Journalist, television news anchor, and political commentator Tucker Carlson is well-known for several things. There’s his right-wing views, anti-immigration stance, biting sarcasm, relentless debate tactics, and of course, the Tucker Carlson bow tie.
Although Carlson hasn’t worn his signature bow tie in well over a decade, people still closely associate him with it. It’s not at all uncommon for someone to know Carlson as “the guy with the bow tie,” rather than by name. That’s not a knock against him – it’s a testament to just how famous the Tucker Carlson bow tie really is.
Carlson started wearing bow ties consistently as a teenager and continued throughout the entire early part of his career. The truth is that not a lot of men wear bow ties, never mind men who very literally face the public every night. It’s something people remember – or perhaps more accurately, aren’t quick to forget.
When Carlson officially retired the bow tie from his wardrobe on live cable television in 2006, the world watched. The burning question for most people was, why then? Why, after all those years, many of them in the public eye, was the Tucker Carlson bow tie coming to an end?
In order to fully grasp the answer to that question, you have to first understand at least a little bit about the man Tucker Carlson is.
Who is Tucker Carlson?
Tucker Carlson grew up in La Jolla, California, with his father and younger brother, where he attended boarding and prep schools. Despite being incredibly intelligent, he never really excelled academically because he preferred to debate rather than study. The man really does enjoy debating people.
After college graduation, Carlson unsuccessfully applied to the CIA. When that didn’t work out, he set his sights on becoming a journalist. That may seem like a rather large leap, from aspiring to the CIA to writing, but his father was also a journalist, as well as a media executive. It was a family business of sorts.
Carlson was actually a highly-regarded journalist for many years, writing articles and penning essays for a wide range of publications. He wrote for Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, Policy Review, the Weekly Standard, and the Arkansas Democrat Gazette, to name just a few.
As many political writers do, Carlson often appeared on television shows and news segments to discuss (or more likely, defend) his latest work. With time, Carlson’s occasional appearances became more and more frequent. Perhaps the trademark Tucker Carlson bow tie caught people’s eyes, or maybe it was his unrelenting “interview” style, coupled with his slight-but-distinctly-unidentifiable accent.
In stark contrast to his accent, nothing about Tucker Carlson is subdued. He’s staunchly conservative – though certainly not radical – and makes no secret of the fact that he thinks it’s “cowardly” to not say what you really think.
Fit For TV
Although Carlson is a magician with the written word, his larger-than-life personality is a much better fit for television. He landed his first few shows in the early 2000s, one of them being CNN’s Crossfire. The debate-style show featured hosts from both the left and right sides, each arguing the corresponding merits of various issues.
In an October 2004 show, undoubtedly the show’s most famous, Jon Stewart dropped by to confront Carlson and his co-host on how they were “hurting America.” He also called Carlson a “big dick” and told both men they were “partisan hacks.”
CNN canceled Crossfire shortly after Stewart’s appearance, although Carlson has always maintained that he actually resigned long before that. Jon Klein, then-president of CNN, told the Columbia Journalism Review that “he cancelled the show in order to change the culture at CNN” and added that it “had devolved in a predictable Punch and Judy show.”
Carlson issued a statement of his own: “I was long gone from CNN and employed at another network by the time Crossfire got canceled. But for the record, Jon Klein is a small and dishonest person.”
Tucker “the Comeback Kid” Carlson
Although the circumstances of Carlson’s departure from CNN remain foggy, it is true that he had another show lined up. MSNBC’s The Situation With Tucker Carlson aired from 2005 to 2008 and was largely forgettable. After leaving MSNBC, Carlson and former college roommate Neil Patel started a now-infamous website called the Daily Caller. It published – naturally – conservative op-eds and exposé-style pieces.
Carlson was also a part-time Fox News contributor, a better fit than MSNBC for his less-than-favorable stance on liberal politics. After several years, Carlson again landed his own show in 2016, Tucker Carlson Tonight. His popularity exploded, his outrageous style a perfect match for the tumultuous 2016 election.
It came as a surprise, even to Carlson himself. The New Yorker called it “one of the most unlikely comebacks in the annals of cable news.” Love him or hate him, people are fascinated with Tucker Carlson and can’t seem to get enough.
A history of Tucker’s bow tie
Up until he landed at Fox News, Tucker Carlson always wore his signature bow tie. It was so synonymous with Carlson that MSNBC built an entire advertising campaign around it. The promo posters and commercials for The Situation said, “The Man. The Legend. The Bow Tie.”
The Tucker Carlson bow tie was front and center for some of Carlson’s most defining TV moments. He was wearing it during that infamous 2004 Crossfire episode when Jon Stewart was on. Ironically enough, Stewart is no longer on the air and Carlson is hotter than ever.
Carlson also wore a bow tie for his one-and-done appearance on Dancing With the Stars in 2006. He and partner Elena Grinenko were the first couple to be eliminated that season, after just one dance routine.
Around the same time as the DWTS fiasco, MSNBC started discouraging Carlson from wearing his bow tie. According to The New Yorker, producers felt it “encouraged the audience to view him as a character, or perhaps a caricature.”
On April 11, 2006, Carlson announced on-air during The Situation that he would no longer wear his signature bow tie. “I like bow ties, and I certainly spent a lot of time defending them,” he said. “But, from now on, I’m going without.”
What happened to the Tucker Carlson bow tie?
Tucker Carlson is, well, Tucker Carlson. Most people assume that the reason he stopped wearing bow ties is something over the top. That couldn’t be farther from the truth, however.
Carlson told the Los Angeles Times in 2017 that it was because “yet another person screamed obscenities at me.” He added, “I’m happy to defend my views. I don’t want to have to defend my neckwear every day. People really hate you when you wear a bow tie. I didn’t really know that because my wife liked it and my father wore one.” Although Carlson doesn’t know what exactly is behind the irrationally deep-rooted hatred of bow ties, it was enough to make him eventually stop wearing them.
The “people” Carlson referred to, the ones whom he defended his bow tie against, were a mixture of commuters and transients in New York City’s Penn Station. In an interview loosely transcribed in our online community, Carlson told InfoWars’ Alex Jones that wearing a bow tie is “like wearing a middle finger around your neck.” He went on to say that “the number of people screaming the ‘F’ word” eventually wore him down, so he “gave in and became conventional.”
True to form, Tucker Carlson wore a bow tie publicly, on network and cable news, for many years when it was considered nerdy and out of style – and not in the hipster-cool kind of way – then stopped wearing one just as it started to become trendy.
A brief history of the bow tie
It’s fascinating that bow ties have become associated with “eccentrics” and “creatives,” something men wear when they want to make a statement. They’ve actually been a part of fashion for centuries.
The earliest forms of bow ties date back to 17th-century Croatia. Mercenaries wore scarf-like accessories called cravats, that they reportedly believed would protect them from harm. Cravats resembled modern bow ties, and served a dual purpose in also securing the mercenaries’ shirt collars.
Members of France’s upper class and nobility fell in love with cravats and adopted them as their own. It’s no secret that Europeans, especially the French, are notoriously influential in terms of fashion, so it should come as no surprise that these early accessories evolved into what we now know as neckties.
Please see our How To Tie a Neck Tie, which includes information about how to properly tie a bow tie.
During the early 1900s, bow ties became a wardrobe staple for doctors and other “academic” types. Understandably, bow ties fell somewhat out of mainstream fashion. Late in the century, however, pop culture icons began to don bow ties. There was Frank Sinatra, Bill Nye the Science Guy, and of course, James Bond himself.
Today, bow ties aren’t exactly trendy, but they certainly aren’t out of style, either. Men who wear bow ties exude a distinct air of effortless cool, an ironic sort of authority. Perhaps the Tucker Carlson bow tie was retired a bit too soon, but then again, he’s always been very much his own person.
Tucker Carlson today
To say Tucker Carlson has come a long way is a gross understatement. Even without the Tucker Carlson bow tie, he is perhaps the world’s most well-known conservative. Carlson’s controversial, anti-leftist rhetoric catapulted him into unlikely superstardom during the 2020 presidential election.
According to Business Insider, Tucker Carlson Tonight is “the most-watched cable news program in history.” In October 2020, average viewership reached an astounding 5.359 million people, obliterating any previous records. It’s safe to say that the news anchor has firmly separated himself from the Tucker Carlson bow tie and is just fine without it.
Can’t get enough of the Tucker Carlson bow tie saga?
We know, it’s pretty fascinating. Fortunately, we have several discussions in our online community dedicated solely to the Tucker Carlson bow tie. Curious about the length of his bow ties or who makes a specific one, or perhaps his style in general? We’ve got you covered.