Young Matt Smith, in his role as the Doctor – rather than his more risqué work as one C Isherwood – has done much to try and convince us that bow-ties are cool. I’m not sure how successful his proselytising has been with the general public – I suspect he may have had more success with tweed or even the fez – but one field in which the bow-tie always seems to have been “in vogue” is that of classical music.
I am writing fresh from a concert by the Endellion Quartet – resplendent in their bow-ties and cummerbunds (and the more usual shirt, trousers, tails et al – we are not returning to the 1930s Berlin theme). I was struck, and not for the first time, by how very impractical the bow-tie is as performance-wear for the player of the violin or viola. It is inevitably in the way, and as a result is crushed and/or pushed to one side – thereby compromising any smartness it was trying to impart to proceedings.
For a quartet, only two pieces of neck-wear are affected – but in a full orchestra the higher-pitched stringed instruments are the most numerous and a small flock of these cravats discomode their wearers.
Whilst recognising the essentially conservative (not to say Cretaceous) outlook of much of the classical music audience, I think ties could be jettisoned with only a minor perturbation in the earth’s orbit. In time I think people could learn to endure a glimpse of exposed musician’s neck – even of the trombone section who, let’s face it, probably have the brass neck to get away with it!