I watched a lot of sports growing up as a kid with my family and there was one thing my mom would frequently volunteer that would drive us all crazy.

“I don’t like his tie.”

She said this. A lot. She knew my dad, sister, and myself especially would yell back “NOBODY cares about his tie!” lamenting how my mom’s focus would seemingly always drift to the tie for whoever was in studio or in the booth and to something we had no interest in at all. Fast forward to now and I sadly find myself frequently judging some of the odder looks we see while watching sports in what appears to be quite a chic time in terms of fashion in sports media.

Regardless of my thoughts on some of these unique looks, I was curious as to how some of these newer and more unique looks get started especially when personalities we’ve known for awhile suddenly have a signature new look upon getting a new television job such as Charles Woodson with his ascots, Pete Rose rocking bow ties, and Jason Whitlock with his fedoras.

Ken Rosenthal and “under orders” to wear bow ties

in game five of the American League Division Series at Rogers Centre on October 14, 2015 in Toronto, Canada.
in game five of the American League Division Series at Rogers Centre on October 14, 2015 in Toronto, Canada.

A large part of my curiosity on this front began because of what I know/we know about Ken Rosenthal and his bow tie look, which he’s written about on several occasions. Even before he wrote about how that got started, I had heard several people at Fox tell the story as it was your typical homage to an old school media titan and his old-fashioned way of interacting with people.

The story, as told to me, was that Fox legend David Hill brashly told Ken Rosenthal that he would forever more wear bow ties while on camera. Why? Hill thought viewers would focus on Rosenthal’s lack of height and that he needed a thing to distract viewers from that. I’m not doing this story much justice, but Fox employees really sell it well with sprinkling in their own flavor of an impression of the legendary Hill, with him being very pushy and arrogant sauntering into Rosenthal’s life and making this request which comes off as a polite demand to a befuddled and polite Rosenthal, realizing it’s now been decreed he’ll wear a bow tie going forward.

Rosenthal has shared the story himself, although probably with a retelling a little more kind to Hill. Some highlights from his two articles on his bow ties, which he now enthusiastically wears and raises money for charity:

“Yes, I was going to wear a bow tie during the World Series. Never mind that I had never worn one. Had no desire to wear one. Couldn’t tie one on my best day.”

“The order came from the very top, from FOX Sports chairman David Hill.”

“I wore bow ties during FOX’s World Series broadcasts only because I was under orders.”

“FOX had told me they would not ask me to wear a bow tie again until the next World Series”

“Well, David Hill obviously had something else in mind.

I hated the idea of wearing a bow tie, hated calling attention to myself. My wife didn’t like it, either. She picks out all my clothes; I’m red-green color blind. We agreed — the bow tie looked stupid. My two teenage daughters, fashion mavens both, thought the whole thing was ridiculous.

Which is why, the first time Joe Buck asked me on air about the bow tie, I said, “My wife and two daughters are playing the entire Series under protest.”

“Do people seriously think that I’m the baseball version of Tucker Carlson or — gasp — Pee Wee Herman, wearing bow ties all the time?

Credit to Rosenthal for writing about this and turning this forced fashion look into a good cause.  Hill’s on the record explanation in Rosenthal’s article doesn’t elude to his height but that he wanted him “to stand out.”

But something has always rubbed me the wrong way about this story despite the happy ending. Should Fox or any network really be this heavy handed on the fashion front, especially with something so unique and identifiable as bow ties?  I imagine you’d be super pissed if your boss suddenly told you that you had to wear bolo ties to work, right?

Charles Woodson coming in HOT with Ascots

Woodson's ascot look predates his employment at ESPN
Woodson’s ascot look predates his employment at ESPN

I couldn’t believe my eyes the first time I saw it. Charles Woodson was wearing an an ascot which I barely even knew the name of. Who does that and why?

And it wasn’t a one-time thing. It’s DEFINITELY his thing now and it’s caused quite a stir on social media especially with a couple appearances on Scott Van Pelt’s SportsCenter that saw SVP try (and fail) to wear an ascot.

So where did this look come from? Was this Woodson’s idea or perhaps a producer at ESPN? Woodson was kind enough to give us the backstory:

“First time I wore one was in 2009. I saw a movie with Andy Garcia wearing one. It looked clean. I liked it because it was a mix between casual and dressy, and I decided to give it a try.” 

Woodson’s ascots is becoming for lack of a better word…”a thing,” and I wondered if he was embracing that being such a big part of his post playing identity.

“I love it. I never knew people had such strong opinions about ascots but all over my social media, every-time I wear one I hear from people – how they like it or don’t like it, because they don’t understand it and they can’t believe I’m on TV wearing an ascot. I think it’s cool and I like that people have conversations about it because it’s something different. People are used to seeing ties and bow ties, but I’m not a fan of bow ties, so ascots are my thing.” 

Woodson will certainly be in the Hall Of Fame sometime in the next decade. One wonders if we’ll see him somehow incorporate an ascot into that appearance.

Danny Kanell and the turtleneck that shook Twitter to its core

I was on vacation for a wedding when I saw it and felt compelled to let the world know. Danny Kanell was wearing a turtleneck. This drew a LOT of attention, especially after Kanell fired back.

But rather than running with the turtlenecks, we have yet to see Kanell wear one since. I got in touch with Kanell to get the scoop on how that rogue day of wearing a turtleneck about and if it will ever become something he’ll wear regularly.

“Well it was an extremely cold day in Connecticut and earlier in the week I actually saw on article written on GQ.com that “The Turtleneck is Making a Comeback.” I had one in my closet which I had only worn a couple times, so I figured why not break it out?! “

“I never thought it would be a trending topic! I guess I should have known by Adnan and Joey’s reaction when I walked into the studio and then of course they let me have it the minute we came on air the first time… that kind of let the floodgates open on Twitter.”

Why is he a fan?

“Warmth and they’re different than the everyday monotony of wearing a suit and tie.”

So why isn’t this a regular look for Kanell, given how much interest the one time usage garnered? Did he have any inkling to adopt the look full-time?

“Absolutely none. I’ll wear one again but never thought about making it a staple. I like to mix it up too much to have one look be for me.”

But he still believes in the movement.

“They already have!!! Trust me, I pointed out that in the month after I wore mine Lebron James, Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, and D Wade all sported turtlenecks — we even asked Wade about it at the NBA All Star game when we had him on our radio show and his quote was, “It takes a certain kind of guy to wear a turtleneck” and he said I had the swag to wear them. I think it should be noted that I was the first, though! Ha.

Also just last month, Roger Federer was seen in Paris at fashion week wearing one. I have people on Twitter giving me updates of the various celebs and when they wear them.”

So although it didn’t become a thing, for lack of a better word, Kanell’s infamous turtleneck look followed a similar path to Woodson’s ascots in that it was something he did on his volition.

Did Pete Rose and Jason Whitlock get the heavy-handed fashion advice treatment from Fox as well?

Pete Rose initially didn’t wear bow ties when hired at Fox, although you can find a few photos of him wearing them in the 70s. But suddenly, as his role at Fox firmed up (here he is yucking up with bow tie brethren on stage), suddenly he was rocking a bow tie everyday.

Similarly, Jason Whitlock could be seen wearing a fedora every once in a while during his time at ESPN and before that. But as soon as Speak For Yourself premiered, he’s been all fedoras all the time, as evidenced below if you really want to ruin your Wednesday.

Awful Announcing – Timeline | Facebook

Awful Announcing. 18,889 likes · 798 talking about this. The sports media world from the fan’s perspective.

So I wanted to get the backstory on both of these newly adopted fashion statements. Is this another Rosenthal scenario or did Rose and Whitlock opt to push all in with a new look? Perhaps some collaborative process in the middle?

howrude

So I reached out to Fox PR and got nothing back. Three emails to two different people and not even a response or a friendly no comment which was surprising and perhaps a little telling.

With that in mind, I only have personal conjecture on the subject and my thinking goes like this:

** Whitlock and Rose adopted very attention-grabbing new looks when their roles at Fox ramped up and became settled. Both were seen the vast majority of time not sporting those looks before their elevated status at Fox.

** Allegedly, the bow tie decree to Rosenthal was in hopes to draw attention away from his 5-foot-5 height. While it’s debatably shallow to require personalities who don’t look a certain way to have some type of unique fashion piece, that is likely a motivation here considering Whitlock, like myself, is a jollier fellow and Rose isn’t as slick-looking as a lot of his studio personality counterparts. I know me pointing this out is shallow itself, but I most certainly made an attempt to be polite here and I’d like to think I don’t really care what sports personalities look like. But the reality is that it’s a HUGE part of the television business. It is what it is.

** Fox’s radio silence to some fairly simple and friendly questions is a bit telling as well.

But as much as I think it’s kind of a dick move to just tell people to wear some shit they wouldn’t naturally wear, you know what? It kind of works. Rosenthal embraced his new look and now is raising money for charity from it. It worked out.

When people rip on Whitlock it’s usually because a) he has some eye-rolling hot takes or b) his fedoras. The same can be said about Rose, in that discussion is based on his bow ties, his various colorful comments and not much beyond that. Neither really takes any criticism or scrutiny on their appearance and I’m all for that.

Regardless of where these ideas come from whether it’s GQ, Andy Garcia, or an opinionated Fox producer swinging a big dick, it seems like we’re veering far away from the days of the clean look of snazzy suits and ties. I don’t have much of an opinion on any of these new looks (well maybe Kanell’s turtleneck 😬) but I imagine my mom does and millions of others do as well and maybe that’s the whole point of all of this.

About Ben Koo

Copying and pasting my Twitter bio. I'm also refusing (for now) to write this in the third person. This is me - EIC and CEO at @comeback_sports and @AwfulAnnouncing, world's greatest chinese jew, proud Buckeye, funny dude, and sports and digital media zealot.