Looking Back at Four Seasons of The Crown and Timothy Everest
The Ties That Bind
In defence of neckwear
While utility and practicality should always dictate a man’s dress sense, let’s leave a little room for decoration and frivolity. Tony Sylvester muses on whether the tie will go the way of the dodo post covid.
The tie is perhaps the most useless item in a man’s wardrobe. Entirely without function, it neither holds things up nor keeps things down. It serves no rational, fathomable purpose. And yet, despite changing dress codes and work wear diktats, one cannot help shake the feeling that a fellow in a jacket without a tie is missing some piece of the puzzle – that overall accord.
“This small article of clothing is of an importance way out of proportion to its size” opines Sir Hardy Amies in his seminal ABC Of Men’s Fashion in 1964, “A tie is more than a finishing touch to the costume; it is an integral part of it.” The late, lamented Glenn O’Brien went even further, “The tie’s only function is beauty.. It is pure poetry. It is there for its own sake.”
The modern tie has many distant and not so distant relatives. From the cloth neck bands favoured by Roman legionnaires, through the peacock puffery of Medieval lace ruffs to the cowboy’s bandana and the Croatian mercenaries’ adornments that gave us the word “cravat”. But it was in 1880 at Exeter College in Oxford that ingenious undergrads took the striped bands from their straw boaters and tied them around their necks, heralding the dawn of the ‘club tie’ as we know it. Soon universities, military units, schools and fraternal societies all followed suit and a fad became a permanent institution in a man’s closet. Striped ‘repp’ ties still exude a traditional clubbish air to the onlooker. For those looking for a more casual debonair demeanour, the soft tactile rumple of a knitted silk tie or the slightly rakish lilt of a polka dot or paisley pattern will do the job.
When we eventually resurface post-lockdown, many questions will be asked of us. What will the modern workplace look like? Will we continue our Zoom-friendly dressing down in this New Normality? Like some of you, these months of elasticated waistbands mean I’m chomping at the bit to have a reason to dress up again, praying that I will still fit into my tailoring after the enforced sedentariness. The tie will become a totem: a medal for the victorious rise above my own untidiness. Now that the offices and institutions have all but given up on sartorial rules, dressing up can return to being a delight, the ‘functionless’ tie the icing on the cake.
One last word from Mr O’Brien from his indispensable guide to practical masculinity How To Be A Man: “Men seem to obsess over the tie dimple. I just put on fairly thick silk tie from Timothy Everest and tied it up with my usual four-in-hand and it came out with a double dimple and I thought it looked good. But it just turned out that way. I like that kind of natural process… When it comes to your tie, just tie it.”