There are quite a few facts about Bill Nye that you might not know—that he took a class taught by Carl Sagan, for example, or that NASA rejected his astronaut application on more than one occasion. But what you probably do know is that everyone’s favorite science guy is also a dedicated bow tie guy.
As of 2019, Nye’s bow tie collection numbered roughly 500, in part “because people give them to me,” he told AARP at the time. And they’re not just thrown pell-mell into his dresser drawers: Nye uses his scientific powers of observation to organize them in a sensible manner.
“They’re categorized by color and season: summertime yellows and greens; wintertime browns and blacks,” he explained. His favorite is made of blue silk—a gift his grandmother bought during a trip to see family in France.
Nye’s association with the spiffy neck accessory began back in high school, when he and some other boys had to work as waiters at the girls’ athletic banquet. Thinking they should dress the part, young Bill suggested they don bow ties, so they did. He was adept at tying a variety of knots thanks to his Boy Scout experience, and his father had taught him how to form the requisite bow. In addition to making the waitstaff look especially professional, the bow ties proved practical: Unlike regular ties, they never ran the risk of swinging into the food.
When Nye began doing science experiments for show, he favored bow ties over ties for a similar reason—they didn’t get in the way of beakers, Bunsen burners, or anything else he might be working with. “And then you get to a point where that’s all you want to wear,” he says in the interview below.
In 2015, Nye even collaborated with fashion designer Nick Graham on his own line of bow ties, featuring the periodic table and other science-inspired designs. They’re no longer easy to find online, but here’s hoping the unofficial bow tie king will release another collection soon.