“I wanted to be the freshest guy here,” Ralph Webb said with a smile.
I’d asked Vanderbilt’s star sophomore running back about the decision to wear a bow tie to the 2015 SEC Media Days — a choice that probably would have seemed utterly bizarre for a fashion-forward, globe-trotting college football player just a few short years ago, when the first person many would have associated with the bow tie was Orville Redenbacher. (Or, alternatively but no less removed from the world of fashionable 18-to-22-year-olds, E. Gordon Gee.)
But the bow tie has steadily become more and more commonplace among athletes looking to look their sharpest for the media’s cameras, and the athletes at SEC Media Days have been no exception.
No fewer than six attendees from the first two days in Hoover have worn bow ties, including Florida All-American corner Vernon Hargreaves III, Auburn’s hotly-hyped new starting quarterback Jeremy Johnson, and star Mississippi State signal caller Dak Prescott.
“I just wanted something different, a little more stylish,” South Carolina linebacker Skai Moore explained, noting he’d already worn the bow tie for his National Signing Day announcement.
“I think I have the personality to pull it off,” Texas A&M’s Julien Obioha noted. “You’ve got to be a renaissance man, intellectual in multiple facets. And you’ve got to be good-looking.”
As with Webb — who said he’d wanted a look that reflected his “swag” — the common thread between the members of the SEC Media Days bow tie crew was that wearing one still feels unique and personality-driven, even as more and more players make the same choice.
Noted bow tie aficiando Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated said that in addition to feeling more comfortable, the look can also make sense for gentlemen of a certain height and heft for whom finding the right length with a traditional tie can prove … challenging.
“If you’ve ever been in a big-and-tall store, you can buy extra-long ties,” Staples said. “They look like bibs. You cannot get a cool extra-long tie.”
But as Staples’ recent Media Days experience has shown, bow ties come with one particular challenge of their own: getting them tied. Staples lended a hand to Vanderbilt coach Derek Mason when he wore a black bow tie to his initial SEC Media Days appearance in 2014, and he had to step in again Monday:
ouTube videos. I tried and tried and tried,” Webb said with a shake of his head.
At least he had company.
“I’m not going to lie to you: my mom tied it,” Moore admitted.
“It’s a clip-on,” Obioha said of his. “I have no idea how to tie this tie or a regular tie.”
Prescott claimed he could have tied his tie, but did not Tuesday, saying he had been in “a rush.”
But even if attempting to tie a bow tie might lead to some short-term frustration — Staples said he’d also had to learn with the help of YouTube, in a two-hour session chockful of expletives — it doesn’t seem like they’re about to fall out of SEC Media Days favor, not when the players wearing them clearly feel as good about wearing them as they have.