long slumber from football, so let’s just focus on the uniforms.

They’re crisp. They’re white. They’re navy. They don’t change.


Even in those rare instances when they tweak something, it’s classy. Note the number on the helmets below. They honored a particular chap who wore “42”. Classy way to do it.


My high school team, the Tallmadge Blue Devils, dropped the gold from our navy-and-gold one year, and went with PSU uniforms. The exception was that our helmets were navy with a white stripe. So maybe it’s nostalgia that makes me love Penn State’s get-up.

No, it’s not. It’s pure objective uniform awesomeness.

If it were up to me, I’d get rid of the players’ names on the back, just for tradition’s sake. But even though those have showed up in the last year or so, these threads are still perfect.

(This is also the point at which I mention that, in High School, I lined up against Wadsworth’s Bobby Jones, who played nose tackle at Penn State the following year, and whom I got to see in action against the Buckeyes in 1998. He went on to play in the NFL, and then did mixed martial arts. I would never want to line up against this guy again. Would you?)



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