Today we are honored by the presence of Professor C. My father. When I explained that you all had asked to hear from him, he was slightly puzzled. His first response being, “Your style is so…” But I explained that he didn’t need to natter on as I do. We talked, with my sister, about what he might write. She suggested he chronicle his shopping pattern, in which my stepmother buys all his clothes, and some articles hang in closets until the moths are sated. We laughed.
Then we remembered one of his more shining sartorial moments, involving a new flexibility in dress code for Stanford University administrators. Below is the story.
TALES OF THE NECKTIE
“Is he going to wear a necktie?” That was the question in an email from an old friend coming all the way from the east coast to an eightieth birthday party – mine. So I had to decide. Yes? No? I said yes.
As a schoolboy I wore a tie every day. Maybe I’ve not recovered from the experience.
According to Wikipedia – I know, I know, serious scholars don’t use Wikipedia but of course sometimes they do – it all began in the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) when the neckerchiefs of Croatian mercenaries attracted the attention of fashionable Paris, and the “cravat” was born. Cravats, now become “neckties,” are the only conspicuous item in the everyday male wardrobe. They are largely useless. But nobody seems able to undo their hold. Did Freud have a theory of men’s neckwear?
A company advertising on the Web offers the “Sigmund Freud microfiber Tie,” sporting “the profile of the renowned psychologist Dr. Freud in a cream tone set atop an all black background.” “What better place,” the ad goes on, “to put Freud than on top of a long, draping, um, necktie.” Oh, dear. Happily the item is “out of stock.”
The 1960s and 1970s were big decades in the necktie story. Wikipedia again: the tie “fell out of fashion almost everywhere, except where required.” OK, but where was it required? That was not always an easy question.
In 1975, I became a university Dean. I’d given up neckties long before, as had probably every member of the English Department. But administrators were different. They wore ties. Heading off to my new office on September 1, 1975, I had to decide, as I would once again thirty-five years later: “Shall I wear a necktie?” Yes? No? The answer would set the pattern for some years to come.
I decided, no. I wonder now if anybody noticed.
Thank you Dad. All of this is as true as I can make it. Like you, I don’t know if it matters. Wait. That needs to be said differently. I know that it matters to me, and thanks for writing this for us here at Privilege.