Saturday, 2 February 2008


I think ties are silly things. Okay - trivial, but there ya go. When I say silly, I don't mean just novelty ties, though there there is something peculiarly grating about them. I confess that I own a large number of ties. When I am 'on show' workwise I am expected to wear a tie. It's apparently something to do with 'looking professional'. I wish I didn't have to bother and am pleased to note that the tie seems to be going the way of the hat before it. A couple of generations ago, hats were almost universal for men unless you wanted to make a working-class statement and wore a flat cap instead. Nowadays, the traditional hat is a rare sight. It is becoming more and more acceptable to go about tieless and in an open necked shirt, even on quite formal occasions.

Tielessness has even affected the gentlemen of the bar. By way of explanation, we must the last people in the world who largely wear tunic shirts. The tunic shirt has a detached collar and slots at front and back of the neck for studs to secure the collar. The collars used to be stiff and were sent off to some mysterious laundry for cleaning and starching. The stiff collars have also fallen into disuse and tunic shirts come with a couple off soft collars that can be washed in the usual way - thus saving mucking about and expense - and stiffened by a couple of spills in the slot thingies on the underside of the collars. The reason for the tunic shirts is that for court we change into wing collars and bands (rather like undersized bifurcated bibs). A lot of barristers now just turn up to court tieless in their tunic shirts and put on the wing collars and bands as needed. Someone told me he had told off a junior member of his chambers or doing this as it was not acceptable behaviour for a member of a reputable chambers. 'Pompous old git'. I thought.

But what is the point of ties? Some make statements about what school you went to/regiment you served in/club you are a member of. So what? Snobby stuff mostly... Novelty ties are pretty dire - okay there is the odd clever one but they are few and far between. I admit to ownership of a Bart Simpson tie. I bought it some years ago in a moment of madness. I now never wear it. I also admit to ownership of a tie that says 'hello handsome' in mirror writing. My excuse is that it came in a job lot of ties from a charity shop and I have NEVER worn it! Then there are the dull - the overwhelming majority. I do agree that there is the odd good tie but they are very much the minority. When did you last see a tie you thought 'I really like that'? Or indeed a tie that made an impression at all? Thought not...

Let's bin the silly things for everyday use and maybe reserve them for the odd special occasion.


Anonymous said...

Hi WR,

I wonder if you have considered wearing a nice, spotty dickie bow; not only does it make a grand and sweeping statement of cloistered genius/professionalism/ general eccentricity, should it be of the clip on variety, it may be whipped off in a hurry when in extra trendy company!!
( I am of the opinion that you are extraordinarily brave a/ to actually ADMIT to owning a Bart Simpson tie and then B/ to wearing it....)

white rabbit said...

OK Minx - you asked for it!

wait a minute....

Anonymous said...

... Bring it on!!! :)

Anonymous said...

What was the origin of the tie? Did some tailor many years ago have a strip of left over cloth hanging on the wall and thought "Hmm, I wonder which mug I could sell that to?"
or perhaps it was a makeshift repair to make up for the loss of a neck-button on a shirt. I do know that in my schooldays this ridiculous item was the handiest thing for the bullies to grab on to for the purpose of extracting pain on the victim.

We had a deputy headmaster who must have been in his eighties (well he looked like that) and he used to have a three-inch tie. You understand how some old people seem to be hunched over, well this was the case here. Not a lot of space to hang a tie before it reached the top of his trouser waistband.