Bowties, Neckties, and No Ties

My life could be broken down into different chapters, according to the flow of the story. For example, I could break it down into pre-school, school, graduate school, career, and retirement. Or I could go childhood, adolescence, husband, father, grandfather. Or Reds fan, Tigers follower, Rockies attender, and Cubs fanatic.

There are numerous storylines for my life book, but one that stands out on a Monday morning, as I reflect on the previous Sunday is the chapters that could be titled Bowties, Neckties, and No Ties. Three diverse periods experienced in my childhood, youth and adult years, and later adulthood.

When my family attended Central Baptist Church in Winchester, Kentucky during my first few years on this earth a bowtie was snapped onto my white buttoned-down shirt every Sunday. In fact, it was the same bowtie every week because I only had the one. Three-year-olds don’t need a tie display case to choose this week’s outfit completion. One was always enough. If I would have opened up a Christmas present and discovered that a new bowtie with a nicely-crafted new plaid design was included…I would have broken down into a kicking and screaming fit of tears and agony. A bowtie was simply my parented mandate for Sunday church. My brother had one, too! Come to think of it, my bowtie was probably a hand-me-down from Charlie, four and a half years my senior. Most of the things I possessed during those first few years were hand-me-downs. It was our version of garage sale purchases. If it was good enough for the oldest, and it didn’t have too many mustard stains on it, it was suitable for the youngest.

A bowtie symbolized my early life and the life of my family. We were churched people…Sunday morning, Sunday evening, Wednesday night dinner and activities. I never was able to watch Walt Disney on Sunday night because our pastor had another sermon to get off his chest.

Sometime around the fourth grade my bowtie, well-weathered and beginning to droop like Alfred Hitchcock’s jaws, was replaced by a clipped-on striped necktie. It was the next step toward fashion maturity. Bowties were for young kids, but neckties were for boys inching toward manhood. Besides that, I was now a Junior Usher at First Baptist Church in Williamstown, West Virginia. Ushers always, always, always wore neckties to go with their blazers and buttoned-down dress shirts. After a few months of passing out bulletins to the arriving worshippers and making adults feel guilty if they didn’t put something in the passing offering plate, my wardrobe expanded to two clip-ons to diversify my selection.

A couple of years later I made the big jump to learning how to tie a necktie. My dad stood behind me and patiently showed me the twists, turns, and loops as we stood in front of the hallway mirror. To this day a mirror is required for me to tie a necktie. For me to accomplish a neatly-looking necktie without a mirror is on the same work scale with trying to complete my tax return. Every Sunday for a few decades I tied one of the fifty or so neckties that hung on a rack in my closet. Stripes, plaids, plains, bright-colored, and even one with Mickey Mouse and another with a wolf. Sunday church was always a tied event. Since I was the pastor I had to set the example. In the ’90’s, most men in a Sunday worship gathering followed that example. Neckties were a sign of the orderliness of our worship. They were the expected look of “putting on our Sunday best”. We were attempting to look handsome before God. Nowadays the only times I wear a necktie are when I’m officiating at a wedding, conducting a funeral, or sitting at a table for two celebrating our wedding anniversary.

Somewhere in the first few years of the twenty-first century I jumped on the Ferrari of No Tie. The open collar look or the polo started becoming options. My tie rack got moved to the end of the clothes rack in my closet. Some pastors even started keeping their shirttails out. My mom’s hands would have started quivering if she had seen that. That, however, became the cool look, the appearance that indicated this place of worship was not uptight and boring. People could come right from Starbucks to church. In fact, some of those hip churches started replacing Folger’s with Starbucks. You can’t hand your shirttail out and serve your grandparent’s brew! It would turn people away from Jesus! So in the last several years I’ve gone to not wearing a necktie or bowtie, but still looking dressed up enough that I wouldn’t be seen as a disappointment to my parents.

Will there be a fourth chapter in my apparel autobiography? Will there suddenly be an emergence of those cowboy bow ties that Roy Rogers used to wear? I’d be okay with that. Or maybe a neck tie that has some unique image or design that makes people stop and say “Wow!” The Wow Factor is always good for someone closing in on 70.

Just one thing I will never do. No skinny jeans! I have a hard enough time right now getting my pants on!

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One Comment on “Bowties, Neckties, and No Ties”

  1. Christine Miller Says:

    Can’t wait to share this one with dad. I’m sure he’ll identify! Ties are an important pert of our family. I still have the leather tie my dad’s dad wore as a Gas Man for Mobil Oil back in the 1940s. It is a prized heirloom in my family collection!


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