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The Strangest Tie Ever


Some of the strangest ties ever lurk at what are variably called op shops, secondhand or thrift stores, and at other bargain shopping outlets. These novelty ties grace store shelves otherwise cluttered with '70's-era porcelain, vinyl records, and carefully-disposed-of wedding gifts. Novelty neckties rarely have a defined place in this world-but that is why they are so fun. You see, when I talk about the strangest tie ever, I'm not talking about ties designed for sports teams or ties carrying cartoon characters. Strange ties are made of strange materials with patterns that not even a mother could love. I'm serious about that. It doesn't matter how blind or fashion-unconscious she is, no mother could love these ties. But it doesn't matter. Somebody is still manufacturing off-the-wall ties.

In any group of people who have to wear ties for any consistent length of time, strange neckties are bound to emerge. Businesses, law firms, ecclesiastical organizations, salespeople, and others wear ties, sometimes without uniformity. Whenever neckwear requirements are relaxed and wardrobes open, interesting ties start to emerge. First comes the Grinch tie at Christmas, or the jack-o-lantern tie at Halloween. These are innocent. I want to tell you about three qualities that make for the strangest tie ever and then tell you about the day I saw them all coincide.

Strange materials make for strange ties. Ties are normally made of silk or polyester, occasionally of rayon or wool. Even ties made of wool are starting to push the envelope of strangeness. When you want to find a guaranteed-to-be-strange tie, there are a few cardinal materials. Nylon ties leap to mind. It's for parachutes and track pants. Nylon ties set the stage for a whole host of oddness. I've mentioned wool, but cotton is another strange material. It's a perfectly normal fabric on its own, but making a tie out of cotton seems akin to making a kimono out of seaweed. The two just don't jive. Leather, duct tape, and wood are also included in strange materials used in tie construction.

When weirdness emerges in color schemes, ties get even stranger. Some ties can be pink and green and pull it off quite well . . . and then there are those ties that throw orange and beige into the mix and suddenly upset all but the most modern of artists. Even a two-year-old will tell you that some colors just aren't pretty together, no matter the finger-painting expertise. Perfectly normal colors can make for strange ties too, if the colors aren't those that you would normally find on a tie. Green and blue look nice when the tie is silk or polished polyester, because they share a bit of a sheen. Dull the tie in any way and the strangeness factor starts to grow.

The third quality of strangeness is pattern. Believe it or not, beach scenes, skiing motifs, and bookcases-some of the exciting patterns that I have seen-don't quite qualify as being "strange." When I say strange, I mean irrational-and since I can't paint this picture for the pattern with words alone, I'll rope the other two qualities in. Here it is: the strangest tie I have ever seen.

It was cotton. It was '70's-era cotton, too, which meant that it felt like a dishrag. It was black, yellow, orange, and red. None of these were muted at all. They were matte because they were cotton. They were bright (even the black looked bright). Perhaps a pattern could have saved it-exciting stripes, or an autumn leaf design (I thought that it was autumn leaves at first), or even a Halloween sort of scene that would have gotten it pegged as merely quirky and not wholly strange. But there was no salvation. This tie looked like stripes, blotches, and jagged-edged blobs had gotten into a breakdancing blender. It was hideous! For all I know, children and old women probably cried whenever it passed. With a tie so strange, I knew of only one course of action.

No, I didn't wear it. I donated it to a thrift store and I did it right quick, too!

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