I cannot knot a tie; I never learned to. Thankfully, my work responsibilities do not require me to self-induce asphyxiation on a regular basis and so I can eschew the wearing of one to work. On the rare occasions that I wear a jacket–the last occasion was in September 2014, when I officiated a friend’s wedding–I go tie-free; it’s a more dashing look. Or so I’m told. And so I press on, reassured that the absence of a tie in my sartorial arsenal does not leave me inadequately armed for this world’s challenges.
Things weren’t supposed to be this way. As a young boy, my father’s occasional tied-and-suited look struck me as impossibly glamorous; I too, wanted the three-piece suit, and the possibilities it seemed to entail. And the surrounding culture of formal wear and occasion-appropriate dressing beamed its approval upon such tastes. I wore a suit and tie for the first time in boarding school; we were required to wear such an ensemble on our monthly ‘town leaves.’ That institution also required the daily wearing of ties with our school uniforms. Then, I passed over my incompetence in tie-knotting by seeking the assistance of my fellow students. I tried my hand at it myself but the end results were always a little less than inspiring, and I quickly gave up. (An old failing.) Moreover, it was easy enough to remove one’s tie at the end of the day without undoing the knot, and to save it for next day’s wear. A tie once knotted could thus be used again and again. Thus armed, I made it through two years of daily tie wear. Later, when my father’s three-piece suits were handed down to me, I wore them with pride and affection, scarcely believing that I was wearing the same garments I had seen him don so many memorable times. I proudly posed for many photographs in them, hoping I was displaying the same style and panache my father had so effortlessly instantiated. But I still could not knot a tie; sometimes my brother helped out, sometimes an older male relative.
Suits and ties were scarcely ever required after my school years. I wore them occasionally to weddings and interviews but I have not attended too many of either, and thus have only had to ask for tie-knotting favors on very few occasions. Once, as a graduate student, I needed a tie knotted for a job interview, and was helped by a kindly neighbor; on other instances, indulgent friends helped out. (For someone who could not knot a tie, I was impossibly picky about what I considered a good knot, thus driving some of the good samaritans who came to my aid to apoplectic fury.)
I’m a lucky man; my work does not require me to wear a tie, and I do not frequent social spaces where their wearing is an obligation. My inability to knot a tie caused me some embarrassment in the past–especially around those who for some bizarre reason took this particular capacity to be one of the essential qualities of manhood–but this particular incapacity has now become some cause for celebration. I dodged a bullet.