Opinion: “Is there a scientific reason for wearing a bow tie? Of course” - Veterinary Practice
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Opinion: “Is there a scientific reason for wearing a bow tie? Of course”

Working out what Christmas present to buy me at this time of year is not difficult. Anyone who’s been on my website or seen the picture always attached to this offering will know that bow ties are, one might say, my signature dish! I’m up to 165 of them now, but a new one is always welcome! People sometimes ask me how and when I started wearing them. The answer is teenage rebellion. My mum always wanted me to dress casually in a T-shirt and jeans, but I always wore my shirt done up to the top with my tie neatly tied even in the summer when school said we could ‘dress down’, as it were.

And so, on the first day of my gap year, working in London, I went to a gentleman’s outfitters (as they were called in those days) in Jermyn Street just off Piccadilly, and bought my first bow tie. A blue and white spotty one it was, just as worn by Sir Winston Churchill or Sir Robin Day for those of you who might remember the interviewer to beat all political interviewers – the ‘Grand Inquisitor’ from back in the 1970s. Not that I was wearing one to emulate either of those gentlemen, though I must admit I held them both in high repute. I guess I just wanted to be different. Many of my school friends wanted to be different too.

They, whether as mods or punks or rockers, wanted to be different from the image their parents wanted them to fit, but to be the same as everybody else in their group. I didn’t have a group, it has to be said, but wanted to be different from everyone else. And so it has continued.

You wouldn’t expect my attire to be anything other than scientifically justifiable, would you?!

Even Matt Smith as Dr Who telling the world that ‘bow ties are cool’ didn’t turn them into a must-have fashion accessory, although my three sons were delighted that their dad turned from being ‘just plain weird’ to being somewhat of a trend-setter! Well, maybe that is going too far. They have to be self-tie of course – I couldn’t wear a clip on!

What of vets wearing bow ties? Those of you who are Cambridge graduates from the 1980s and before may well remember dear Donald Steven who always wore a bow tie. He had a wonderful ability to draw, from line diagrams in anatomy to a most wonderful mural, painted when he was a student at the vet school in the 1950s – it is still there on the wall of what is now the ladies’ loo.

Is there a scientific reason for wearing a bow tie? Of course – you wouldn’t expect my attire to be anything other than scientifically justifiable, would you?! Dr Steve Nurkin of the Hospital Medical Center of Queens New York published his study, ‘Is the clinician’s necktie a potential fomite for hospital-acquired infections?’ at the General Meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in 2004. He found that one in four ties carried Staphylococcus aureus and one in eight harboured other hospital-acquired bacteria, such as Klebsiella pneumonia, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Acinetobacter baumanii. Andrew Frei followed that up in 2015 with a paper, ‘Bow tie or no tie: a rule to reduce healthcare-acquired infections’ in the Journal of Community Hospital Internal Medicine Perspectives, showing that bow ties hold no such hazards. It’s nice to know my dress sense is backed up by well-researched hard science! Happy Christmas!

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