27 Nov 2022

Letting Down the Side

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Alec Marsh describes just how far the rot has set in in today’s Britain.

[In] Sebastian Payne[‘s] forthcoming book about the last days of Boris Johnson’s government…. [h]e tells the story of [Dominic] Raab arriving to counsel the Prime Minister during his last hours in Downing Street, dressed in white tie. ‘Raab awkwardly told Number 10 staffers he had to attend a white-tie dinner at the Mansion House in the City of London that evening, but required assistance with the outfit. An attendant was found with the skills to fix his bow tie.’

An attendant was found with the skills to fix his bow tie. Have standards of British public life ever been quite so damned in just 12 words?

Dominic Raab can’t do up a bow tie. And nor, it seems, could the coterie of those around Boris – or perhaps they didn’t want to get too close to him to do it? Either way, it looks bad.

Because to my mind, a Tory grandee who can’t tie a bow tie is like a Labour bigwig who doesn’t know the words to ‘The Red Flag’. They’re a bungee short of the full roof rack. And that’s because, if nothing else, the Tory party is still a very black-tie party – you know it, don’t you? The men at least. These are people who love nothing more than squeezing into a 35-year-old cummerbund and listening to an after-dinner speech having drizzled three courses down their dress shirts.

Raab stands for the party of Winston Churchill – he is a lineal political descendent of the man who, don’t forget, didn’t just wear a bow tie more or less daily but also masterminded the defeat of the world’s most fearsome war machine as well as the world’s most odious regime while doing so. It’s not going too far to say that Churchill saved the world while wearing a bow tie.

Eight decades on and of course things have changed, but not that much.


Not every man can carry off a bow tie in ordinary dress. But it is impossible to move in upper adult circles without finding oneself present from time to time at occasions requiring wearing semi-formal (black tie) and formal (white tie) attire. Few men today can afford valets, and wearing pre-tied ties is profoundly infra dig. Therefore, knowing how to tie (and adjust) a bow tie is an essential adult male skill.

7 Feedbacks on "Letting Down the Side"

Univ of Saigon 68

Never work for a man who wears a bow tie. Men who wear bow ties fancy themselves to be quirky, independent ‘Big Thinkers.’ They will philosophize at length, and then come up with some grand scheme and you will be told to make it happen.

Gerard vanderleun

Bow ties, reduced to their elemental symbolism, are just vaginas worn on the throat.

Fusil Darne

I live in a neighborhood of big trucks, big guns, big dogs, and big chainsaws. It has been most of a lifetime, and nary a bow tie in sight, save the factory installed versions in the grille of Chevy trucks.
I drive a Ford truck. Avoid bow ties, at all cost.

Hairless Joe

Since I have never had occasion to wear formal attire (except when I was married, and that was a bit of a lark) it is evident that I have never “moved in upper adult circles”. But since I am not in the habit of dribbling food on my clothing either, perhaps it is just as well. I will continue therefore to lurk among the Deplorables and leave the social performance art to those whom it amuses.


“[U]pper adult circles.”

I suspect that a lot of people that think this applies to them have no idea what contempt the rest of us have for them.


I have no business among such.


I went to Catholic school up to the seventh grade wearing ties every day. I hate pretty much every tie. My go to if I have to wear a tie is a bolo or string tie. Catholic school did teach me how to use a tie in a fight though.


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