Tell me, is there anything neater than seeing a young boy wearing a necktie? Or a girl for that matter?
I shouldn't exclude girls. Neckties have become more fashionable with them, it seems.
I shunned neckties while I was growing up. I can recall the first bowtie my mother purchased for me. I was maybe 4 or 5 at the time and kept taking it off.
It was elastic and it made a better slingshot. My mother found this uncouth and nearly strangled me with it. I got the message, all right. Bowties were the look for formal occasions or when you had trouble getting a necktie adjusted.
Once I grew older, I graduated to a necktie. I hated Sundays because it meant wearing a tie to church.
But my parents were more successful with me than I ever was with my two sons. I was beaten down to the point where I accepted every excuse imaginable, even on formal occasions.
"Ties are not cool," they informed me. "They are for nerds."
In truth, I couldn't complain. I was never a good example for them. I wore neckties only at weddings and funerals. Even then I was resentful. The only difference between a tie and a noose, as I see it, is that one is worn without a collar.
It isn't so much the tie that bothers me as the shirt to which it's attached. I can't seem to find a collar large enough to button at the top. I've tried these collar extensions and small elastics.
So I leave the top button unsecured and get caught. Some eagle-eyed sartorial critics even have the audacity to tighten my tie around the collar, while theirs are buttoned down prim and proper.
I have a hankering to go back and discard every tie I own. Neckties strangle clear thinking and make me livid. I do my best writing in a t-shirt, like right now.
Years ago, we conformed to a code. My editor was a stickler for proper dress in the newsroom. Either wear a tie or go home. He mandated that ethic at all costs. In order to write effectively, you had to dress properly. I never arrived at the paper with a tie, yet I couldn't very well ignore his command.
So I kept my tie in the drawer and wore it while I was typing stories. I donned the same tie at work for a year — a "slim Jim" as I recall — totally out of sync with the times.
Part of my problem, I imagine, is ignorance. I never learned to tie a necktie properly. Even to this day, I can't quite tie a decent-looking knot.
Let me see. Is it twice over and one under or the reverse? Somehow I can't get both ends even, causing me to hide the tongue beneath my shirt to avoid embarrassment.
It just might be easier wearing a vest than trying to make both ends meet.
When I want a tie to stay tied, someone else does the tying, and the knots remain secured. So I couldn't very well teach my own kids, although I tried.
"Nothing to it," I said one day. "One, two, three, presto!"
The finished product resembled a shoestring.
My older son owns one tie and wears it only when absolutely necessary. The youngest one claims to donate any he gets in gifts to charity. Though I have a small collection, my favorites are the Armenian tricolor which I wear to ethnic events and a novelty tie with Bugs Bunny reading a newspaper.
A good friend from Maine gave me a lobster tie, despite the fact I don't care for shellfish. Another preference might be the polka dot tie. One more spot wouldn't matter much.
If I'm somewhat informal in my garb, I can't come to grips with what students are wearing in high school. If tattered jeans and paint-splattered trousers are their idea of proper attire, perhaps they should borrow a lesson from parochial school students whose blue shirts and ties seem to carry over to discipline and decorum in school.
As much as clothes make the man, they can surely unmake the man, giving me the impression that a savage nation is one that doesn't wear neckties.
While shopping in a department store recently, I noticed a man looking at neckties. He tossed one or two aside and made his purchase. The clerk surprised me by putting the neckties he rejected into a separate box.
"What becomes of those?" he inquired.
"We sell them to the women who come here to buy ties for their men," the clerk replied.
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Photographer and writer Tom Vartabedian is retired from the Gazette. He contributes this regular column.