I've just thrown out my ties. The lot. There were dozens of them coiled in a drawer like sleeping snakes. I was going to sift through them but in the end I just biffed them.
The one I came closest to saving I got from a liquor store worker in British Columbia in the 1980s. It was neat and grey and the knot was already tied, but there was nothing to go round the neck. It just clipped on to the collar. So when a drunk in the liquor store grabbed it, he found himself in much the same position as a cat that pounces on a lizard's tail. I liked wearing that tie to formal occasions. It gave me a mild anarchic buzz. But, as I say, in the end I threw it, along with all the rest of them.
Except for the liquor store beast, the ties were all conventional neck ties. When younger I would sometimes wear a bow tie in conjunction with a black dinner jacket for occasions of significant formality. And as I fixed the tie around my peach-skin neck - pre-tied and elasticated, naturally; I don't believe I know anyone who can tie a bow tie - it was in the sure and certain knowledge that within a few hours I'd be face down in a flower-bed as drunk as a bunk of skunks.
But some time in my 50s the dinner jacket shrank and I saw no need to replace it and I've not owned a bow tie since. (In passing I would like to take the opportunity to observe that I suspect any person who wears a bow tie during daylight hours of gross sexual deviance at the least.)
I was never, while we're at it, a cravat man, either. Indeed the only man I ever knew to habitually wear a cravat was a property developer and cricket fanatic who was also the only man I ever knew to habitually take snuff. I found the snuff more interesting than the cravat. He put a pinch on the crook between finger and thumb and snorted it. Having dosed both nostrils he blew his nose into a colossal handkerchief made of a dark material that hid the evidence. There is now a memorial bench to this man at the cricket ground I played on as a youth. The plaque mentions neither the snuff nor the cravat.
Most of the older ties in my drawer were sporting ones: cricket clubs, rugby clubs, touring clubs we'd played against. The ties were all ugly but the memories sweet. Most of the ties were badly stained. I suspect if you'd dropped them in a bucket of water and let them leach, you'd have got something bottleable.
The most battered tie was from a university drinking club, the Kangaroos. I was hon sec in my final year, charged with devising novel ways for the membership to get drunk. I've still got a framed photo of us all, suited, tied and alarmingly fresh-faced.
The ties from middle-age were easier to biff. They were bought for work. Many were over-bright or extravagantly patterned or comically themed, intended, I suppose, oh dear, to say something about me, to make me stand out from the crowd. But to want to stand out from the crowd is to admit that you belong in the crowd. Indeed wearing a tie is almost the definition of crowdishness, of social conformity. 'A crowd flowed over London Bridge,' wrote sad old Eliot, and he didn't have to add that they all wore ties. You can sense it in the words.
It's hard to see why the tie has endured so long. Unlike a jacket, shirt or trousers it confers no benefit other than perhaps to conceal a row of buttons. Presumably it began as a neckerchief, tied round the neck to absorb sweat or to provide warmth. From that it evolved into fashion. Flick through a photo album and you can date most snaps from the ties - the reed-thin ties of the 1950s, the woven string things of the later 60s, the wide chequered beasts of the early 70s and so on. They prove, if nothing else, that the winds of fashion blow men along like thistledown just as they do women. We are all of us creatures of the herd.
But there is also class attached to ties. Posh boys' schools require them. Army regiments love them. Parliament insists on them. Most professions traditionally wear them. But few trades do.
So ties are emblems of belonging and of social status. And at 61 I'm not much interested in either. Henceforth if an event requires a tie, I just won't go. I'm not sure that I'll miss much.