IN an evermore quirky quest to mimic King Canute and stem the tide of history, one of my resolutions for 2014 is to wear more ties.
Well, not actually more ties, just the ones I’ve got (four…I’ve just counted them) more often. And I’ll wear them properly, not affectedly post-modern (see thoughts on that later).
Once upon a time a necktie meant dignity, status, sophistication. In some quarters it was an indication of power and camaraderie – the old school, the club or one embossed with a regimental insignia – and not, as Sigmund Freud suggested, a symbol of male genitalia.
In those halcyon days I had a wardrobe full of specimens so magnificent they humbled Imelda Marcos’s collection of J3 stiletto heels.
Favourites ranged from the James Bond, black-silk, knitted – a superb adornment for a midnight-blue, mohair suit and obligatory white shirt, cut-away collar recommended – to the diagonal striped, much favoured by US Congressmen. And let’s not forget that antidote to depression: a tie so exotically audacious, it turned heads if not stomachs.
Though usually trending toward the conservative, ties like these nonetheless exuded confidence, strength and, as I liked to believe in my case, individuality so subtle only those on the same uber-voguish wavelength recognised a style soul-mate.
Yes, I was a tie snob. And proud to be, I can tell you.
In pre-boutique days, only certain exclusive emporia stocked my choice of neckwear; definitely not Marks & Sparks, Debenhams or – heaven forefend – that refuge of the sales rep and carbuncle of the high street, The Tie Rack.
Still, it brought a tear to my eye the other week that a combination of recession and disdain for dress sense had forced The Tie Rack to down shutters, though no longer will I be confronted by one of its naff outlets in the shopping malls of every UK airport I land at.
Where did it all go wrong and the tie die, I often wonder.
Well, the rigor mortis had certainly set in about a dozen years ago when my City lawyer of a daughter told me her firm had commanded all junior associates to have in their office lockers a set of casual, dress-down clobber.
This, explained Lauren, was because a tranche of pongy, pubescent, new clients were dot.com entrepreneurs and ‘they do T-shirts, not ties, Dad.’
‘I bet they don’t even bother to shave,’ I scoffed, unknowingly.
‘You’re absolutely right, they don’t,’ replied said daughter. ‘They prefer stubbly beards.’
For once words failed me as I tried to imagine a bunch of necktied legal leeches forsaking bespoke tailoring for Gap just to screw a bunch of uppity kids for a few hundred thou in fees. How low could lawyers stoop, I fumed. Clearly a lot nearer the canine excrement adorning pavements that’s probably already up their nostrils.
But worse followed.
Suddenly, all manner of previously sartorial members of Her Majesty’s Press were appearing tieless on telly.
And just when I was thinking the sight of ex-Sunday Times editor and BBC political pundit, Andrew Neill’s bulging, jowly neck laid bare, top button of two-hundred quid shirt undone, was the giddy limit, lo and behold, British Prime Minister (‘Call me Dave’) Cameron – and his glove puppet, Nick Clegg – decided to join the tie-drain.
Even roly-poly UK Communities Minister, Eric ‘Double Chicken Masala & Chips’ Pickles, tried the man-of-the-people fad. But such is his abundance of chins, nobody really noticed.
Now don’t get me wrong. There’s a time and place for appropriate attire and laid-back Majorca is generally a tie-free environment. But Westminster, City boardrooms and the TV news progs – not even weekends being an exception – are what I’d describe as bastions of Establishment convention and, hence, require the necessary dress code (i.e. smart, sober suit and tie).
And, unless I was reporting from a war zone or scene of Third World devastation, I’d never think of assaulting viewers with an image that was anything less than professionally formal. Not even on the radio.
I would, however, draw the line at the monstrosities sported by Channel 4’s Jon Snow, whose neckwear appears to be the result of a deranged artist puking on his shirtfront, after a breakfast of muesli and raw pig’s liver.
At least Gary Barlow remains a trenchant tie-man, though his black Slim Jims are more funeral director than pop icon. And, on the occasions I’ve bothered to notice, Barlow doesn’t subscribe to that modish craze of not pushing his tie to the top of the triangle of his collar.
This is an irritation I find so grating that I’ve actually considered emailing the producer of Strictly Come Dancing and demanding Bruno Tonioli wears his tie properly or waltzes off to The X Factor (in last night’s final, at least, he’d gotten the message).
For those of you who think I’m pushing the tie debate to bonkers extremes, I assure you I’m not. To me they are a flourish of distinctiveness that’s intended to liven up the traditional image of masculine dourness – providing you don’t ape Snow’s example – and I believe it’s an accessory most women appreciate.
Maybe I am trapped in a time warp, like the one that decrees you drink beer out of a glass, not by necking it straight from bottle and giving the brewer a free plug.
Nonetheless it saddens me to see the demise of the tie.
In 2008, a survey reported that only 21% of men had bought a tie that year and by 2012 the figure had slumped to 18%.
This descent into tieless anarchy wasn’t helped by one Matthew Thompson, a Job Centre worker from Stockport, who won an action at an industrial tribunal against his employers for insisting he wore a tie to work when female colleagues turned up in T-shirts.
I wonder if the women were allowed to go au naturel. Because if not and they were required to wear bras, why wasn’t Mr. Thompson told to follow suit on the grounds of gender equality?
So what do I want for Christmas? Yes, you’ve guessed it…a Maserati V6 Ghibli, preferred colour: Siena Bronze.
A tie? Why would I want one of those? I’ve already got four.