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Fit to be Tied
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A new issue of The Orphan Scrivener has gone out to subscribers and up on our website. Mary has a very interesting article about the BBC shipping forecasts. I wrote about neckwear.

Now that the holidays are here, I can't help but think about neckties. They are among the most traditional and thoughtless of Christmas gifts, a step up from socks, perhaps.

Mary gave me a necktie one year. To be fair, it was not just any necktie. It was an English school tie, reminiscent of the school ties the Kinks are pictured wearing on their 1970's album "Schoolboys in Disgrace." It was, I believe, from a school in the area of northern England where Mary had grown up.

There was sentiment behind that particular necktie. It is probably the only tie (does anyone actually refer them as neckties?) I have ever had any use for. In general, ties strike me as a waste. Why spend a lot on a tie? Who needs an expensive mustard catcher?

I don't wear ties these days. Whenever I wore one there was something unpleasant going on. They evoke memories of the boredom of suffering through interminable Sunday sermons, the horror of facing the unforgiving camera for school photographs, the misery of dragging myself to the office.

On a few occassions, while still in school, I varied my neckwear. I wore turtleneck shirts and a medallion on a chain. Ties weren't my thing but neither were medallions. Mine seemed to have been forged of iron. It was so heavy I walked hunched over. Bummer!

I tried a bow tie. The Kinks Ray Davies wears a bow tie on the cover of "Everybody's In Showbiz." The bow tie didn't work for me. I was going for the rock star look but what I got was Orville Redenbacher.

Yes, about the only thing I know about fashion was what I saw on old album covers. I've read that ties originated as a fashion statement. They were a mark of the leisure class, worn by upper class folks who didn't have to worry that a useless bit of dangling cloth might get in the way of their work. To me, though, ties are an emblem of corporate servility. Every morning, getting ready for work, when I looped that cloth around my neck, I felt like I was putting on a noose.

Not long after I started the job I found a cardboard box full of ties at the thrift store. For $4. It might have been a random selection but I liked to think it was someone's lifetime collection. It was a veritable history of neckwear. There were ties wide as bibs and narrow as ribbons. Stripes, checks, stars, paisley.

I imagined the ties reflected not just changing fashions but the changing tastes of the owner. The loud ties of youth, the sober ones of middle age. Or perhaps it had been the other way around.

Those were all the ties I ever needed. For more than a decade, every morning, I simply picked one of the ties from that box and headed to the office adequately uniformed. I wasn't particular. A tie is a tie is a tie. There was no rule against ties that were twenty years out of date or looked like the cat had thrown up on them. And considering how styles tend to go in cycles I must have been in style as often as I was behind, and on certain days I was probably a trend setter.

I'm not sure where those ties have got too. They might be in the attic. They would make a good nest for mice.

When I began to work at home I stopped putting on neckwear. I only wear a tie to funerals now. Other people's funerals. I will certainly not wear a tie to my own. Well, a school tie maybe.

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