2.12.06

Confident of their tie-tying skills

"Since the holidays are coming up, this would be an ideal time to start practicing. I'm hoping to have mastered a high-style Windsor knot by New Year's." Hmm. not sure when women started taking an interest in wearing ties.

Readers agree neckwear is a knotty issue for our times
By Sue Hutchison
Mercury News
Who knew there was so much angst out there about how to tie a man's necktie? I was pelted with confessions of tie anxiety and tales of necktie nostalgia from many readers in response to last week's column, which posed the question: Should a decent wife be proficient at tying her husband's tie?

I was forced to confront this issue recently because my sartorially challenged spouse forgot how to tie his necktie only minutes before a friend's wedding ceremony. Since I also had no idea how to do a ``simple'' four-in-hand tie knot, we had to rely on the kindness of strangers in the parking lot to do it. The shame is still palpable.

A rare skill

But I was relieved to hear many stories from women and men who are not at all confident of their tie-tying skills.

Pat Moran of Mountain View e-mailed to say that her boys used to show up for breakfast before church on Sundays with their ties hanging around their necks, in preparation to be tied by parents. When the oldest enlisted in the Army, Pat comforted herself in the knowledge that the military would teach the boy a proper four-in-hand. But no such luck.

On his first leave home from basic training, he showed up at breakfast with his tie looped around his neck, untied. ``It turns out that, in basic, one soldier in each unit is taught to tie a tie just so, and then he ties everyone else's so that they will be exactly the same,'' Pat wrote. ``He is 35 and now has a wife who can tie his tie.''

Betty Garcia of San Jose e-mailed to say that only after 20 years of her 40-year marriage did she learn her husband's dark secret that he ``felt a bit insecure about his ability to tie a tie.'' One day, back in the 1980s, she caught him clipping out a page from the Mercury News Fashion section that showed a step-by-step diagram of how to tie a tie.

``It was then that I became aware of his need for help,'' she wrote, ``But he still preferred to do it himself.''

I'm happy to report that Betty's husband has since been rehabilitated, and he took the tie diagram with him on a recent ocean cruise. ``He referred to it while dressing for our two formal nights on board!'' she wrote. ``All I needed to do was to make a few adjustment tugs, and he helped clasp my necklace, like they do in the movies. We both felt semi-sufficient with a touch of pampering!''

Mirror, mirror

Betty Pustarfi of Pebble Beach said she learned to tie a tie when she was in the military, but she warned me that it's tough to figure it out when you have to tie it on someone else. ``Where the trouble really begins is when you try to use a mirror to guide you,'' she wrote. ``A mirror reflection is backwards and leads to confusion.''

I heard the same from several other women who dreaded being in a situation like mine in the parking lot before a wedding, and they wished I'd included a quick tie-tying guide at the bottom of my column.

Well, girls, you're in luck, because I also got an e-mail from Gerald Andersen, director of the Men's Dress Furnishings Association in New York. The association has posted tie-tying diagrams on its Web site, www.shirtsandties.org.

``We have only been up for six months, but it has been a big hit so far,'' Gerald wrote. ``I guess a lot of guys really need the info.''

Since the holidays are coming up, this would be an ideal time to start practicing. I'm hoping to have mastered a high-style Windsor knot by New Year's. More...

Learn how to tie a tie with easy to follow video instruction.

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