Maybe one of the reasons for the cultural loosening of ties that bind is simply this: They can’t bind if they aren’t worn! Here, on the cusp of another Father’s Day, thoughts go back across the decades to the old standby gift: a necktie.

My dad always seemed grateful, cheerfully reminding that he accepted ties only if already tied and ready for wear. He didn’t know how to tie one and saw no reason to learn. “You gave me a tie, now tie it,” Dad would laugh, both of us knowing it would be worn only to church, weddings and funerals. Following his death 15 years ago, it was an emotional moment when I spotted three neckties hanging in his closet. I had tied them for him on Father’s Days in the previous decade…

That was then; this is now. Neckties have been tossed aside by many professionals, and not just on “casual Fridays.”

Oh, we still see them adorning necks of some clergy, sartorial sales folks, undertakers, applicants in white-collar employment interviews and folks at fast-food places who ask “if we want fries with that.”

Those in the latter group don’t know a Windsor knot from a duchess of the same name. They know employment rules, though, and are “tied up,” typically with unidentifiable knots tied so loosely that the top button (usually unbuttoned) is a full 2 inches above the knot. King Louis the XIV, who blessed tie-wearing for Frenchmen in the 17th century, would come unstuck if aware of sloppy tie wear…

Actually, had leaders in the men’s fashion world not been extremely creative, tie-wearing may have slipped even more. They’ve adjusted widths, patterns, lengths, and fabric, and even tried clip-ons.

Who can forget those 1.5 inch “spaghetti widths” 30 or so years ago? Shortly afterwards, fashionable ties were as wide as boat oars.

Prices have been adjusted, too. I recoiled the other day when I saw a tie priced in three figures. It reminded me that Dad’s ties were three figures, too, but the decimal point was two digits leftward…

And there are now almost 100 ways to tie ties. To be “with it,” I am told, fashion-conscious men choose the “Four in Hand” knot. The Half-Windsor, a knot I could tie on the first try in a pitch-dark room during my four decades of daily tie-wearing, now is for us “withOUT-its.”

Today’s knot of choice is the size of a tangerine, loosely tied, with a dimple big enough to slip a No. 2 pencil inside.

We who’ve “tied ‘em tight” for years could very well cry. We need only look at the ties of TV news anchors to verify current styles…

We of a certain age are forgiven if we say “enough already.” Give us enough rope, and we still won’t hang ourselves, or learn how to tie new knots, either.

There’s a bit of comfort, really, in living long enough to gain exemptions. There are many examples, such as getting senior citizen discounts from cashiers who don’t bother to ask our age, or watching younger folks hustling ahead to “help us with the door.”

I am grateful for three wonderful daughters who remember holidays with thoughtful words, and with gifts that are usually practical, often creative and sometimes both.

They wouldn’t know which ties would “suit me” any more than I’d know their choice of perfumes. Admittedly, they often gift me with cologne and after-shave, and if they forget which fragrance, they can always ask my wife. If they ever offer neckties, I think I’ll call up Dad’s old line: “You gave me a tie, now tie it.”

They’ve got the “blessed kind” of ties down pat, and this, I cherish. Their ties bind without knots. Married to fine men, they have given us six grandchildren in as many years.

Some day yonder, perhaps the chillun’ will get out old scrapbooks, and flip through old photographs showing me in ties. “What’s that around your neck, Poppy?” they’ll ask. And I’ll smile, then tell them how it used to be…

Don Newbury is a speaker and author whose weekly column appears in 125 newspapers in six states. He welcomes comments and inquiries. Call him at (817) 447-3872, or send e-mail to His Web site is