Somewhere in New York is the necktie I will never stop mourning.
I’d like to imagine it’s being worn ironically by some hipster or has been auctioned for a serious price to a stylish East Coast lawyer, though I suspect it’s probably about two metres down in a municipal dump.
It had a black background and a series of slightly random, large russet and green circles. I bought it in Tokyo in 1989 and it was a really cool brand, which the internet cannot seem to find.
I left that tie hanging in a wardrobe at the Hotel Warwick in midtown Manhattan in 1997, and if you happen to be reading this while staying in that gracious old pile, would you mind checking the wardrobe and giving me a ring if it’s still in there?
It looked great against a dark-blue shirt and a dark suit jacket and was perhaps the most complimented item of clothing I’ve ever owned.
Because that, no matter what anyone tells you, is what a tie is: an article of clothing.
An adornment, yes. A pointless strip of fabric serving no practical purpose. Yes.
As useless as, say, a piece of jewellery. Well, yes.
As ephemeral as, if less permanent than, a tattoo, while serving a similar purpose of self-actualisation. OK, perhaps it depends on how far you want to take this argument.
Suffice to say, while a tie may be as superfluous as a top hat or a pair of jodhpurs and under more fire than an Iranian nuclear scientist on a bad day, I’m here to tell you: I like a tie.
Not the red, sideways striped ones, or the blue ones with a golf club crest, or the ones made of polyester that have become shapeless, or the joke ties with cartoon figures, entertaining slogans, or the name of a popular foreign resort, or the mothball-scented tie that an old-fashioned club will force you to wear if you turn up for dinner without one.
But the ties that you hunt for.
The ties that are like a needle in a haystack, waiting to be discovered amid the drifts of ordinary ties that, like a bobbled pair of socks, a greying pair of underpants, or a T-shirt with holes in it, are apparently inescapable.
I accept that ties are elitist, exclusionist symbols of privilege. The fact I feel comfortable wearing a tie is an everyday tale of a Kohimarama boy made good. So shoot me.
But ties can also be subversive, surprising, and imaginative, the one opportunity for self-expression in the corporate uniform.
Look in the suit rack of any menswear store in New Zealand. Black, blue, brown, some checks, some pinstripes, the occasional subtle fleck. Compared to 20 years ago, almost no retailer will take a risk on an interesting fabric or, if they do, that suit will cost $2000.
Meanwhile, professional men are encouraged to the view that dressing just one notch up from a summer barbecue is the new acceptable.
That way leads to the head office resembling a tramping hut.
Here’s a tip: clients of legal and accounting firms have enough trouble paying usurious advisory fees charged from offices full of high-end artwork, complicated furniture and extensive harbour views without being greeted by people who work there whose jeans don’t fit properly.
Normcore, or whatever the current ironic version of anti-fashion is, be damned.
A world full of men wearing sweatshirts, chinos and running shoes may be evidence of a great levelling of social strata.
OK. It is.
But it’s also something far more appealing to the average bloke: an excuse to give getting dressed as little thought as humanly possible.
Now, call me shallow – if you haven’t already.
Or call me a snob. On this issue, I’ll take it.
Or come with me on the journey of ties – a world in which a flash of peacock colour borne about the neck is a statement, in the sea of grey, black, blue and – increasingly – denim, that is quite capable, with the right attitude, of making a bloke feel a million bucks.
Just tie it the right length, for god’s sake.
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