Cravat, bow, long, thin, wide….all assortment of material that wrap around the neck, tied in a knot.
To wear a tie was growing up. A tie and suit were the fashion of formal attire and acceptable business wear.
My first memories of trying to tie a tie was preparing for church. The Sunday finery was adored with a tie. I always had trouble with it even through countless sessions and would have to be adjusted by my parents. Clip on models seemed to be the easiest solution, but the process of wrapping this cloth around and under the collar, then quickly swirling the to ends around and over each other to form the perfect knot slide up to the throat was a right of passage.
I watched my father do this every morning after brushing his teeth, shaving with a brush and two sided razor and coming on his hair with a splash of liquid. This was a morning ritual followed by everyone’s father, every morning. A routine never wavered from until old age set in.
Everyone in church, as soon as they were old enough, wore a tie, until after the services were over and the first item to be removed was the tie. They were lined on a rack behind the closet door, never to be seen until the next Sunday.
My second memory of ties was from the movies. In the late 50’s and early 60’s, the wealthy and debonair leading men wore smoking jackets and a cravat. Also called ascots, these ties didn’t have knots. A cravat was gingerly placed around the neck, with one in turn over and stuffed into an open buttoned shirt. The immediately presented an air of elegance and distention. I also started smoking a pipe.
Anyone wearing a cravat stood out from the common man’s tie, which just hung down. The army tucked their ties into their shirts, but I found out later it was more of a practical caution than a fashion statement.
For our first gig in my first rock and roll band, I presented the cravat as part of our uniform. White pants, blue blazers, light blue shirts and navy blue cravats. It didn’t take long to figure why ties are not worn while playing rock music.
When I first started working, I didn’t wear a tie because I was doing manual labor or hidden away in a basement. Then I got a job in an office. All the movies and television shows had office workers in their business suits, like on Sunday.
So, to fit in, I got a haircut, put on a white shirt, pleaded pants, and a tie. I believe it was a straight thin black non-descript tie. After weeks of looking like a geek, I realized no one else was wearing a tie except the bosses and the salesmen. The tie came off and acceptation by the creative crowd was immediate.
When I turned 30, I decided to make a change.
It was the late 70’s and I was advancing with my job, but realized the restrictions I was placing on my future by looking like a hippie.
The day after my birthday, I arrived at the office with a haircut, clean-shaven, suit coat and a tie. The entire office, all wearing suits and ties (even the secretary), greeted me with a photographer capturing the moment. A brief article ran in the company newsletter accompanied by the photo of event asked the question, “How Long Will This New Look Last?”
Not long. The hair and neatly trimmed beard grew back, but I continued to wear ties. Bowties. Big bright colorful crazy butterfly bowties became my fashion statement. I quickly discovered that bowties and beards were not compatible; practically these huge ties that covered the front collar of the shirt and rubbed the neck. The ties were quickly frayed and the fashion phoupa was finished.
By this time, I was in management and expected to attend meetings. Everyone else was wearing a tie, but since I was in the “creative field”, they assumed I was just “too hip” to be wearing a suit and a tie. One day I suggested I have an office. The response was “I’ll build you an office if you wear a tie.”
I folded to the company requested and the walls were built with my name on the door.
After bowing to the perceived but never documented “dress code”, I began in earnest to shop for ties. The company had broken my will, but not my spirit. The usual ties started to fill the racks on the closet door. Conservative solid blue with white poke-a-dot ties, club ties with my family crest, even solid black and blue ties were the bass for my collection. Then I started finding new styles and colors in little boutiques and away from the department store mainstream. Psychedelic colors and patterns, large abstract designs, and flowers expanded my wardrobe, to match or contrast with the flowered and patterned, dark shirts which had become my new office attire. Upper management frowned on my choice, but I was wearing a TIE.
At the turn of the century, casual Friday dress started to take hold. Office workers could wear presentable attire without coats and ties. The response was immediate and the appearance of ties throughout the week was only worn for major conferences, sales meetings, or presentations.
So now I have a closet full of brightly colored neckwear, gathering dust. I know I will never wear them again, since t-shirts have become my daily dress, but I had to throw them away. I’m sure they are far out of whatever the latest trend style is, but each tells a story. A special dinner, a holiday statement, a shocking color, or a good friend.
On Father’s day, go out and get old dad a tie. Tell him to tie on one, tie it down, tie the knot, fit to be tied, or even tie-dye. He may never wear it, as my father did, but he’ll get a good laugh out of it.