I wore a tie to school most days in my junior and senior years of high school.
Looking back, I think it was my way of being different, or standing out. I could never have been one of those kids with Technicolor hair or a piercing where there shouldn’t be one, and these were the days before people were issued tattoos soon after they cleared the birth canal, so I guess it was ties or anonymity for me.
I say that, and I think it’s true; like most kids in high school, I wanted a way to be an individual but, really, I think it was simply a matter of ties were me.
It’s a bit of costuming, isn’t it? Especially at that age. If I’m really going to psychoanalyze my younger self, I think it was a way to put a little barrier, no matter how thin and silken, between the rest of the world and me.
The blanket was Linus’ security, but it made him stand out. Good grief, what irony.
Sort of an odd adjunct to my high school ties. I wasn’t the only one who chose neckwear in my class. There was another kid, called John Peterson, who wore ties, too. He was a nice, quiet guy; he and I were lab partners once in chemistry and, for that period, they were literally the ties that bind.
John was killed in a car accident during our senior year. I didn’t know him that well, but, after that, I sort of felt a bit like my ties were a tiny bit about him mixed in with all of me.
My tie wearing didn’t end in high school.
Once I ventured out into the cold, cruel world of retail employment, I continued the habit, often wearing a tie to my job at Tower Video in Yonkers. There is no more Tower in Yonkers, or anywhere else, but, if you remember it, it was about the least tie-inspiring, or requiring, place of business you could imagine this side of a cock-fighting ring.
Again, the ties made me stand out against all the tattoos and studded tongues. It was around this time I realized that, though I’d never be considered one of them, I always got along with, and was accepted by, the “alternative” set.
You probably heard them referred to as freaks.
By the time I left the workforce in 1999, I was reporting for a tiny wire service in the federal courthouse in Newark. The other, I would say real, reporters in the newsroom wore ties every day, of course, so mine didn’t really stand out anymore.
Some years later, I was in the middle of the extended…sabbatical, let’s call it, that I’ve referenced in this space before. In those days, I was supposed to be creating fiction every day but, as I believe we’ve discussed, there’s nothing deadlier to a writer’s productivity than his own home, the clothes he slept in and no deadline.
One of the things I did in the rare times I was productive during that period was get dressed, shoes and all, as though I was going to work somewhere. Even though somewhere was the far corner of the living room, dressing the part helped and, by now you know, dressing any part for me involved wearing a tie.
I arrived here at your newspaper in September 2012. Any of you who may have seen me at meetings or events, or met with me, while I was on the beat in Mamaroneck will likely not remember I was often wearing a tie, but I sure do. Those early days were a jarring transition back into life for me; there was no way I was going to do it without my silken strips of security.
Of course, up until now we’ve been talking about your standard necktie. But that’s about to change.
There’s a crime writer whose work I quite admire called Christa Faust. She’s also an occasional Twitter pal of mine. Her father died not so long ago and, through the magic of Twitter, those of us who follow Christa were aware of his struggles as well as how much she loved him. In passing, her father, who from what I can gather was an iconoclast, left a collection of bow ties behind and, as a way to preserve them and a piece of who he was, Christa has found new homes for them with those of us whose honor it will be to wear them into the future.
And so, when I finish this column, I’ll get ready and head up to our Port Chester office wearing an actual bow tie for the first time in my life. I suspect I don’t have much in common with the man who used to wear it, but he helped create and shape someone I respect and he had his daughter’s love and devotion until his last moment.
That’s someone who deserves a legacy, I think, so I’ll do my part, however tiny, with a bit of costuming.
Reach Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @jasonchirevas