Styleforum member Diplomatic Ties is, as you may expect, a fan of fine neckwear. However, he has more valuable insight to share than just how to pick your next tie. Here, he talks about growing up, finding your own style, and how to feel good in what you’re wearing.
I don’t come from a background where ties were common. In my family, no one had a job where you needed to wear a tie. Ties were just a very uncomfortable piece of clothing to be worn on big occasions: weddings, funerals, graduations. When I finished University and started out on what resembles a career, the tie was something I first struggled to get used to. Which ties to buy, which fabrics, how to match them, different knots, shirt collars. But I gradually became fascinated. How this seemingly redundant slice of fabric dangling over your belly became such an important social, cultural and, yes, even class (in every sense of the word) marker. As a man with an interest in fashion and color, the tie quickly became a part of my identity, a way of expression. Today I have quite a substantial collection and I am very protective of them.
I’m not going to pretend that it has any fundamental meaning for me or that there are it holds a number of hidden emotional layers. But clothes are often more significant than we want to admit. When I get dressed in the morning, I adjust my personality just a little bit to become the professional version of myself. In my teens I was involved in several sports, mainly basketball, and I still remember the feeling when you put on your team’s jersey. You suddenly represented something a little bit larger than yourself. Getting dressed for work is a bit like that.
The adjustment (transformation is too strong a word, I’m not “A Single Man”) from the leisure me to the professional me is strongly connected to the tie. Children often like to dot their i’s with something a little fancier than just an ordinary dot, like a heart or a smiley. When I put my tie on in the morning it is much like dotting the i, the final part of the puzzle, and I feel it should be done with a little flair. Without a great tie the flair is gone.
My interest in ties lead to me having a rather odd wardrobe for a while where my ties were usually much nicer than the rest of my clothes. It took years for me to find some sort of balance. That is also when the idea of the blog Diplomatic Ties started. My wife is a talented photographer and she agreed to take pictures because it showcased some of her skills too (I’m not sure that she would have signed up for it had she known how long it would go on…). I wouldn’t say that my family necessarily supports my hobby, but I’m tolerated as long as I don’t plunge us into financial ruin. But when you have children in their teens, ‘tolerated’ is pretty much the best a parent can hope for anyway.
When I started building a wardrobe, I was often insecure and followed whatever “rules” I could find. But I have learned to let that go. Being in your 40’s and at the same time having an interest in fashion can sometimes be tricky. In menswear you can always play safe and go classic but that can also be boring and restrictive. You can also find these restrictions in both ends of the fashion spectrum. You will realize that a relaxed surfer look might look sad and pathetic on a middle aged, slightly overweight man. But it can be equally pathetic to try and fail to pull off a Panama with a linen suit and suede loafers.
I have no perfect remedies. I have certainly looked both pathetic and stupid many times in my life and I am sure that it will happen many times in the future as well. My love for streetwear, sneakers and bucket hats are probably the biggest risk factors. The question is: should one care about that? The simple answer is no. Just go for it. Clothes generally look good when they fit well and the person wearing them feels comfortable and confident. Then you can pull off almost anything. When you start dressing to please others or to conform to some perceived standard or norm, that’s usually when it goes horribly wrong. There will certainly be days when you look in the mirror and realize that your fashion sense let you down and you actually do look like a fool, but you need to take that in your stride, learn from it, embrace it and move on. Shame has no place in fashion.
You can find more Diplomatic Ties at http://diplomaticties.se/