12 January 2006


Who the hell invented the tie (necktie to American cousins)? I remember when I was training to be a teacher in Bonny Scotland, about to begin my first teaching practice at St Mungo's Academy, Alloa. The night before, I had to practise putting a tie round my neck for the first time. It was a khaki coloured woollen tie that my father had kindly lent me. Then, as now, the tie is considered de rigeur for male teachers in the United Kingdom. Women can get away with lots of things - T-shirts, cheesecloth blouses, smart denim jeans but for male teachers the expectation is that every morning of our working lives we'll put our necks in a noose.

I have had to don a tie so many times that it's now second nature to me - I could tie one in my sleep. Over the years I have accumulated a big collection of ties. Unfortunately, some have food or toothpaste stains on them and one or two have been irrevocably damaged by snagging on car seatbelts. I have learnt that washing or dry cleaning ties never really works out - sometimes it's to do with the inner wadding but no matter how carefully you clean a tie, it never ends up right.
As I was on the subject of ties I decided to nip upstairs to arrange a small sample of my ties over a wardrobe door. There's my TFNS (Thank You For Not Smoking) tie which I wear every year on National No Smoking Day, there's the zigzag military zie my father gave me before he died, a palm tree tie I bought at the Walmart in Panama City FL,Christmas and birthday ties from my lovely children - Ian and Frances, a gaudy Picasso silk tie my mother bought for me in Hong Kong. The wardrobe conceals a further sixty of the damned things. I swear that if I make it to retirement I'm going to make a bonfire of them - not because I don't like ties but I dislike the pettiness that they represent in my profession - as if being a good teacher had anything at all to do with the way you look.
As time has passed, I admit that I have enlarged. I am not obese by any means but with each slight enlargement my neck has grown accordingly. There's nothing worse than going to your wardrobe to grab a clean shirt only to find that it has "shrunk" and the top button just won't meet the hole like it used to. Finally you manage it, with blood pumping around this fabric neck shackle and you are able to knot your tie, spending the rest of the day looking like a beetroot and speaking like you've just inhaled helium. Menstruation? Childbirth? Such matters are as nothing when compared with the dress code issues that western men face each day!
Details from tie collection


  1. Whoooo think you might have raised a few hackles with that last comment about menstruation.

  2. LOL. My father's job is to go driving up and down the country trying to get contracts for Abbey Glen.

    To that extent he too has amassed a collection of ties (although not as many as you)

  3. Oh dude! "Tie" is an evil word in my household. My husband owns 1. Yes, you saw that right, ONE. I kid you not. There is a little give and take game that's gone on at our house for...oh...the past 17 1/2 years. He either has to wear the tie or the suit coat. That was the compromise (when I finally convinced him that cowboy boots are NOT dress shoes). I have to deal with it. Oh, and the tie OR the suit coat only come out at weddings and funerals. At least his taste in t-shirts has moved from pocketed undershirts to screen printed, decent looking tees.

    I like your collection, by the way. There were a couple I could do without (I'm a tie snob, believe it or not - I used to sell men's clothes...I was good...and never let a man leave in a tacky tie), but for the most part, you have a very lovely selection. As for the noose, I really wonder who decided (and in what century) that men should wear them. Of course, I'd also like to find the smarmy bastard (or bitch) who invented bras.

  4. I'll give Yorkshire Pudding the bit about ties and menstruation, since YP has to wear a tie every day. Childbirth is another matter. I love my girl, and if I had to do it all over again for her, I would, but faced with a choice between wearing a tie every day for a year or going through 24 hours of labor followed by cesarian surgery, I would have to sign up for the tie option. Don't succumb to the giddy temptations of childbirth, Yorkshire Pudding-- go for the ties! Trust me on this one.

  5. I understand your irritation. My job also requires that you look professional--I sit in a cubical and answer phones. Figure that out. I guess the female equivilant is panty hose. I say, we gather together all the ties, tie makers and producers, panty hose, panty hose makers and producers and throw them ALL into a fire. Ahhh, the image is lovely.

  6. Beeka--I defy panty-hose! Or at least, I scoff in its general direction. I've discovered that microfibre tights hold up much better, are more comfortable, and actually look good too.

    When I was working 30 hours a week at a certain library, the director decided that because of patron complaints, no library staff person could wear any kind of denim clothing. Now, blue-jeans is one thing, but black jeans is totally another. When I am doing storytimes with young toddlers, the last thing I want to be doing is jumping up and down or crawling on the floor in dress trousers or a skirt.

  7. I seem to have opened up a can of worms here as regards clothing. To answer
    FRIDAY - The brassiere was invented by a French gentleman called Marcel de Brassiere in 1833. Brassiere is a small Normandy village overseen by two undulating hillocks. Original brassieres were made from sheep stomachs supported by braided leg tendons and became a "must have" fashion item for trendy Parisian ladies.
    ALKELDA & BEEKA - Thank you for your interesting debate about pantyhose - a subject that is very dear to my heart. Panty hose was also invented by Marcel de Brassiere to keep female French turnip pickers warm in the winter, having the added advantage of hiding the hairiness of female French limbs. Still an issue today!
    STEVE - Lady respondents have not attacked me over menstruation as you predicted. Perhaps, by accident, I caught them in their monthly calm spells! By the way, what is a "hackle"? I hope you weren't being vulgar!
    DAWN - Abbey Glen is a dry cleaning company! Has Daddy been gathering the ties left behind by forgetful Abbey Glen customers? Naughty Daddy!

  8. lol yorkie, nah, Daddy is the guy that singlehandedly saved Abbey Glen from going Belly up when they lost 3 of their biggest contracts.

  9. Confound that Marcel de Brassiere and his dastardly inventions! If I found out he had anything to do with men wearing brown or black socks with sandals, he is in so much trouble.

  10. Alkelda - Yes it was Marcel who invented the sandal combo you mention. Clearly fashionable gentlemen always opt for white socks with their sandals - guaranteed to excite the ladies!


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