By Alan Neff
A confounding request entered my mailbox recently: TheWorkingWardrobe’s intrepid Publisher asked me if I wanted to write about “tie stays.”
Okay, I thought…’ties stays’…I can handle this. “It’s a straightforward topic,” I told myself, “covering the various forms of tie jewelry – tacks, bars, and chains. I have an opinion about the subject.”
That’s right: proving my ignorance about fashion is an order of magnitude beyond “embarrassing,” I first assumed that “tie stay” is a generic term for the clips, bars, and pins comprising tie bling.
Uh, not quite. I was – as is often the case – wrong. Consequently, I’ve educated myself about tie stays. (Knowledge is power, and power, well, I’ve heard that power is an aphrodisiac, but I have zero experience with either power or aphrodisiacs, so I’ll just stick with the knowledge-is-power theme.)
Here is what I learned: tie stays aren’t tie jewelry; they’re plastic strips with button holes at each end. In fact, they’re the exact opposite of tie bling.
According to a website for one brand, “One end of the Invisible Tie Stay slips under the shirt button before passing through the tie label, then the other end is slipped under the next button, keeping the tie front and center.” This site further describes tie stays as, “The Ultimate Gift Item…more than 2 million sold”.
It’s the Ultimate Gift Item! Incomparable! Nonpareil! Invisible!
I can think of “ultimate gifts” I’d rather have – a redwood chalet with an outdoor hot tub overlooking an alpine valley comes immediately to mind – but I will give credit where it’s due on this little device. It’s clever enough to have earned a patent for its inventors – Number 7,370,371. I tip my equally invisible cap to inventors Ray Butterfas of Huntington Beach, California, and Robert Palmer, also of California, but from Artesia.
The Patent Abstract for the tie stay is a great quick read. You can find it at the United States Patent and Trademark Office website, using the Quick-Search tools for patents, and the search-term “Tie Stay”:
“The invention includes a necktie fastener system capable of restraining the bottom portion of the necktie close to the shirt of a wearer, and thereby controlling the entire necktie so that it won’t fly in the wind, or while leaning over a table. The invention is for use when wearing a shirt having buttons located near the center of the front of the shirt.
There is an H shape which is attached to the back of the apron of the necktie by simply hot ironing it. The H shape is relatively flexible allowing easy formation of the various necktie knots. Once the necktie has been tied and adjusted, the wearer inserts the a elongated placket under the horizontal bar and attaches the placket to two adjacent shirt buttons. The resulting combination slidably secures the end of the necktie nearest the bottom of the tie to stay near the shirt of the wearer. This gives control of the entire length of the tie from flying away in the wind or falling down when reaching over a table.“
“…elongated placket…” I wish I’d invented that term. Also, note the adverb in the next-to-last sentence: “…The resulting combination slidably secures…” “Slidably”? That is worth the price of admission.
However, I’m not sure what’s so important about keeping one’s tie “front and center.” I’m perfectly content to tuck the skinny end of my tie in the label and let it swing wherever, subject only to centrifugal and centripetal forces. Moreover – if it’s tacked to my shirt, I can’t flip it over my shoulder when I eat to avoid staining it with food or drink.
Maybe I’m missing something, but a rigid tie sounds like a dress-requirement in a very strict private elementary school, for a navy-blue tie over a white shirt, inside the navy-blue crested blazer. It seems a little too…orderly for my taste.
Apparently, tie-control matters in certain circles. According to Wikipedia, “There have been many forms of tie-control devised since the 19th century, when ties first became a regular part of fashion. Clips, chains, pins have all been used to do one simple thing: to keep a tie from flapping, falling or otherwise presenting anything other than a neat appearance.”
So, this is all about tie -control. And we know that control is power. So…is tie-control an aphrodisiac?