The subject of tie knots may seem sufficiently banal and #menswear to only occupy the concern of selfie-snapping enthusiasts, but a recent discussion I had on an Internet forum underscored the subtle —and not so subtle — messages such a thing can send.
A tie knot can project fastidiousness, nonchalance, ignorance, and any numbers of things in between. A brief email exchange with Richard Press and G. Bruce Boyer yielded an insightful perspective. As Mr. Press said, “Windsor knot was Main Street, Central High, Podunk U., Pat Boone, Reader’s Digest, while a tight dimpled knot was Sutton Place, Yale, The New Yorker, Hotchkiss & Bobby Short.”
With these thoughts in mind, consider this immaculate double dimple.
I stared at this image at length when I saw it. I couldn’t turn away. It was like seeing a disturbingly perfect decorative wax apple. This wasn’t Richard’s Tight Dimpled Knot, this was feng shui for ties. I could imagine the wearer spending something like 45 minutes agonizing in front of the mirror until everything was situated just so. I could also imagine that same person wobbling about like a mannequin, desperately trying to preserve the crease in his trousers.
Paul Fussell, in his delightfully tongue-in-cheek book “Class,” speaks to this man when he writes, “Too careful means low — at least middle class, perhaps prole.”
These imaginings, of course, may have had little resemblance to reality. The mystery man in question may have tossed on said tie and gone about his day with little care for the crease in his trousers, or any other injury his wearables may have suffered. The picture, however, belies this. The wearer of this tie presents an image of a man who dresses to impress largely because he has to. I know nothing about his background, but the feel of it is of middle management, junior salesman, or some other sort who hasn’t yet made it. If, as Mr. Boyer says, the tie dimple is a defense against the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, this one appears very defensive indeed.
I thought on this knot as I considered my paternal grandfather, one of the most genteel and well dressed men I’ve ever known. He never raised his voice that I can recall, never indulged in showiness, and was ever the benevolent patrician. I couldn’t imagine him wearing a tie in this manner. Not because he couldn’t accomplish it, but because he couldn’t be bothered. There was too much life to live out there to spend so much time on a knot. Therein lies the beauty of a slightly sloppy four-in-hand tie knot. It is simple, easy, and fast. But this is only an impression as well. I have no idea how long he spent getting dressed, how much care he actually put into his clothes, etcetera. However, the impression was of a man who wore the finest, but couldn’t care less if it snagged on something while he was rough housing with his grandchildren. I suspect this is what he liked about the midcentury trad styles he habitually wore.
This isn’t my grandfather, but it is a fine example of a ‘put together’ looking ensemble with slightly sloppy, slightly off-center tie knot. Immaculate it is not, but that is its strength. If I saw Mr. Double-Dimple walking toward me, I’d wonder what kind of timeshare he was about to try and sell me. Not so with the man in this picture. He looks like the kind of guy you would want to share an (American) beer with, talk football, or pray to god that he wouldn’t fail you on the physics midterm. Again, imaginings, but the kind you would want people to have about you.
If this man is worthy of imitation I admit that I often fall short. As Ivy Style’s editor hasn’t hesitated to chide me on, I have a certain fastidiousness about me. My only defense is that the one thing less worthy of my time than perfectly pressing and arranging my clothes is purposefully rumpling them. I do admit, however, that at times I can appear more “bougie” than “Boola boola.”
Taking this into account, I hope the reader will permit me to be very bold and offer up an example of my own, here I wear a vintage J. Press tie, slightly out of proportion with my collar points, and with no dimple at all. I will not deign to judge for you whether my look is successful, or whether I exude the nonchalance I admired in my grandfather (it is still a #menswear selfie, after all). But I think it is at least more desirable than appearing as if I am about to offer you a once in a lifetime opportunity to own a timeshare in Bonita Springs, Florida. — PANI M.