A Month of Ties
June 21, 2015 9:57 AM   Subscribe

"We set a few rules. The ties had to be worn all day. There would be no hiding under sweaters. And they had to be worn in order. I’d work my way down from the top layer to the bottom, taking what the box gave me, regardless of the day’s events. Also, there’d be no excuses or explanations. If asked about a tie that was as wide as a flapjack, I could say only, “It was my father’s.”"
posted by roomthreeseventeen (29 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
Well I was hoping that the sad end to this story was the obituary of the writer getting a fancy tie caught in some industrial machinery during another story...
posted by sammyo at 10:16 AM on June 21, 2015

Also, there’d be no excuses or explanations. If asked about a tie that was as wide as a flapjack, I could say only, “It was my father’s.”"

Somewhere I have a tie that my grandmother made for my grandfather in about 1974. It is a brown paisley and is so heavy and wide that when I have tied it up, it produces a knot the same size as my fist under my chin. If I want to check my shoelaces, I have to flop my head from side to side like that Peanuts kid dancing.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 10:31 AM on June 21, 2015 [6 favorites]

Ah yes, I recall the great racks of inexplicably wide ties in the Amvets and Goodwill stores of the early 80's, mysterious and haunting, like the ruins of a vanished civilization.
posted by thelonius at 10:40 AM on June 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

My dads ties were all skinny. He hasn't worn a tie since I've been alive. So I got the ties he wore as a teenager in England in the 60s.
posted by blue_beetle at 10:43 AM on June 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh, my. I think nearly all my father's ties were like numbers 9 and 18: Either an unremarkable stripe suggesting "Yes I have put on a tie" and little else; or, a vast banner of monochrome, like something prehistoric, for a diplodocus going to a wedding. So much golden polyester, like a 70s version of Rumpelstiltskin. My father was not known for his style sense. I do not think he picked out a single item of his own clothing during his entire adult life. Which is for the best.

I have to be careful; this is the first Father's Day since his death, and though we rolled our eyes about the artificiality of the holiday, here it is on the calendar, and here he is not.

But the beauty of this article, and the simple paintings, is that they point towards a certain emotional archaeology of fatherhood, unearthing these strange objects we associate with them. The little bronze tray where he kept his change, say. One of those little wooden drawer things you buy as a Father's Day gift set, I don't even remember how old I was when I bought it for him, with a little set of depressions for watches. So here is one watch, white gold, and here is another, gold gold, and here is the one he actually wore, I don't know what kind of metal it was, but when it got hot it would turn his wrist green. A dull, everyday metal. In the little drawer, tie tacks to go with those unworn ties. One in the shape of a stylized G, that they gave him when he retired.

I help clean out his sock drawer, encounter a blue box. "What's this?" I ask my mom, open it, and for some reason my father had a disassembled 9 mm to protect his socks.

She asks me sometimes if I want any of this stuff. The thousand bottles of aftershave. The razors. The various accoutrements of working class redneck manhood. And I don't. I don't want it here, where it makes no sense, where it has no context. I want it there, in his house, in his room, where I can look at it as though we have a little museum to him. Which may not be fair.

But I might take that golden tie. I might take it because it is so gorgeous in its awfulness, in its specificity, in that it could really only exist in one time, one place. I couldn't wear it without causing some matter/antimatter reaction. But he couldn't take it with him, so maybe I will take it, and have just a tiny bit of him outside the Fatherly Museum of Natural History.
posted by mittens at 10:46 AM on June 21, 2015 [58 favorites]

Like mittens, cleaning out Dad's stuff after his death produced a handgun --- I'm told I hit a high note never heard before when I encountered it under his boxers.

My dad's ties weren't actually too bad, but then Mom had always picked out most of his clothes. He hadn't acquired a single one since he retired in 1978; retirement, he'd told us, means never having to wear a tie again, and long before that we'd learned not to give them as gifts. But the ties he still had were on an old tie rack nailed to a wall of his closet, and that's what broke me: good grief, he still had --- and used! --- the tie rack I'd made from a scrap chunk of 1x4 and dime-store cup hooks back when I was 7 or 8 years old..... the paint was chipped, but "To Daddy" was still there in wobbly red housepaint, under a sloppy layer of varnish. 'Scuse me, but I think I need to go take him flowers.
posted by easily confused at 11:09 AM on June 21, 2015 [28 favorites]

I like this story. My father is/was blue collar, so his tie collection was quite small, and mostly consisted of ties inherited from other blue collar men he loved...his father, his father-in-law. He wore blue and white striped overalls every day for work. Blue and white stripes because my grandfather wore white overalls, and my grandmother had to have a way if differentiating when she did the wash. I have a pair of the blue and whites and absolutely treasure them.

No handguns tho.
posted by nevercalm at 11:17 AM on June 21, 2015 [4 favorites]

As a kid, I never really understood the correlation between ties and father's day. My dad was a construction worker who, by and large, built skyscrapers. His work outfits consisted of a hardhat, Timberland boots, jeans, t-shirts, sweatshirts, and a Carhart jacket.

Gifting him ties would have been like giving him a series of fanciful and wildly impractical nooses.
posted by evidenceofabsence at 11:24 AM on June 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

Like all engineers of his time, dad wore a white shirt every single day - and liked it that way. One day, sometime in the early 70's, mom came home from Joanne Fabric with a tie pattern from Simplicity. For the next month, as mom worked her way through her 25 year old rag bag, dad made a similar daily report about the reactions he got from coworkers about the ties. A very conservative dresser, he had the time of his life goofing with those ties.
posted by klarck at 11:29 AM on June 21, 2015 [19 favorites]

You all are actually reaching the dessicated, bitter lump that once was my heart.
posted by thelonius at 12:14 PM on June 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

Dear lord these are not nearly embarrassing enough. Go to any small town goodwill, check out the box of ties, look for the really awful 40s ones that are super short and full of illustrations.

These are merely out of date for the most part, or least to be worn with vests and jackets.
posted by The Whelk at 12:30 PM on June 21, 2015

Yeah, so I wear a tie every day, they're about 90% regimentals, with a few foulards. (I probably need to add some club ties to change it up a bit). I inherited a bunch from my Dad (he died when I was in college). I think I found about 5 ties that are tolerable; lots of loud patterns from Tom James (a low to mid range MTM tailor). But I wear his watch every day*, so I remember him that way instead.

* a tt datejust, not what I would have picked, but not the point
posted by leotrotsky at 12:34 PM on June 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

My dad was more or less useless, but he did teach me several different tie knots, both how to tie them on myself and on someone else, both straight and bow. He correctly predicted I'd end up with a guy who can't tie a tie for shit, so on the rare occasion that one is required I don't look like I married a scrub.
posted by padraigin at 12:47 PM on June 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

My point. If you're buying ties for timelessness, here's what you get:

Solids: I don't care for them, but get a red one. I think a knit has a little more character, but you're probably going to need to pair it with a tweed.

Foulards: repeating geometric patterns. Smaller = more formal and understated. Go small.

Pin dot: Get a couple. Churchill's bow was a navy pin with white dots. Good choice.

Polka dot: larger pin dots. Remember, the larger the pattern, the less formal the tie.

Plaids: Meh.

Paisleys: Not personally a fan, but if you get them, keep them SMALL, for God's sake.

Regimentals: The classic American knock-offs of British Military Regiment ties. The difference? The stripes run the opposite direction and the colors don't mean anything.

Clubs: They look like regimentals, but they've got a crest. Historically informal, but now no one cares. Heathens.

Animals: Replace the crest with a bird in flight. Or a lobster. Or a whale. Vineyard Vines has spoiled these for the rest of us. Avoid, particularly in pastels.

Novelty ties: You can have up to two. They can only be bought from Chipp.

Everything else: Don't.
posted by leotrotsky at 12:53 PM on June 21, 2015 [8 favorites]

Dad is still living but doesn't wear ties as frequently as he used to. As a result, a number of them have been passed down to me and for the most part they hold up. My dad had a knack for choosing ties that feel a bit more "timeless". There are a few stinkers from the early 80s but much of those styles have come back around. I enjoyed this more than I thought I would.

Very appropriate for today. Cheers.
posted by Fizz at 1:01 PM on June 21, 2015

You're missing silk florals in a deep royal purple but I assume not many other men want to give off the impression of being a Dashell Hammett villain
posted by The Whelk at 1:01 PM on June 21, 2015 [4 favorites]

Everything else: Don't.

I have an overall "don't" policy on ties (as does my father, come to think of it), but the stories in the comments here are charming and fun.
posted by Dip Flash at 2:08 PM on June 21, 2015

I don't ever remember my father in a tie, except once, at my wedding. My mother made him wear one because my family-in-law is very classy, but he didn't look comfortable. When I went through my late-teens tomboy phase and I wanted to wear ties, he didn't have any I could borrow, so he gave me my grandfather's ties instead. My tie-wearing phase was really short because my grandfather's all dated from 1950s rural Kentucky, and weren't at all right for the Cool Tomboy aesthetic.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 2:21 PM on June 21, 2015

Come to think of it, I actually had to tie my dad's tie the morning of my own wedding-he didn't remember how to do it.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 2:22 PM on June 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

Dip Flash: oh absolutely, I'm just being an opinionated pedant. It's the most fun when the topic is utterly trivial.
posted by leotrotsky at 2:29 PM on June 21, 2015 [3 favorites]

I don't know much of my father's tie collection. He's still alive, and I've seen them both in his closet and when he wore them, but it's been a while. In the other direct, I can't recall my maternal grandfather's ties, who has passed on, but he died in the mid 1990s, so ties didn't matter to me at the time.

My collection of generally unworn ties is an odd bunch - some I probably inherited long ago, others I've bought over the years. I got a bunch from a little Japanese restaurant in Santa Maria, California, but they're all too bold and odd for any practical use, considering I only wear ties to dress up for a more serious type meeting or presentation. I bought them because we were moving from the area, and I had never seen anyone buy the ties, so I figured "why not?" They're a memento of our life in California as much as serving a particular purpose. Of my collection, there are three I ever really wear, and I look at the rest, half wishing I worked somewhere that ties were a daily part of my wardrobe so I could have some fun without being "that guy who wears ties."
posted by filthy light thief at 2:50 PM on June 21, 2015

Come to think of it,

Metafilter: I'm just being an opinionated pedant. It's the most fun when the topic is utterly trivial.

posted by leotrotsky at 3:06 PM on June 21, 2015 [4 favorites]

Am I the only one slightly disappointed that there were only 20, and not a full month's ?

Or did I miss a "next page" somewhere?
posted by jefflowrey at 3:16 PM on June 21, 2015

I think it was a month full of work days.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 3:20 PM on June 21, 2015

Come to think of it, I actually had to tie my dad's tie the morning of my own wedding-he didn't remember how to do it.

I have tried to put on a tie and discovered that I had forgotten how. It was disorienting. I think I forced myself to remember instead of checking Youtube.

My father died when I was young. I don't have any of his ties. I have his chessboard and a couple of his books. That's the board he taught me to play on; I'd not be surprised if that's what I'd grab in a house fire.

When I reached my high school years, it became a real problem for me that I did not have a Dad to show me how to
do two things: tie a necktie, and drive a stick shift. The second one is perhaps embarrassingly shallow in its symbolism, but it seemed to me, at 16, to be essential to manhood. I didn't want to ask someone else's Dad for help with these things, although I finally had to. So this was hard-won knowledge, and I didn't like losing it.
posted by thelonius at 4:16 PM on June 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

My dad was blue collar. Growing up, he wore no ties, except for special occasions, and those were clip on.

I bought him a couple ties when I was 10 or 11 for Fathers Day - at my mothers urging, or it would have been fishing lures instead. He probably would have liked that more.

He couldn't tie them, and only wore them for occasions anyway, so what I really bought him, at my mothers urging, was a son who learned to tie ties as part of his ropes and knots merit badge.

To this day, I still tie most of his ties. And if my mother lets the undertaker tie his last one, I'll be very put out.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 5:07 PM on June 21, 2015 [2 favorites]

Despite leaving a houseful of stuff, I only have three things from my father - due to the unfortunate fact is wife is clean-but-undeniable hoarder, and in the depth of her grief she was/is incapable of letting virtually a single artifact escape from the house.

Reader if you ever wish to feel petty and materialistic and child-like, find yourself getting pissy at a widow for not giving away her dead husband's possessions.

What's even worse is that what she could be troubled to part with, was generally absolute garbage - in the eyes of a hoarder, all items have value, and all value is equal. Hence, I'm left with a bag of one and two cent pieces, a pocket watch (dad gifted one to each of us; he never wore a wrist watch himself, let alone a pocket watch; this horological fascination was a surprise to everyone), Possum's Book of Practical Cats (pried from his wife by my sister, after I had confessed my sadness at not having a single emotionally resonant possession), and a tie.

It is a mercifully slender tie, peppered with small globes with arrows on them. He received it along with his Churchill fellowship - a 4.5 month adventure we accompanied him on.

I feel weird wearing it. It's bland enough to get away with, undoubtedly - and given my younger preference for the op-shop, I've certainly worn a dead man's clothes before.

But there's something about wearing my father's tie - not only the sadness that wells up in me, knowing his tie is physically as close as I'll ever get to him; a long way away. But also, it's as close as I'll metaphysically get to him, as well. Dressing up in my Dad's tie as if passing myself off a poor facsimile. Underlining that I am, physically, as close as it gets to my father in this corporeal world - and that is a long way away.

I am not, in many many ways both good and bad, the man he was. I am partly the man he made me - but I don't want the thumb prints, I want the sculptor.

So despite my overwhelming hunger for his possessions;,my yearning for a talisman to connect me with my Dad, a kind of mnemonic Hoberman Sphere - expanding from a book, a shirt, a game of knuckle bones into my secret, private universe with Dad that I can enter and leave with any time I want; despite the fact that the tie is skinny, under-stated and can well be worn with a modern suit and restrained lapels, I find myself shying away from it when selecting a tie in the mornings. It feels out of place in an anodyne office, hovering off my anodyne chest - just like my father would. It just reminds me of everything it is not and I am not, in the end. And so it sits on at the top of my tie hanger - a dark stiletto, dripping with memory, emotion, personality, stories, amidst an panoply of flashier, but emotionally inert silk.
posted by smoke at 10:05 PM on June 21, 2015 [8 favorites]

I love this. My stepfather's ties were a big thing in our complicated relationship. For a guy who was super into gender roles and Being A Guy, and whose suits were all pretty unadorned and basic, he really liked floral ties. The more colorful, the better. It was my job to pick out a new one for birthdays and Christmases and I took my job very seriously - I had to look at every flower tie in the store and find exactly the right one. And so off he went on days when he had meetings at the military base where he was a defense contractor, in the plainest possible suit and shirt and shoes - and colorful floral ties.

Looking back I honestly don't know if he loved these and they were a connection for him to the Hawaiian shirts of his youth that he couldn't get away with on the military base, or if he had made the terrible mistake once of idly praising a floral print and then my mother and I honed in on DAD LIKES FLOWERS and he was stuck with them forever.

But I loved picking them out for him. And he at least made a show of loving to wear them. And now that we are both older and our relationship is much more complicated and I never know what to do for Father's Day, I really wish I could still buy him a floral tie.
posted by Stacey at 6:05 AM on June 22, 2015 [4 favorites]

Novelty ties: You can have up to two. They can only be bought from Chipp.

Oops. I played in my high school's jazz band and then in one of the jazz bands at my university. In both bands the dress code was suit and tie, and novelty ties became A Thing (also loud socks). I think I have five with Peanuts characters, not counting any of the others (of those, Snoopy on his Sopwith Camel was the first; the gang dressed as a silver age jazz combo probably became the most worn, though). My most recent tie acquisition, in fact, is patterned with the shape of the plastic insert used to play a 45 RPM single. It came from the gift shop at the Kennedy Center.

As for my dad, he could only teach me to tie a tie by standing behind me, looking at a mirror, and doing the work over my shoulders. He kept wearing tie bars long after they'd gone out of fashion, which made it really hard to find him a new one when he requested it for Christmas. The last few times I have seen him in a suit, he was still using a tie bar I got him when I was in high school. They're in fashion again, but he finally retired last year. At age 79.
posted by fedward at 6:41 AM on June 22, 2015

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