My younger daughter, Leslie, tries to keep me outfitted in style, insisting that I wear her thin ties.
Leslie is a 2009 Kansas City Art Institute graduate. Before immersing herself more in art in New York, she had worked in that city for Urban Outfitters.
She has taught me the importance of colors in clothing. Now she teaches me that for style’s sake, tie size matters.
I have ties dating back to the 1970s when I started my career as a reporter/photographer at The Kansas City Star. If I wore them to work now, they’d look like a fist attached to a Popeye-size forearm.
But that was what stores were selling then when I bought a few ties after graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism in May 1977.
In the early 1980s, a former co-worker at The Star, Gerald Jordan, was leaving to work for the Philadelphia Inquirer. He expressed regret over having to throw away some of his old ties. Gerald is older than I am, and a lot of his ties were narrower because that was in style when he bought them.
My dad wore ties every day to work at his chemical company in St. Louis, and I remember his advice about ties. Hang on to them, because sooner or later what’s out of style now will return in a few years.
I went to Gerald’s place and said that instead of tossing the ties, he could give them to me. He happily obliged.
Dad was right. After a few years, Gerald’s ties looked stylish on me.
I’d often send Gerald notes to tell him how his ties were still being worn — even today. Some were so nice and I wore them so much that I wore them out. When they started to fray, they had to go.
But ties are always a can’t-go-wrong gift for dads on birthdays, Father’s Day, anniversaries and Christmas. Leslie and now my partner Bette keep me supplied.
I have used Leslie’s ties in lectures on the power of diversity at the MU journalism school. Women control the purse strings in most U.S. households and often buy things for dumb guys like me who don’t shop. They don’t want us looking unkempt or raggedy. Businesses and industries need the up-to-date sensibilities of women and young people to help companies’ products and services remain appealing.
Young people tend to be more sensitive and aware of the latest trends in styles and fashions. They know what is a turn-on for young adults and teens, and what actions or statements may offend, sending customers stampeding to a competitor’s door.
A tie is such a small thing. So are tattoos and ear and body piercings.
They might be a turnoff to old guys like me. But to young people, they become reasons to begin conversations, and that could lead to sales, a business venture, new ideas or for journalists, a story.
Styles and standards change. The tie rack in my closet reflects about 40 years of fashion.
Some ties are 4 inches wide and plain at the base. Others are wide with a wild print and color.
Some are a tasteful 3 inches in width. Some that wide make a bold statement in their color.
Bette picked up two ties for me in China that are filled with Chinese characters. One day when I had one on, a Chinese-American friend, who doesn’t speak the language, pointed to it and joked that it probably says something silly about me.
Leslie’s and Bette’s other ties are tastefully 2 inches thin at the base. They make me look like I am keeping up with fashion trends and can be counted on to be credible with people Leslie’s age.
That’s good. Ties may be a superfluous piece of fabric that a lot of guys like me out of habit still wear.
With young people’s help, we will at least wear the right tie, in the right color to the right places.