Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Ties have their place, but not on my neck


February 17, 2015


QCS Managing Editor

I’ve always had an aversion to neckties.

One of the reasons I’m glad to live in Tucumcari, besides red chile and Tucumcari Mountain cheese, is that neckties around here are about as common as Stetsons in Chicago.

I’ve been at war with the necktie since the 1970s, when the knotted silk yoke around your neck meant your education had paid off with an office job a floor or two above the mailroom. A necktie meant you had joined the ranks of the up-and-coming, or that you at least had a desk and a phone.

Neckties also caught your spilled coffee, swung around stupidly when you walked, and on windy days would decorate your back instead of hiding the buttons of your shirt.

They would sometimes get in the way when you were trying to take notes in tight quarters, and if your office had a teletype machine or a ditto printer, you had to be careful your tie wasn’t close to the the turning drum.

Sometimes ties became part of your lunch if you were eating soup or fries with ketchup,and you ended up steeping the silk in broth or sweet red goo.

Now that I’m old enough for “turkey neck,” however, I think I see their main purpose. They make your neck the equal of younger necks.

Everybody’s neck looks the same when you tighten a silk ribbon around it and pull. They make all of us look good from neck to navel. There are times for that look, but I like to keep those times rare.

I’m happy to say that the number of times I’ve worn a tie in Tucumcari is about same number of times as I’ve eaten kumquats anywhere.

This just isn’t a tie town, even though you see men who wear them every day, and in a few places, they might even be required. Mostly, however, the happy men of Tucumcari don’t bother with them. I’m happy to join the free-neck group.

Ties and their predecessors, however, have a long, long history.

It seems we men have been thus abusing our necks since at least the 18th Century, the time of Louis the 14th, the glaring and garish Sun King of France. Somebody tied a lace doily around his neck when he was pretty new to the king business at the age of seven, probably to keep fruit tart from dribbling off the royal chin onto his silk blouse, and it ended up in a portrait. Then it caught on everywhere in France.

Even in later pictures, where the Sun King is wearing a thigh-length fur-trimmed skirt, tights and high heels, the lace square is around his neck.

The doily was later replaced with the cravat, and since then, formal wear has meant something tightened around men’s necks. We’ve had to feel choked to look good.

I cheered the day the forward-thinking chief executive officer of the corporation that employed me in the 1990s said ties were unnecessary unless you were going to meet other people who expected you to wear them.

That meant I could keep one around just in case, but I could throw away the unsightly ones and wear the relatively unblemished ones only when needed.

Since then, I have been blessed with jobs that haven’t required my neck to sport a long silk pentagon, and I’ve been happier for it, even as people have increasingly averted their gaze from my neck.

Next, the belt.

Steve Hansen is the managing editor at the Quay County Sun. He can be reached at [email protected]


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