As you may know, I am a supporter of the wearing of ties on the weekend. Unsurprising, then, that I ended up living in Lalor, a suburb where a large proportion of the retired male populace seem to like nothing better than to get dressed up in a nice tweed jacket and a trim hat before catching the train. It seems to me highly likely that these gentlemen, who may also be seen at the shops or playing cards with one another in long, dimly-lit parlours over huge round tables, may indeed have emigrated to Australia for that specific purpose: "come to Australia! The land where you can wear a suit and tie to the train station all you like!" Well, that would do it for me.
Why is it that we have come to have a prejudice against men wearing ties? Personally I have a prejudice against men who do not wear ties: a photograph of a beaming, clean-cut politician* in shirt and suit, but without a tie does not say "fresh!" and "new!" to me. Rather, it bespeaks a certain dishonesty and it looks like the fellow is a little simple minded: if they can't manage a simple piece of neck wear, what else can't they manage?
What could be more edifying than ties? Firstly, there is pleasure in the very act of knotting them; the astute student can devote many hours to learning the tie knots. At the moment, I know two - the co-half-Windsor and the Balthus - and am learning a third, the Cavendish. My fall-back knot is the co-half-Windsor (Mum taught it to me years ago, and for years I assumed there wasn't any other tie knot); the Balthus has a pleasing name and there is a lovely symmetry to its knotting pattern, with the end knot being superbly fat; qualities which seem to be shared by the Cavendish. I have also tried the Windsor, but - as the Encyclopaedia of Tie Knots informs me - "In the Ian Fleming novels, Bond thinks the Windsor knot is 'the mark of the cad'" and notes that it is chosen by "Huge Chavez, Putin and the Chinese leaders Jiang Zemin and Hu Jiantao": and I didn't feel good about it. Of the other knots, I have also tried the St Andrew, and the Pratt (aka Shelby), (both for their names), while being also attracted to the extreme simplicity of the Oriental and the four-in-hand.Aside from these, I have also learned (and forgotten (and learned again)) the bow tie knot, a skill that frequently finds its way into those lists of 'things every man should know'. Bow ties, I find, are essential wear when you're just popping down to Coles to buy a little something: it's always interesting seeing how the person at the checkout reacts. Other places and times to wear bow ties are to the shopping plaza, or just while going for a walk along the back lanes of your suburb.
Neck ties in general are excellent for wearing around the house (along with the rest of the domestic flaneur outfit, tracky dacks and a mucky dressing gown with a hanky falling out of one pocket), and can sometimes be used to tease the cats. They create a wonderful impression when someone knocks at the door. Or, of course, they can be worn for jolly jaunts into the countryside, or just going on random trips on the train.
As to other questions of tie fashion, I am generally laissez faire. Some people like to tuck away the tapered end of the tie into one's shirt, or attach it onto the little pocket on the back of one's tie; personally, I like to let it flap loose, but to each his own. Patterns are good, but stripey ones generally catch my eye, and I quite like oranges and reds; and of course you just can't go past good old Paisley. I don't think I actually have a spotty tie, but just thinking about patterns now reminds me how years ago, while loitering in a Salvation Army store in a small country town with my parents while on holiday, I spotted a white tie with pink polka dots (or was it the other way around?) and teased Dad saying I'd buy it for him. He eyed it dubiously and said that I'd better bloody well not. He may also have used the word "revolting". Thinking back now, I can't fault his description of the tie in question (it was pretty out there). Even so, I regret not buying that "revolting" specimen: it would be fantastic for when the Mormons come knocking.
*I won't mention any names but let's just say the Greens do this a lot.
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