Traverse City Record-Eagle

Life

May 25, 2014

Garret Leiva: Necktie the fashion that hangs around

I recently did something totally out of character – I wore a necktie.

It usually takes a wedding, funeral or job interview to put myself in a Windsor-knot choke hold.

I, like most guys, have an uncomfortable long-term relationship with the necktie. My stomach binds in four-in-hand knots at the thought of strangling my windpipe with a silk-blend tie.

Still, there I stood in the mirror vainly attempting a Prince Albert knot; talk about a royal pain in the ascot.

My tangled history with this dubious fashion accessory started with the training wheels of ties: the clip-on. Perma-knot neckties are a boyhood rite of passage. No Easter church service or township hall wedding reception is complete without the tie that doesn’t need a neck.

Clip-on ties don’t get hung up on climbing trees in your Sunday best; they were designed to let go – unlike a disapproving mother.

There comes a time when you outgrow the clip-on. Among the struggles of adolescence – puberty, pimples and perspiration – comes the vexing tie tying tradition.

My father showed me how to shave. He also demonstrated the simple five-step necktie knot. While I can shave without nicking an artery, my neckties remain a bloody mess.

I can’t fault my father for all this necktie nonsense; I blame Jesse Langsdorf.

A 1920s New York tie maker, Langsdorf came up with the method of cutting fabric in a right angle to the weaving direction; a system still used today. Mankind — while the tie angle was right — has been on the wrong side of this attire ever since.

Fashion experts and sociologists at times predict the necktie’s demise. After all, unlike its utilitarian brethren the belt, ties serve no obvious purpose. Somehow they still remain polka dot or stripe albatrosses around our necks.

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