The first time John G. Locallo tried to tie a bow tie, it took an hour.
"The second time I did it, it took 59 minutes," he said. "But after a while, you get better."
These days, the Amari & Locallo partner is one of several lawyers wearing bow ties. They like the dapper and distinguished look that provides a guaranteed conversation starter.
"Whether you're meeting clients or you're in court or at a bar event, it's a nice icebreaker and people seem to comment on it," said Locallo, who helps businesses cut their property tax bills.
Locallo learned how to tie bow ties from criminal defense attorney Vincent F. Cornelius, who started regularly wearing them in 1999.
"It's a distinct look. It's a more sophisticated look," Cornelius said.
"And I don't know that it suits everyone well. And I don't know if I'm right or not, but I think it suits me well. I think it's more my personality than the traditional tie."
Apparently, many men agree as bow ties became a trend in the last two years.
"It just continues to pick up month over month. Our bow tie sales continue to grow," said Gregory L. Shugar, an attorney who runs TheTieBar.com.
"Guys are looking to distinguish themselves within the neckwear world. Bow ties — right now you're just in the middle of the trend. You're seeing different shapes, different materials. And guys are just eating them up."
John P. Martin of Huck, Bouma P.C. in Wheaton didn't jump on the trend. He's worn a bow tie for the past 20 years. Three of every four times he wears something around his neck, it's a bow tie.
"You can't spill soup on a bow tie," Martin said. "I like the look and it was something different."
Martin's bow tie collection features at least 20 ties that he wears when meeting with his client roster of real estate developers and companies that buy and sell real estate.
"If it's a circumstance where I think a tie is appropriate, I will generally wear a bow tie," Martin said.
Bow tie aficionados even started their own club.
Professional negligence defense lawyer Donald J. Brown Jr. of Donohue, Brown, Mathewson & Smyth LLC is a member of the Bow Tie Society, which meets once a year at the Union League Club.
"Sometimes you can feel either more dressed or jaunty with the thing," Brown said.
"It's a distinguishing mark that's obviously identified. There have been instances where over the years I go to black tie optional events, I don't want to put on my tuxedo. So I just wear a bow tie with a plain suit and it dresses you up."
But jurors never see Brown's bow ties.
"Certainly with a jury or any kind of trial, I wouldn't do it because I think people have biases sometimes that come out," Brown said.
"It's better not to be distinguishing yourself. … People who try cases shouldn't wear flashy jewelry. You don't want to call attention to yourself unnecessarily. What's important is what you say. You have to look professional, but you don't have to put a red light on your head and turn it on."
"You don't know how people see the bow tie in the jury pool and how it will affect or impact them. And I also will usually wear a traditional tie when I'm in a jurisdiction where I don't normally practice," he said.
Wearing bow ties certainly takes a little confidence.
Locallo started wearing them about a year ago when he began his now-completed term as president of the Illinois State Bar Association. The tying process initially requires patience.
"It's kind of a house of cards. You pull on one string and the whole thing falls apart. The easiest way to practice is to tie it around your knee and do that a few times and get used to the technique.
"The hard part," Locallo joked, "is getting the bow tie up your leg and up to your neck."