We’re now in the thick of graduation and wedding seasons, so it made sense to chat with Matthew Pearlson, co-founder of OoOTie Boston Bow Ties. His company name rhymes with (and looks like) “bow tie,” and that’s exactly what Pearlson makes. I asked him about his one-of-a-kind designs and his tips on how, exactly, to tie one.
About seven years ago, a friend who got married in a tie and tails remarked that there was only one place in the United States that still made bow ties. Clearly there was an opening in the market. How did you come to fill that hole?
Beau Ties Ltd. of Vermont is pretty famous; they sell $2 million in bow ties a year, but they aren’t the only bow-tie makers in the country. The story about my bow ties is that I wore one for my college graduation. A neighbor of my family in Miami Beach saw the photo, and it turned out that he held the Guinness World Records title for the largest bow-tie collection. He sent me a portion of his collection, which was around 60 bow ties. So overnight I became the new “bow-tie guy.” When I was in graduate school, we established a “Formal Friday” and I’d wear ties from my collection and bring in extras to teach my friends. Then a friend of mine wanted to build a mobile app as an instructional tool.
For the company, we try to have a mix of bow ties that appeal to everyone, from stripes and dots to fun ones, like airplanes. I’m at MIT, and we had one to celebrate the Mars rover landing. There are also dinosaurs, ninjas and robots. We have custom fabric made for everything we make. It’s all limited edition—50 pieces and then on to the next pattern. If you see something you like—like the dinosaurs—you’d better act fast before they become extinct!
I noticed people can use your bow-tie mobile app to test which design suits them best. What’s the most popular color, and what’s the wildest design you’ve been asked to make?
Well, the wildest design is really in the eye of the beholder! We have a Southern inspiration one that has the University of Florida colors—bright electric blue on one side, and blue, white and orange on the other. It’s very dramatic. There’s also the teal and fuchsia bow tie, which is very popular. We have a tie that has pigs on one side and bacon on the other, and our periodic table tie is also one of our most popular.
The liberal-arts folks started complaining that they were underrepresented in our ties, so we have a literature-themed collection coming out: a white whale, a scarlet letter and words from Henry David Thoreau’s “Walden.” I think these will find a receptive audience as well.
I understand this is a side project for you. What do you do when you’re not making bow ties?
I do three things when I’m not making bow ties:
1. I am a research specialist in the MIT Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics working on renewable jet fuel for the commercial jet aviation industry.
2. I work at Citizens Energy Corporation running a project for our chairman, Joseph P. Kennedy II. The project provides solar electric systems for low-income families in Southern California’s Imperial Valley. This project helps over 100 households a year reduce their electric bill while allowing them to turn their air conditioning on in their homes.
3. I train for long-distance running. A few years ago I ran the Boston Marathon as a “bandit,” which means I didn’t have a number but ran for fun. I’m not a professional runner by any means, but I love doing it. I run to and from my offices and compete with my friends on the Nike+ running app.
Any tips or advice for tying a bow tie?
Boston University Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore—an avid bow-tie wearer—gives an instructional video on our site. One of our founders, Diego Torres-Palma, is a BU alum, and Dean Elmore has been really supportive. My suggestion is to tie it around your leg. Once you understand how to do that, you can tie it around your neck without looking! If you’re having trouble, look us up on Twitter (@OoOtie) or visit us at SoWa Open Market one weekend for a free lesson.
Four Questions is a weekly interview column featuring interesting people connected with the Greater Boston Jewish community. Find past columns here. Have an idea of someone we should interview? Email Molly!
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