Dave Lanning talks ties with Patrick Macnee and Harry H Corbett in 1967
PERHAPS you haven’t noticed, but these are very dodgy days indeed for ties. It’s not simply a question of being hung up. They’re in danger of extinction.
It’s all to do with Patrick Macnee. A casual rendezvous with him turns into a confrontation as he looks me up and down, looks troubled and says: “You’re wearing a tie.” Um, yes. I’ve got to admit it. But it’s a reasonable, conventional, one-colour job. Not doing any real harm. And there would be a gaping portion of shirt showing if it wasn’t there.
“I want to outlaw ties,” says Patrick. “Useless garments. Nasty, dangly, stringy things. Serve no purpose at all. I wear them as little as possible. And I hope the men of Great Britain will follow my example.”
Now Pat is an elegant, cultured dresser. Modern Beau Brummel type. And although he’s talking with typical John Steed tongue-in-cheek suavity, there might be something in what he says. So what does he suggest? In place of ties, I mean.
“Cravats,” he replies. “They were in first, you know. Wasn’t until 1840 that a few traitorous eccentrics abandoned ’em for these dreadful ties.”
He’s wearing a cravat today. Very stylish. But it suits him. Us conservative types aren’t so sure. I’ve got rather a soft spot for ties. Been wearing one for as long as I can remember. True, they don’t actually do anything. But surely now they’re a part of British life…
Fifty million are sold every year in Britain. They earn £100,000 in exports. And they do present opportunities to be… well… daring.
You can buy ties like pyjama cord, bootlaces, wide “kipper” ties (you know, the type highly favoured by Al Capone and acolytes). Slim Jims and Neat Petes. String, satin, silk, leather, corduroy, suede… wide horizons have ties.
Such fantastic scope. Why not a tie made in the world’s most pricey material — shahtoosh (which is brown-grey and comes from the throats of Indian goats). Only about £20, plus labour costs.
Or you could utilise a bootlace bought for a bob from a street vendor. You won’t find scope like that in any other form of male apparel.
No, I’m all for ties. Although by some oversight I didn’t rate as one of the “Tiemen of 1967” (elected in conclave by the Tie Manufacturers’ Association), influential fellows like Bobby Moore, Nubar Gulbenkian, Nicholas Tomalin, Eamonn Andrews and Cliff Richard, all did. Staunch allies there, all right.
And what about the Duke of Windsor? What about the Duke of Windsor? One of the great tiemen of our time. Gave his name to the Windsor Knot, most widely used in Britain.
No, it won’t do. An Englishman without a tie? Whole pillars of society will collapse and the sun will surely set on the Empire first.
“Rubbish,” says Patrick, who, like his cravat, remains unruffled. “Ties are simply symbols of conformity. Cravats have flair, masculinity. You won’t find a tie in my wardrobe.” (Actually he does have one: an Old Etonian that he never wears. If ever he needs a tie, he borrows one from the studio.) “Besides, cravats are breaking through. Nubar Gulbenkian, one of the Tiemen of 1967, is a great cravat man. Cravats are on the way.”
It’s all very worrying. There’s so many factors to consider. Silkworms for a start. Did you know it takes 2,000 worms a flat-out 24-hour shift to produce enough cocoons to make just one silk tie?
Suppose Pat’s campaign really catches on. What about the silkworms? You can’t just stop a silkworm in mid-tie!
And the ladies. Think of the ladies. Of the 50 million ties bought in Britain each year, experts say three-fifths (30 million) are purchased by females. I’ve got 30 ties myself; only bought about half a dozen myself. The rest were gifts from… well, family ties, feminine.
A world without ties means that nearly every woman will be stumped completely for Christmas presents! Patrick Macnee is a brave man. What sort of man would want that on his conscience?
Appalled, I motor on in search of another confirmed tieman. To Wembley Studios. Where I find Harry H. Corbett, hero of Mr. Aitch. Surely here’s a man on my side?
Didn’t he recently spend over £40 on ties alone (it was a whopping wholesale consignment of 20, including “kippers,” slim Jims, stripes, silks and one for getting into a club which Harry reckons serves the best cottage pic in London).
Isn’t Mr. Aitch another television trendsetter sartorially, with a pretty sharp taste in neckties?
And Harry says: “Down with ties! I only buy ’em because there are so many occasions when an actor is expected to wear one — and because after my shirts have been to the laundry, mate, they all seem to gain half an inch around the neck. And a double Windsor Knot tight around your old gizzard is the only way to keep a shirt collar looking neat and tidy!”
And what about cravats? Is he behind Patrick Macnee? That’s the question millions of tiemen want answered.
“Actually, I prefer Cossack-style polo-neck shirts and sweaters,” says Harry. “They’re neat, crisp, and look good. No trouble, either; the bother you get just knotting up ties and cravats.”
Well, Harry H. Corbett mightn’t be 100 per cent behind Patrick Macnee, but you cannot escape facts.
Two of ITV’s sharpest dressers are against ties and I am beginning to feel I’m a square for wearing one at all. Still, I think I know what will happen to all the millions of faithful ties if ever they become obsolete.
Women will wear them. Adapt them into their crazy fashions.
And at long last their taste in ties will be vindicated.