28 June 2012

Giveaway! Carolina Cotton Bow Ties

I'm pleased to announce a little giveaway contest! The prize is this handmade in the USA cotton bow tie in blue gingham check, perfect for Summer,courtesy of Carolina Cotton Bow Ties:
There's a lot of folks getting into the bow tie business these days, but thats not a complaint. I applaude the ingenuity, and I'm glad to see that of all things bow ties are profitable enough for more and more people to get into it. Carolina Cotton Bow Ties is a mother and son outfit. Ethan and his mom CJ buy all the fabrics and produce all the ties by hand themselves. Not a bad deal at $35 retail.

So here's how to enter: tell me as briefly and as eloquently as possible why you think it's better to give $35 to a guy and his mom working together from home than even an old American company like Brooks Brothers or J.Press. Leave your entries in the comments to this post. The most concise and least political entry will win. Contest is open until Sunday morning. Good luck! I look forward to hearing from you.

update 1 July: thank you all for your submissions. A winner will be announced tonight.

and the winner is:

This was not an easy decision, believe me. That's why the verdict is coming in a full day late. However, after careful deliberation I've decided to award the tie to Claude, who said:

Because we express our freedom via our choices, and in doing so we construct our worlds. It's better because we know that how we present ourselves, authentically, has nothing to do with brand names, and everything to do with our choices. Even in the most dire of human circumstances, we have choices, however limited. We all know that penury is no excuse, but we are also aware of the consequences of our actions. When we know where our dollars will be landing, in home businesses or charity thrift stores, we can make more informed decisions about value, and even afford a conscience.

He managed not only to offer as good a reason as any why to buy this bow tie, but also gave a concise statement about the very nucleus of my intentions in writing this blog these past few years. Well done, Claude. Wear your bow tie in good health.

58 comments:

destroyersandcreators said...

Because there is no better way to spend your money than by supporting the American dream to live your own.

Kirk Longuski said...

You care about what you wear, and a family hat puts their heart in it will care about it too.

Adam Whistler said...

Ethan and CJ have found their vocation (or personal calling) in producing bow ties. When you purchase a bow tie from them, you make a statement that you support their decision to risk everything to following their passions and dreams. I can think of no better purchase then one that rewards individuals for that bold decision to follow their hearts truest desire.

The Enigmatic Jim said...

I know the names behind this brand name.

Tyler Parker said...

Because bow ties are love.

StI said...

Thanks, Giuseppe, for the opportunity to win a great looking tie through debate and discourse. I love the format. I'll use Brooks as my case study since it's referenced in the original post.

So, how does one begin to judge a tie and its creator(s)? The top criterion might be quality-for-price. Certainly family run businesses will care about their product since they are immediately invested in it, but the law of the market dictates that if corporate quality falls markedly, brand image and sales will suffer as we've seen with Brooks in the past, so corporations have an interest in caring about what they produce, too. I have solid artisan bow ties from the $35 range that are comparable to mid-level companies in terms of material and design and [presumably] durability; the upscale ones, beginning with Brooks and Press in the $50+ range, tend to use finer, lighter silks, but to me that's a trivial detail. Ultimately, as long as you like the quality and design, whom you buy from must return to the question of companies that the prompt has at its heart, because the only way to answer it is to hypothetically have for sale two ties that are entirely equal, one from Brooks and one from Carolina. Granted, this is obviously fantasy--no two ties from different companies will ever be exactly the same (nor can they be legally or it's intellectual property theft)--but it's the only way to philosophically evaluate the question of family run vs. corporate, so let's proceed by granting this premise as a thought experiment.

On the question of David vs. Goliath, "Mom and Pop" (or mom and son, in this case) businesses are quick to remind us that their revenues go toward things such as putting food on the table or paying for children's piano lessons or college tuition, but corporations such as Brooks do, too--they employ a veritable army of folks trying to make a wage to survive and do those same things. Moreover, many of Brooks' executives and employees presumably have similar interests and dreams as those family business owners, and are just realizing them on a much larger scale thanks to its institutional dominance. You're helping these people feed their families and some of them fulfill their dreams, too (in fact, a lot more people with a corporation than a family business).

So, I think the issues above are a wash at best. Engaging in personalized interactions is appealing but, in terms of the social utility of numbers, a large number of people supporting a large corporation over a mom and pop could hypothetically benefit a greater number of people. To reduce this to the absurd, if everyone only bought Brooks Brothers, many people would be directly gainfully employed and some hundreds if not thousands would get fantastically rich. To dramatically contrast, if everyone bought from Carolina, only two people would immediately benefit.

StI said...

(continued)

Still controlling for quality, some common economic and social justice arguments (such as made in America) fall apart under a global economics lens with the [in]stability of the dollar and America's financial interconnection with China underscored by the current Euro-crisis. I also don't like the made-in-America argument because it leads to the kind of nationalistic rhetoric I think is best avoided--unpacking the cultural edifice of the "American dream" for example reveals a lasting history of class exploitation, imperialism, and xenophobic jingoism. Should Canadians only buy Canadian products? What about Cuba? "Germans buy German products" and more nefarious slogans were rife during the '30s and '40s. However, I think the concerns of social justice of sweatshop vs. union labor ought to be considered when contemplating purchasing from a company. That said, my latest Brooks Brothers bow tie (as of a few months ago) is stamped "made in U.S.A.," so in this particular case, again, that's at least a wash, if not a plus for corporations in terms of the previously mentioned social utility of employment (and if one wishes to judge by arguments such as "made-in-America," it's employing more presumably unionized American laborers).

As I said, engaging in personalized business is highly appealing--but maybe we should check ourselves, because it might sound appealing for the wrong reasons. President Reagan famously sympathized so much with a student he met that he personally paid for her college tuition after she was denied aid because a bill he championed severely curtailed federal funding--but he didn't pause to consider amending or rescinding it, or the countless individuals affected by his policy. We're all drawn to individual stories for egotistical reasons, in the same way that it feels better to give to a person in need on the street as opposed to a faceless charity--but sometimes, those large charities can do an immense amount of good in terms of the people they can directly affect. Similarly, supporting a corporation at the cost of the psychological ego-boost of helping a family business run by people "just like me" is likely to help a lot more people "just like me" as a result, if we take spending choices to the absurd.

I don't mean for this argument to be interpreted as Randian and oligarchical or corporatist--rather, it's essentially the same argument I would use to justify supporting social services over private alternatives. In fact, if we had international, communally directed efforts to coordinate the socially just production of quality items for the masses as opposed to "soulless corporatism" and its potential dangers that we should all be concerned about, that would be the utopian extension of the idea I'm advancing.

I know the prompt asked for pithy, apolitical answers, but I think that in terms of meaningfully discussing the question being asked that's rather impossible, and that the above had to be unpacked a little in order to attempt to convincingly argue the negative.

jmt said...

J. Press is called such because of a man named Jacobi Press and Brooks Brothers was so named for a father wanting to pass on something to his sons. Before they were brands they were people with a passion, and I'll give my money to a passionate person who cares about the product and is fulfilled by the work any day over a corporation. It's not a political judgement, just a human one: corporations are not people, my friend.

juancruz said...

There is always a great satisfaction in the consumption of artisanal articles fundamentally because their limited exclusivity. The attention to details in the process of manufacturing and design in little scale-- vs. Brook Brothers -- to satisfy a local clientele that traditionally demands the employ of the item is a determinant key in the process. There is also the geographical location of manufacturing, where the historical record shows that the use of bowties is an integral part of a cultural accruement by the consumers (for almost three centuries) Thus, this item becomes a pleasurable acquisition and a jewel in any men’s collection. Then the reasonable investment should be justified!

Anonymous said...

I'll tell you why! Because he loves her and she loves him and I love your wonderful website and I love bowties when used sparingly and effectively and it would be something I would love to look forward to wearing in summer because it's very cold down under here in Melbourne!
Michael Slocum
39 Bloomfield Road
Ascot Vale 3032 Vic. Australia
michaelslocum49@gmail.com

whatbettertime said...

The more people involved in an industry, the more innovation we get. At the same time, a new player keeps the established players from growing complacent.

wizardtho said...

Ethan and mom's ties
Handsewn in Carolinas
Family is love

MattCarrick said...

Because it's rad.

John Whittet said...

Two reasons: 1) I love getting handwritten thank-you notes from the owners of small operations who care about each and every customer. Stalwarts they may be, the Brooks-es of the world see my business as a drop in the bucket. 2) I can think of no better business partner than a mom.

Titus said...

Economies of scale: Brooks and Press have them, a small shop doesn't.

Giuseppe said...

Oh boy, here we go!

John said...

The small family operation turns out products that are handmade with passion and invention. I like BB and J Press but sometimes wearing something you know was made by the person you bought it from is really neat thing.

Giuseppe said...

Let's try and keep the ecconomics lessons out of it. As an American who didn't graduate college, I have more than a few things to say about corporations and the state of the job market, etc. But this is a clothing blog, remember?

bbskater said...

I would rather give money to a person who has produced the bow tie by hand than a big corporation. In the case of the bow ties, they are usually around the same price or cheaper than those made by big companies so it seems like a no brainer. Also, it is nice to get hand written notes and to be able to email and talk with the person who will be making the bow tie you wear.

JKG said...

G -- you're asking a question that immediately implicates economics; it's hard to factor that out of any response. Unless you want pure poetry (or hipster haiku) or emotional appeal, there's likely to be some "where my money goes" in anyone's answer, especially since it's set up to pit Ethan and CJ against BB and JP.

It would appear you can cull the most economy-based answers for their failure to be economical (concise), rather than their substance.

Anyway, nice tie; nice gesture.

Thad said...

Because they are real people and not corporations, despite whatever the Supreme Court says!

Sarge said...

Because big stores like Brooks Brothers are going to be around for a long, long time. They're constants. They have sales and they bring in new lines and it's just a sort of endless supply of stuff. Small, mom-and-pop/wife-and-husband stores are more real. Customer emails are answered by the "CEO" and a sense of appreciation suffuses their stores, websites and correspondence. It doesn't have to all one or the other. You can't always buy everything you want from a small store, but they're out there, and they add real variability and depth to your wardrobe.

Nicola Imbracsio said...

Because quality is beyond politics and brand names. One should demonstrate an appreciation of quality workmanship whenever one can-- be it Brooks Bros. or a mom and son outfit.

whatsilenceknows said...

Because old dogs have no use for my $35, whilst mom&son will buy themselves a cupcake each for such a loot.

Cheers!

Jho78 said...

Because I'm a mama's boy and so are my sons. This would be something I could pass on to them.

Shayn said...

Because who wants to pay the middlemen?

As someone who has worked in a cottage industry, I'd rather my money go to the conceivers and hands-on producers of a product, than be spread out among advertisers and HR reps and the IT team and the executive VPs (etc, etc.), even of a good company with high quality products. It feels like a more direct and satisfying exchange.

Kimberli Buffaloe said...

Supporting American families, producing American products, as they pursue the American dream.

Anonymous said...

Wow I never thought about selling bow ties - I used to make about about a dozen a year for my father, for his birthday and for Christmas. That's all he ever wanted.

Pilcrow said...

Brooks Brothers and J. Press are known for two reasons: quality and longevity. If these are high-quality ties, why not help them achieve longevity?

Tobias said...

Buy local. Keep it here. Spend it here.

Kathfinder said...

It's better because one can have a very direct connection and relationship with the creator of the art (in this case, the lovely bow tie), which isn't really possible at the larger companies you mention. Such a relationship allows for more personal, encouraging expressions of gratitude between the parties, as well as better customer service in the event of any problems.

Roger v.d. Velde said...

Support the little operations. The big players don't need the same support. I like the idea of wearing something I know was probably made by the same person who took the order.

Young Fogey said...

It's better to give $35 to a guy and his mom working together from home because it's the right thing to do.

sirasoni said...

The product and sum of $35 spent on a small business is more tangible to all parties involved than it would be on larger and more well established corporations.

The success of American enterprise is the reality of the American Dream.

Nathanael said...

The merits of such small enterprises rest not upon a denigration of corporations (which, from churches to charities to businesses large and small, have their place), nor upon customer service (which can be excellent and personable at the largest of businesses) but upon their place within community. Those who make decisions for the business are those who feel the effects. The family and the household, instead of only consuming that which is produced elsewhere with money earned elsewhere, return to production and earning.

Anonymous said...

What Stl said!

Ohlone Again said...

Help foster each others dreams, support community, and vote with our dollars.

C.L. Young said...

Buying a bow tie from a small home based business such as Carolina Bow Ties brings to mind an age when most things that people wore were made at home. For me, it is the nostalgia of picking out fabric that I like and waiting for someone that enjoys bow ties as much as I do actually spend time and artistry making the item.

Waiting for the arrival is almost like Christmas...the anticipation and the wonder of how it will look, where you will wear it, and what shirt and/or blazer will bring it all together!

Whenever I want to "indulge" myself, I usually will spend some money on a nice pipe tobacco, a good brandy, or a hand-made bow tie. When the bow tie arrives, I'm in the mirror wearing a shirt that I selected, tying it on and seeing how it looks with my blazers. I guess it's like when a lady gets a new dress and gets in the mirror and primps.

It's a small luxury, and a time to slow down...just like waiting for the tie to arrive in the first place. It's nice to open the package and it's even better if there is a hand-written card inside. It's very nostalgic and I like that!

I have bought several bow ties that have been made by home based businesses and have had some made by my friend, who is a seamstress.

It's simply fun! Especially when I have a chance to pick out the fabric that I like, convert an old favorite necktie into a bow tie, or choose a favorite shape that I prefer. It is, in a sense, very bespoke but within range of an ordinary guy like me.

Knowing that I will be the only guy in my proximity that will have my "one of a kind" creation makes buying from a small mom and son business even better! And it's nice to see families working together in this way.

Ohlone Again said...

because we are responsible for helping further each others dreams, support our communities, and vote with our dollars.

Bean gal said...

Forward, forward let us range,
Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change.
ALFRED LORD TENNYSON, Locksley Hal

Samuel Howard said...

I want my lettuce to get to the slow hand behind the finery.

Mike said...

Venerable and high-quality as they may be, getting a bow tie from BB or J.Press is like getting your "vintage" t-shirts at Urban Outfitters. You're supporting the big guy, and everyone else is doing it. By patronizing a small business like this, you:

1. Help people trying to make it in this world, and
2. Lend yourself style cred by getting something smaller in production and therefore harder to find.

Finally, you reinforce a bond between mother and son. How great is that?!

Zachary Arms said...

Because it allows this family to continue doing what they love to do.

Claude said...

"Tell me as briefly and as eloquently as possible why you think it's better to give $35 to a guy and his mom working together from home than even an old American company like Brooks Brothers or J.Press"

Because we express our freedom via our choices, and in doing so we construct our worlds. It's better because we know that how we present ourselves, authentically, has nothing to do with brand names, and everything to do with our choices. Even in the most dire of human circumstances, we have choices, however limited. We all know that penury is no excuse, but we are also aware of the consequences of our actions. When we know where our dollars will be landing, in home businesses or charity thrift stores, we can make more informed decisions about value, and even afford a conscience.

New Englander said...

One should spend his money on a Carolina Cotton Bow tie over anything from Brooks or Press, because I'd bet the executives at those companies don't need to deal with their mothers all the time!!! You all know how that can be sometimes...

Tablemaker said...

I think Ethan and CJ deserve to go see The Dark Knight Rises on us.

Tablemaker said...

I think Ethan and CJ deserve to see the Dark Knight Rises on us.

Jacob [Defense Attorney] said...

The best items of clothing to obtain are those you have a connection with. Just as I would rather wear my grandfather's well-worn wool cap than a new one from a department store, so would I rather purchase an item from a small operation that appreciates my specific order than from a mass-produced line.

Jason Bergtold (bergtold@ksu.edu) said...

The bow tie from home and locally made can provide individual quality and creativity lost in more commerical endeavors. Local and family support promotes small business, innovation, and quality in the bow tie business!

Matthew Block said...

I know this small family operation cares about their quality, making sure I receive a good product. And when another lover of bows compliments me on my tie, I can pass along the name of my tiemaker in Carolina.

RulingPart said...

That bow tie is the American Dream in a nutshell! To take nothing and turn it into something is what this country was built on! We won't "give" that mother and son duo $35, we'll PAY them $35, because they found a way to do something better than the competition! What are we, Communists?

Chuck Perego said...

Because everyone loves a Mom!

kidsampson said...

Because it encourages local prosperity, reduces environmental impact, and keeps skilled workers employed in a trade that helps preserve the distinctive character of their community.

Ivan said...

Noble, unassuming modesty and humility are worth cultivating, and that’s what Ethan and CJ already have going for them. Hopefully the bow tie will lend those qualities to the wearer as well.

ethan herman said...

Why shouldn't I.

Drate Berry said...

Because supporting a cottage industry is one of the most American actions anyone can take.

Matt Thomas said...

Small businesses rock
They help the economy
Bow ties are quite cool

Anidem said...

Because that new company could be the next brooks brothers. a home grown operation that will become a staple in dress.