Bourbon & Bow Ties – The Only Derby Dates You’ll Need

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Story: Caroline Paulus and Victor Sizemore
Photos: Victor Sizemore

Here in Kentucky, the first week of May can only mean one thing – The Kentucky Derby is back. First run in 1875, a few of the Derby’s longstanding traditions have remained constant to the present day, including bow ties for the guys, big hats for the gals, and bourbon mint juleps for all. Today, we’ll be covering some of our favorite bow ties and their talented designers from across the South.

Brackish, Charleston, SC

Boys in Brackish looking over the program for the Keeneland Spring Meet.

First on our list is Brackish, whose exquisite feather ties are distinctively Southern fashion statements and conversation pieces. Founders Ben Ross and Jeff Plotner were first introduced to Derby society and style by native Kentuckian college friends. “We were immersed in the captivating culture of the bluegrass state, enjoying our first Ale-8-One, seeing Churchill Downs for the first time, and drinking good bourbon. The Derby Collection is dedicated to the fond memories we built on the race track with friends by our side,” they write to describe their newest offerings. Each tie takes 4-5 hours to make from natural, sustainably sourced, and hand-selected feathers, and no two are exactly alike.

Our favorites? The Dixon, a gorgeously soft goose and peacock blend whose pastel purples and deep teals tie into the springiest colors at the track, and the Hudson, whose staid neutral partridge background is anything but bland, featuring pops of gold and green peacock. Both retail for $195 and are named after members of the original group of friends to make the pilgrimage to Churchill. Find them at www.brackishbowties.com.

Buffalo Jackson, Matthews, NC

Stars and Stripes at the Track.

Buffalo Jackson, whose “rugged gentleman” tag line is perfectly demonstrated in this silk Stars and Stripes tie, is a company who prides itself on being the clothing line for “classy, rugged, intelligent outdoorsmen.” This is cowboy style for good ol’ boys, and the tie you can squeeze onto a man who would only wear one for an occasion like the Kentucky Derby. Combining American history and tradition with brightly colored silks, their ties have more than a little in common with Churchill Downs, the Derby, and its athletes. These colors don’t run, but the horses sure do.

We love the Stars and Stripes American Flag tie (pictured) for its classic, rich colors and patterns, and the Lewis and Clark Map tie for its connection with the track’s founder, Meriwether Lewis. Both are handmade and retail for $54.95 at www.buffalojackson.com.

The Cordial Churchman, Rock Hill, SC

Wendell Bow Tie in Club Round.

With made-to-order ties in a wide variety of interesting shapes and intricate patterns, The Cordial Churchman is the definition of a family affair. Owners Andy and Ellie Stager, along with their three sons, strive to create pieces for the creative and cordial gentleman. Each tie is available in different cuts ranging from Club Round to Diamond Butterfly, which adds to the personalized feel of the accessory, and can be ordered with a matching pocket square.

We tried and loved the Wendell in Club Round, with its “luscious” teal background and floral print perfect for Derby, and the reversible Wellford in Club Diamond, with an intricate print on one side and red and navy buffalo check on the other. Both cotton ties retail for $32 at www.thecordialchurchman.com.

Goff Club Collection, Lexington, KY

Pastel patterns are race wear 101.

Goff Club Collection, based in The Bourbon Review’s hometown of Lexington Kentucky, knows a little about horse racing and good bourbon. Inspired by owner Eric Goff’s grandfather’s classic equestrian style and long life in the racing industry, this is Derby tradition through and through. Eric still wears many jackets and ties passed down from his grandfather, who owned thoroughbred horses that raced at Churchill Downs.

Their bow ties and pocket squares are made in brightly colored patterns that are ideal for the track, and can be custom ordered in pre-tied or tie-able. All bow ties are handmade to order, and can be found at www.goffclubcollection.com.

High Cotton, Raleigh, NC

Mulligan Madras Plaid Bow Tie – best worn with a pocket square and a bourbon neat.

High Cotton is made in the south from the ground up. Judy Hill and her family pride themselves on helping revive the textile industry in North Carolina – all their ties are made with 100% southern cotton, one of the state’s best loved and most historic crops. Using classic patterns and cuts, they expect their ties to be “worn often and admired just as frequently.” Their preppy plaids and serious stripes are just the right pop of color for the Southern gentleman spending the day at Churchill.

We loved their Seersucker Four Way Bow Tie ($55), a perfect offering from the company that claims to be the makers of the first four way bow tie in the country and in a fabric that’s been worn by race goers for decades. Other favorites include the aptly named silk Julep Stripe Bow Tie ($55), and the Mulligan Madras Bow Tie ($45), a fun finishing touch for any Derby look. All can be found at www.highcottonties.com with pocket squares to coordinate.

The Lonesome Traveler, St. Louis, MO

Bright florals are always a perfect match.

Jenny Hill, the one woman band behind The Lonesome Traveler brand, uses both vintage and new fabrics to create her bow ties and pocket squares. Her crisp floral and antique prints are the perfect picks for the man who wants his look to give a nod to the heritage and history of the Derby. Jenny designs and sews all her products by hand, and is proud to offer “classically constructed accessories for the well-rounded gentleman.”

We looked our Derby best in the Rosebud Chambray Cotton Bow Tie ($48), whose laid back fabric was perfectly balanced with a formal floral print, and adored the Wild Horses Pocket Square ($24) for a look that was track-ready. For those and pictured tie and square, visit www.ltoutpost.com.