Ties with diagonal stripes never struck me as mysterious until one day outside a church where I was pallbearer at a funeral a guy walked up and said:
"Excuse me, did you buy that necktie in England?"
I asked how he could tell.
"In England all diagonal stripes point to the left shoulder. In America they all point to the right."
Since then, of course, I watch ties on television, a thing I never did before, and from time to time I feel like crying out, "Hey, look, he's got a lefty tie."
If anybody knows why English and American stripes take off in opposite directions, I'd like to know.
Men pay great attention to their own ties, and not many men feel their wives are competent to pick them out at a store. I don't know why it is, since any number of ties at any store will do fine, but women seem to have the knack of picking out a tie you would not be caught dead in.
Once I slopped gravy or something on a tie as I was heading somewhere and stopped in Lord & Taylor to buy a clean one. Found just what I wanted and roamed about for 20 minutes trying to find somebody to sell it to me. Never did. (The poor woman who apparently spent a week in Lord & Taylor before being found and returned to her family made me think of this.)
I see you are wondering why I wore a striped tie at the funeral. The truth is, I have two or three black ties, but discovered if I wore them at a funeral people assumed I was the undertaker, so now I wear dark stripes. (Women have no idea the trouble men have getting dressed.)
My ties, about 150 of them, came largely from two sources, the ones I bought in college and the ones that used to be my father's. His ties were strange. His all came from Sulka's, a clothes store that ran to swirls in ties. They all looked as if they were made from somebody's brocade- covered sofa, and several of them were lavender. Never could wear any, except on the rarest occasions, but one thing you don't do is throw away ties.
The ones from college days all seemed to be from a store called Steven-Shepherd. You could go in blindfolded and reach for the first tie and it would be fine. But possibly as the decades went on my old ties were not in the new fashion and besides they were wearing out. One day I rounded up a bale of these oldies and gave them to a charity which I guess put them in the furnace.
A sad day occurred not long after when my bow ties, all dating from the early 1950s and therefore the right size and shape, somehow attracted the attention of my personal hound. The rack fell on the floor and the hound, who hates lying on the bare floor except in summer, made her bed on them. In her old age she has not had full command of her bladder, and most of the bow ties had to go to the trash.
You have no idea what ties cost nowadays. Wool challis ties are rare. You could drop scrambled eggs on them, wait a few hours and brush them into pristine neatness. So the incentive to stop making them was great.
Silk ties were standard, and stores still adore them (and in some places will probably actually sell them to you) because one spot and that's that. And I felt polyester or linen or cotton ties were beyond the pale.
And then one day I saw a guy at the office with a glorious tie. I admired it, a thing I don't go around doing, and he took it off and gave it to me. It was made by a store called Lilly Pulitzer and it was all polyester. This changed my view of chemical ties. I had, by this time, the few ties from college that survived the giveaway, and Lilly, and three or four bow ties the hound missed, and a sparse assortment of other ties that were more or less wearable, mostly regimental stripes.
And then I found myself in London where I discovered all-chemical regimental stripes. They cost about two bucks. I bought a dozen and have worn them ever since. When ice cream falls on them, you put them in the washing machine. Some people say they can send silk ties to the cleaners and get them back looking great, but this has never happened to me. They always look limp, and do not tie properly.
Lilly Pulitzer's tie finally wore out and I only wear bow ties twice a year. But the dozen cheapos from England did me fine until the fellow asked me if they were English because the stripes pointed the wrong way.
Since then I cringe whenever I see Bob Hope flashing his Made In America labels on his clothes. Am I disloyal around the neck? American companies, when they make polyester ties, take pride in designs that shout, "Look what I got for two bits."
I read a piece by a good columnist who said he believed his readers should know where the writer was coming from. So I thought I'd just tell you. I also wear wing-tip shoes, white or blue shirts, none of them short-sleeved, boxer shorts and black socks or white sweat socks. All others give me the creeps. I have two tan raincoats, without shoulder straps, grenade hooks or other warnings, and a white rain hat that wads up in the pocket.
On days when I feel defiant I wear khakis and a blazer from London, and if I feel persecuted and to hell with everything, I wear a safari jacket from L.L. Bean. That'll show 'em. If it's not a working day but I have to be in the office for a time on the weekend, I wear blue jeans and an orange T-shirt. Those are, needless to say, the days I bump into the chairman of the company. I guess life hits us all pretty much on the same butt.
Some people do not know anxiety, do not know pain. It has been said women take thought for their underwear in case a bus squashes them, but they do not have orange T-shirts. They do not have old hounds that pee on bow ties. They do not find mud on their shoes when dressing for dinner. The sorrows of life just pass them by.