ROCKING A BOW TIE: Dhani Jones, pictured here at New YorkÂs… (Michael Nagle / For The Times )
There's a bow-tie revolution going on.
Sure, you've seen them on dandy hipsters or the chiseled and coiffed models who grace the pages of men's fashion magazines. And now, 31-year-old NFL linebacker Dhani Jones has proclaimed: "Just because you wear a bow tie doesn't mean you're a nerd."
Jones aims to recruit guys of all shapes, sizes and ages into "the way of the bow tie," urging them to adopt not only his habit of wearing one but also his philosophy, what he calls "the resurgence of the gentleman."
To Jones, the bow tie isn't just a formal flourish on a suit or collared shirt. "To me, it characterizes someone who is well rounded, who can speak to someone in Outer Mongolia or downtown Chicago. They don't limit themselves by the people who surround them."
Jones became passionate about bow ties and the idea that fashion can be about more than just clothes eight years ago, when a childhood friend was diagnosed with lymphoma. "He had always told me, 'If you want to be anybody in this world, you've got to rock a bow tie,' " Jones says. "I was like, 'What? Are you crazy?' But I started wearing one as a way to support him. He's now fully recovered, but the bow tie has never left."
Jones bonded so closely with his beloved bow ties that he started his own line -- Five Star Ties -- a few years ago so he could have any color or pattern he craved.
Appreciation for the bow tie and his longtime admiration for the ultra-suave James Bond dictate Jones' style choices. "Everything really all comes from James Bond," says Jones, who aspires to become the first black 007. Omega watch? Check. Adventurous world traveler? Check. Excellent grooming and self-assured smile? Check, check.
But what about his Birkenstock clogs and hand-me-down pants from former teammate Michael Strahan? Now there's a head scratcher.
Jones may be best known for wearing a Cincinnati Bengals uniform, but off the field it's his down-to-earth approach to fashion and appreciation for the details that have him emerging as a style setter and creative entrepreneur. Besides spending his personal time designing bow ties, writing poetry, painting, playing music and partnering in a T-shirt line called No Mas, Jones hosts "Dhani Tackles the Globe" on the Travel Channel, learning about different cultures by playing each country's native sport. You'll often catch him on the show wearing tan Birkenstocks clogs or his go-to shoe, classic black Converse Chuck Taylors. Occasionally, he'll swath himself in a muslin scarf he picked up in Spain or, for the right occasion, wear one of the five Ozwald Boateng suits custom-made for him while he filmed an episode of the travel show in London.
He makes interesting and endearing fashion choices. The hand-me-down pants, for example. When we meet, he's wearing studded black boots by John Varvatos, a crisp black button-down shirt and black trousers that he says used to belong to Strahan. "When I was young and just starting out, he would give me clothes that he didn't wear," Jones says. "He was like a big-brother type to me."
That was a decade ago, when Jones was starting out and Strahan (now retired) was his teammate on the New York Giants, yet the pro football player still favors the hand-me-downs over new designer jeans. "They just fit so well," says a slightly defensive Jones.
As for those earthy clogs, it takes a certain kind of guy to pull them off without looking like a fourth-grade science teacher from the 1970s. Jones wears them with the same confidence he does his favorite Ralph Lauren Black Label tuxedo -- though the clogs get shoved to the side when he drives his 1964 Mini Cooper. "Otherwise, my knees hit the steering wheel," he says. That's what happens when you're 6 feet 1 and 240 pounds.
Another shoe Jones appreciates is the Louboutin he spots on a woman walking past, and it gives him an opportunity to make a point. "I like Louboutins, but some women think they can just put on Louboutins and they're stylish, and that's not the case," he says. "Someone can go into T.J. Maxx or Ross, pick out some clothes and own it. As long as you have that eye for creativity and know how to put it together, it's so much more interesting."
Whether he's pairing a bow tie with a custom-made suit or hand-me-down pants, Jones understands understated style. "I like to keep things classic, not lavish or blinged out. I don't even say that word," Jones says. "The last thing I want to be is over the top."
But he will actively continue his mission to get bow ties onto anyone who's willing to wear one, including his teammates and colleagues in the NFL. His recent recruits include TV broadcaster Rich Eisen, former wide receiver Freddie Mitchell and cornerback Jonathan Joseph, he says.
"The bow-tie revolution has already started, but I really want to insist on what it represents," Jones says. "People look at you differently if you wear a bow tie, as opposed to a necktie."