Like other fashion conscious, artistic guys in their 20s and 30s, La Jolla Shores musician Zach Barnhorst started wearing bow ties several years ago, particularly when performing on stage.
However, at the dawn of the bow tie’s resurgence as a sporty fashion accessory, he found the selection slim, and decided to design a few of his own.
With some tips from his mother, the use of her Singer sewing machine and a basic pattern from a local fabric store, Barnhorst began creating custom bow ties, soon grabbing the attention of friends and associates.
More than two years later, The Bishop’s School graduate is selling his creations through his company, ZB Savoy Bowtie Co., and is poised to release a new line of bow ties, neckties, suspenders, wallets, scarves and other fashion accessories for hip young gents.
“The bow tie has long been a statement of conservatism, but I don’t think it is anymore. It can be a less formal, more casual piece that says something about your personality,” said Barnhorst, 37, who worked as a music producer-engineer and songwriter in Los Angeles before returning to La Jolla (for acts such as Unwritten Law, 311 and Pepper).
The bow tie’s resurgence in popularity, he said, is part of a larger reverence among younger adults for early 20th century American fashion and culture — from craft cocktails to swing, roots and big band music.
“There’s a whole movement of respect for the vintage,” he said. “It’s just a nod to an era that our generation all missed out on. It gets romanticized in our heads and so you lean towards it and want to be a part of it.”
Barnhorst, largely known as “ZB” to friends and fans of his band, ZB Savoy and the Chivalry, still sells the first style bow tie he made — a brown tie with white polka dots called “the original.”
The collection — which sell for $39 to $44 each — now includes fanciful designs and fun names paying homage to literary figures, such as “The Tom Robbins,” “The James Joyce,” “The Bukowski” and “The Hemmingway” (the later festooned with skull and cross bones).
Recently, Aerosmith frontman and former “American Idol” judge Steven Tyler took a liking to ZB’s “The Blondie,” a pink bow tie with white polka dots.
Barnhorst was invited to participate in a “gifting suite,” just prior to the 2014 Grammy Awards. While there, he met and placed his product in the hands of Tyler and celebrities from LL Cool J to Macklemore.
“It’s crazy. They walk around with a giant duffel bag and hit each one of our booths,” he said. “There were probably 17 or 18 booths, from Gibson guitars to a really high-end women’s shoe line.”