Last night, I was at the El Mocambo (just up the street from my house), where I attended the secret rehearsal/concert of my friend, the critically acclaimed rock star Hawksley Workman. He and his band the Delicious Wolves played every song off his upcoming album, Lover/Fighter. Hawksley and the band were in top form, and the new songs are great.
I managed to say “hi” to Hawksley backstage before he went on. He almost didn’t recognize me.
“Joey!” said Hawksley Workman, who then gave me a big hug. “You…you look good! What happened? And what’s with the tie?”
We’d last seen each other two years and thirty-five pounds ago. Sure, I looked good then; I just look better now.
As for the tie thing, that’s a new affectation, and the subject of this entry.
The barman wears a tie
“The Brits have this saying,” I said to Marius after another swig of rye and Coke, “‘The pub is the hub’. It’s the centre of life for each neighbourhood in large cities, and even more so in small towns. Here, most bars and pubs, and for that matter cafes, are just the end point in a someone’s distribution chain. They’re not so much places as they are business plans that just happen to involve beer and coffee.”
“Yeah, exactly,” said Marius, in his cool accent that sounds like a mix of both English and his native Swiss German. “The barman isn’t just some kid from University in a beer T-shirt who’s doing it just for some extra money, but a pillar of the community who wears a tie.”
“Hmmm…that’s right. Always a white shirt with a skinny black tie.”
I buy ties
I spent the night in motel on Lundy’s Lane, the extension of a street called Clifton Hill, the cheesy tourist strip in Niagara Falls. That morning, I drove to where Lundy’s Lane meets Clifton Hill, parked the CR-V in an out-of-the-way parking lot and went out to take pictures of both the Falls and the gaudy tourist attractions.
The largest souvenir shop on Clifton Hill has all sorts of Canadiana — teddy bears in every colour of the rainbow with the Canadian flag swen onto their bellies, hockey pucks with the name of every NHL team emblazoned on them, big floppy top hats (a la the lead singer from Jamiroquai) with a maple leaf and CANADA written on them in huge letters and 100% polyester neckties. One had a red background with a silver maple leaf pattern, while another had a blue background with a field of white stars that blended into the American flag. I saw a sign above them that read “Special — $4.99.”
I bought both.
I get ties
As the afternoon drew to a close, I hopped into my CR-V and drove back to Toronto to show up at my parents’ house for the weekly deVilla Familly Dinner. After we ate, while we were playing with my young nephews Aidan and Nicholas, my brother-in-law Richard presented me with a bag of ties.
My sister Eileen said “They’re old ties of Richard’s. They’re a bit loud for him, but I saw them and said that you’d probably wear them.”
I emptied the bag onto the bed to inspect the ties. None of them would ever be mistaken for a Hermes tie, but most of them “spoke” to me. A couple looked like they were made from the drapery or perhaps the couch upholstery in an old folks’ home, paticularly a brown plaid one and another with a green background and a pattern of brown pineapples and reddish-brown strawberries. One particularly loud tie was an abstract pattern of browns and oranges; it looked like the sort of wall painting that you’d see in an airport waiting lounge circa 1974. The tag read “100% POLYESTER MADE IN KOREA”.
“Ugh,” said Richard, looking at the Loud Korean Tie. You can have that one.”
I held up the Loud Korean Tie. “I can make these work. I’ll take them!”
I wear ties
I wore the brown plaid tie with a way-too-large-for-me short sleeve white dress shirt I’d bought from a thrift store, a pair of cheap olive green Old Navy slacks and a pair of new Doc Marten-style Tredair shoes with a gold-and-olive Chinese dragon embroidered on them. I dubbed the look “Punk Rock NASA Engineer“.
Elliot, Tucows’ CEO saw me as I stepped into the office kitchen for a glass of ice water.
“Are you going for a job interview already? We just hired you!” he said, admiring my Lawrence Welk-era tie. Aren’t you hot in that outfit?
“It’s a new look, and it’s really no warmer than the bowling-shirt-with-T-shirt combo I usually wear. And now that neckties have been declared hazardous to your health, I think they’ve acquired a ‘death cool’ like smoking. Except there’s no such thing as secondhand constriction. Besides, the trick is not to wear it like a noose.”
“Crazy,” said Elliot, shaking his head as he walked back to his office. He was wearing a red t-shirt, black shorts and running shoes.
I’ve been wearing a tie every day since Monday. I have a collection of Dad’s old dress shirts, so unlike many of my fellow members of Generation X, I can actually pull off the shirt-and-tie thing every day. Since the weather is pretty warm, I’m tending to wear either short-sleeved dress shirts or cuffing my long-sleeved ones and on occasion I’ve done the “I’m in a ‘the’ band” thing and wore the shirts untucked.
The response has been uniformly (Ha! Get it? Uniformly!) positive.
On Thursday, I pulled my bike up to Pages, an independent bookstore at the corner of Queen and John Streets. I was buying a birthday present for my friend Chandra.
A redhead in a summer dress who stood waiting by the door came up to me. “Hey, I love your tie!”
I got a similar remark from the terribly cute woman with the long brown hair and the librarian glasses at the cash “Great tie, where’d you get it?”
Compliments from two women in about a quarter of an hour. And I was even sans accordion.
(No, Richard, you can’t have the tie back! You’re married now, remember?)
There used to be a time when it would be unthinkable for a man to leave the house without a suit, tie and hat. I don’t think I want to go so far as to wear a suit on a daily basis, but I wonder if the whole dot-com mode of dress turned us into a continent of slobs.
What would happen if I wore a tie every day, or failing that, more often than not? Admittedly, I might sometimes wear a tie the “wrong” way: with my dress shirt untucked. The Hives proved it’s possible to wear ties and still rock out. Maybe I might wear one with shorts, just like the great Angus Young from AC/DC.
(I refuse to pull an “Avril” and wear a tie like a kerchief with a T-shirt or tank top. You have to draw the line somewhere.)
I think I’ll find out. I’ll photograph myself occasionally and if the mood strikes, I’ll post the photos here.
If any of you out there have some ties that you’d like to get rid of (and if they’re reasonably clean and in reasonably good condition) you might want to send them to me. I’ll give them a good home and wear them proudly. Hey, I’ll even spring for the postage and post a photo of me in your old tie. Drop me line via email or leave a note in the comments if you’re interested.
This week’s ties