Fit to be Tied: Inside Fred Scarborough’s Bow Tie Collection

We know him best from his role as Arkansas Children’s executive vice president and chief communications and development officer, and his time with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra and Arkansas Repertory Theatre, but today we’re seeing Fred Scarborough through a different lens, one that highlights his famed personal collection of bow ties.

With an inventory numbering in the 400s, Scarborough has mastered the art of dressing well. His signature accessory is the bow on top of his unique style, larger-than-life personality and uncommon kindness that are impossible to miss. Recently, Scarborough and his wife Mary renovated their closet space to perfectly showcase his treasures, and Soirée is getting an up-close look. From black tie options to one-of-a-kind casual prints, there’s a bow tie for every occasion that a man about town could need.

Credit: Jason Masters

Why the bow tie? How did your collection start?

FS: I’ve always liked bow ties. The pattern, color, texture. I started collecting them exclusively about 15 years ago. While teaching a course at the Clinton School of Public Service, one of the students founded Bow Ties for a Cause with NFL player Dhani Jones as part of a student fundraising project and it confirmed my passion for them.

How many do you have?

FS: I have more than enough ties for every day of the year. Including holiday ties and formal wear, maybe 425.

Credit: Jason Masters

When you get dressed, does the bow tie dictate the outfit, or vice versa?

FS: It really depends on the occasion. I spent many years in the theater working with artists who mix pattern, texture and color for impact. They gave me the confidence to pursue what I like in fashion. I certainly take the advice of clothiers, but not to determine what is a right or wrong choice. Therefore, I will often mix color, pattern and texture very boldly for a fun occasion or wear tone on tone for a more somber event. Someone once paid me a compliment (I think) that I mix clothing in such a way that shouldn’t work, but it always does. Ultimately, I believe that when one feels good about how they look and what they are wearing, they look their best.

Do you have a favorite bow tie or most meaningful?

FS: Not just one. It depends on the occasion. I have a favorite Christmas tie, Easter tie, fishing tie, etc. There are three ties that I’ve converted from traditional neckties that have special meaning to me: one that my mother-in-law gave me 25 years ago, one from Arkansas Children’s Hospital and a vintage Gucci tie that a friend gave me after her father passed away.

Credit: Jason Masters

Can you share a memorable story behind a bow tie or two?

FS: I have a lucky Oaklawn tie. I’ve always come home a winner when I wear a specific lucky tie to the track and bet a color pattern on that tie. Usually, I buy lunch and drinks for our friends, spend the day having fun and still come home with a little more than I took to the races.

While my dear friend Anne Hickman was living, we worked on a lectureship in her honor through Arkansas Children’s. On the night of the pre-party in her home, she made remarks to the friends gathered and gave me a bow tie to commemorate the successful lectureship. Whenever I wear it, I think of her and her generosity to our community. She’s one of my heroes.

Who makes your bow ties, and why do you prefer them?

FS: I’ve culled through my collection several times to pare down. Today, I exclusively wear ties made by a small business in Vermont called Beau Ties. They make them in an oversized pattern that I really like, they are made in America, they are impeccably constructed, the team provides great customer service every time and all at an affordable price. I get a great deal of joy out of the process.

Credit: Jason Masters

Tell us about the inspiration behind your new closet organization.

FS: I like the outcome of organization and my wife enjoys the process of organizing. Over the years, we’ve tried several methods to organize them. Finally, we hired architect Rogers Critz and Page Timberworks to create a solution. The system we came up with is specific to how I like to use the ties. I like them hung in a color progression, and the brass hooks are an easy way to rotate the most recently worn out of circulation for a bit.

People sometimes approach you at events to get help tying their bow ties. Can you give us the most efficient way to tie a bow tie?

FS: A few of my friends still drop by the house before an event to have me tie or adjust their bow ties. Sometimes at Miracle Ball, I’m helping six or seven guys as they walk in — usually at the request of their wives! It’s as easy as tying your shoes. What makes it difficult is that most men only tie bow ties occasionally and usually in a stressful time just before leaving the house. Like so many other things, it is all about practice.

Want to see the Fred Scarborough-approved method? Follow these step-by-step instructions from The Gentleman’s Journal.

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