Over the years, I’ve noticed a troubling trend in men’s neckwear. Ties you buy on sale at Christmas are generally out of fashion before Santa gets back to the North Pole. They’re either too thin or too wide, too conservative or too flashy. I think it’s a conspiracy by the fashion industry.
It reminds me of supermarkets that cut the price of yogurt that’s about to expire … which I can’t resist buying although my wife says not to.
I suspect that most men — especially fathers and husbands — spend the weeks after Christmas returning their neckwear to get underwear or software or silverware. Whenever I got a tie for Christmas, it was usually about to go out of style, but I knew if I held onto it long enough, it would be fashionable again, assuming I lived long enough. Neckties, you see, are as volatile as the stock market and no one knows why a tie is fashionable one season and not the next.
Long ago, I concluded it wasn’t wise to give your neckties to Goodwill even if you needed a tax write-off because it was cheaper to keep them until designers resurrected that style.
The fashion industry is as fickle as Apple, which is notorious for redesigning its products every few months — so often that I have a collection of obsolete chargers in my desk, which I plan to drop off at Goodwill.
In the interests of historic preservation, I also have a collection of vintage neckties. Some of them are from my father’s era. They’re wide and short, and whenever I wear one, I look like a character in “Pride and Prejudice” or “Great Expectations” or possibly a member of Al Capone’s gang.
When I was a teenager, I bought my father a tie for his birthday that was handmade from Italian silk and cost so much that I missed a car payment to pay for it. The tie was so wide, he could have used it as a vest. Being a carpenter, the only occasion he had to wear it was a wedding, wake or funeral. Unfortunately, he got spaghetti sauce on it, and from then on, it served as a bib whenever he ate pasta.
Nowadays, young dandies wear ties that are so narrow you can use them as dog leashes. They’re usually black and worn with ill-fitting black suits that are tight enough to restrict the flow of oxygen to your brain. This style of dress was popularized by Hollywood celebrities because no one in the corporate world has worn a black suit since 1976 when John Molloy, author of the bestseller, “Dress for Success,” said they were the kiss of death for your career. Maybe at GE, but not at the Grammys.
This much I know: Never give the boss a necktie or you might not get the generous raise you deserve, and you certainly won’t land a corner office or an invitation to his birthday party. My advice, which I didn’t get from John Molloy, is that it’s safer to give him underwear … preferably tighty-whities.
Early in my career, all my ties were earth tones. I didn’t realize until I read “Dress for Success” that brown ties and suits were acceptable attire for geology professors, podiatrists and Ronald Reagan, but not for up-and-comers in the corporate world.
I eventually gave up on neckties — narrow and wide — and switched to bow ties. However, bow ties can be bad for your image, too. People associate you with Pee-Wee Herman, Jerry Lewis, Sigmund Freud, Orville Redenbacher and the Cat in the Hat. At least that’s what my daughters told me, although I’m convinced they know nothing about how men should dress for success because they got their fashion sense from Anna Wintour and the Kardashians, who know even less about menswear. Before you know it, they’ll have me dressing like Kanye West or Elton John … and I’m sure John Molloy wouldn’t approve.
Joe Pisani can be reached at email@example.com.