“I have an opinion about men who wear bowties. They are mavericks; truly adventurous dressers who live on the sartorial edge. They are nonconformists and often seen as threatening to the establishment. Yes, look out for the man who sports a bowtie – he probably has an attitude.” – Chris Hogan, 2008.
So I’ve been busying myself this year by watching online lectures as part of the Diploma of Child Health. This is run out of the Children’s Hospital at Westmead in the outer suburbs of Sydney. Throughout these lectures, I have noticed many of the doctors sporting natty bow-ties. During my time at Flinders Medical Centre and in GP land, I could probably count the number of docs setting this trend on one hand (free from polydactyly). But it seems every second professor or head of department on these web-based lectures are wearing them! What is going on? I propose this hypothesis: As one delves deeper and deeper into the sub-speciality crevasse, silent pressures force a required dress code. The most obvious and classic of these, the humble bow-tie. The graph below summarises my findings. Unfortunately elbow patches, jumpers tied across chests, pocket protectors, grubby white coats and mad scientist hair variables have not been investigated, but pose areas for future study.
Additionally, my off the cuff choice of neurologists at the pinnacle of this fashion statement seems to be rather accurate. In an article published in 2010, an American medical news outlet outlined neurologists penchant for wearing bow-ties. The American Academy of Neurology’s self-appointed spokesman on neckwear, John C. Kincaid, MD states that “Bowties suggest the wearer is ‘on the precise side,’ which describes many neurologists.” Yes it also describes the majority of people diagnosed with OCD. Perhaps suggesting a slight overlap in populations? The Academy is pretty serious about this caper, so much so that they even have an official bow-tie festooned with miniature neurons. But you are a renegade infectious diseases consultant, you want something slightly more relevant adorning your small piece of tied fabric. Well never fear. This website makes and sells bow-ties featuring microscopic lovelies such as: Anthrax, E.coli, Swine flu and Rhinovirus. Just don’t get any Syphilis on your neck….
But this lighthearted choice of bow-tie material brings us to an important point in medicine. Infection control. Millions of healthcare dollars are spent around the world trying to reduce the number of hospital acquired diseases. Instead of regular neck ties dangling around in purulent exudate or hospital food (equally as nauseating) ready to be transfered to the next vicitim/patient, bow-ties remain high above strangling the neck of the treating physician. Neck ties have been shown to carry nasty bugs such as Staph aureus, Klebseilla and Pseudomonas as shown by a study of New York doctors in 2004. But obviously it depends on the specialty of the wearer, as you wont see much patient/doctor interaction from a radiologist. On a recent Twitter discussion it seems that along with neurologists, gynaecology and urology have higher proportions of bow-tie wearers. Whereas neurologists may be keen to avoid a long tie tickling a patients face during cranial nerve examination (albeit a nice quick way to check CNV sensation), our friends working below the umbilicus may well be avoiding ‘bits’ on their attire. (I chose the word ‘bits’ as the alternatives have been getting too much coverage in the media of recent days and I thought it rude of me to slipper them in.)
I can also see the benefit of bow-ties in paediatric populations as a way of breaking the ice. Whether the use of novelty ties that spin or flash lights would entertain the children as much as the wearer remains to be seen. Another avenue of research that may be followed. Until then, myself like many rural docs are happy with rolled up sleeves and the occasional boardshort/thongs combo. US readers should note the Australian use of the word ‘thong’ unless you have a confession KI Doc?