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The ties that bind
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The necktie has been loved and scorned by men for generations.

Original neckties were worn by the Romans to show which group or tribe they belonged to. The modern necktie came as a part of the Industrial Revolution as men were seeking a tie that could be worn comfortably all day.

Comfort and ties can be a rather sore subject with some men. To me, if a tie is tied correctly and you have the right fitting shirt, it’s OK.

I think the trouble is some men try to buy the same size shirt they wore in college or even a couple of years ago.

Dress shirts should be sized by the neck and the length of the sleeve. Some companies have done away with that and you have to find a shirt based on sizes such as large or extra large.

That doesn’t work for me. I have a big neck and short arms, which makes shirt buying a challenge.

Some fellows buy shirts with enough neck room that when they are fully buttoned, tons of space is between the collar and neck. Others buy them so tight buttoning the shirt becomes a problem. The latter is what makes so many men hate dress shirts and ties.

The problem is the traditional men’s clothing store has gone the way of the dinosaur. Not that long ago, every good-sized town had a men’s shop. Not anymore.

For years, guys such as Art Kunzer and the late Charlie Frierson made sure men were dressed correctly. It was a rite of passage for a young boy in his teens to go down to the men’s shop and get properly fitted for a nice suit or sport coat. You didn’t look at a suit without a good salesman pulling out a nice shirt and tie to match.

For some reason, this trip to the men’s store usually involved your mama. A good salesman like Art would have a tie in sort of a demonstration knot and would place the shirt and tie under the jacket and convince the mama her boy would be the most handsome lad with this ensemble. But those days are gone.

We seem to have found fewer reasons to wear a tie. We used to wear ties to church, but those days seem to be fading away. More and more congregations have a minister who does not wear a tie and that’s OK. A friend of mine says they have a name for people who wear ties at his church: visitor.

I still wear one most Sundays. If I go to a store after church, I am often mistaken for a clerk or the manager.

Some people don’t wear ties to funerals. If you die and I go to your service, I will be the guy in a tie. I’m sorry, but there are times you just should pull out your best.

Weddings are another place where ties have become passé. This befuddles me, because women spend a jillion dollars on a dress and then the man has on an open shirt. If she’s going to get dressed up, so should you.

Well, I’ve just made my case for ties. I know they’re not for everyone and that’s fine. If you don’t want to wear one, don’t get yourself all knotted up about it.

Harris Blackwood is a Gainesville resident whose columns appear on the Sunday Life page and on

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