After some internal debate, I decided to keep the tie with the Wall Street bull and bear on it. It was a reminder of my final copy-editing niche at the Sacramento Bee, when I specialized in handling business stories.
Another 40 or so ties went into the thrift-store pile as I thinned out the color-coded collection that had sustained me through decades of work and many years in the singles scene. The two worlds were not separate entities to my way of thinking. I was fortunate to enter the news business when the doors were opening to women. It expanded the social opportunities for swing-shift workers. I recall intense discussions that appeared to be related to grammatical fine points and the merits of pun headlines.
Although a lot of newspaper guys had no clothes sense, upwardly mobile male editors set themselves apart by wearing pressed shirts, ties, dress slacks and reasonably polished shoes. Some came in with sports jackets they would wear to the daily news conference presided over by the managing editor.
It took me a couple of years to get into the swing of things at the Bee. Having come of age in the radical ’60s, corporate success and three-piece suits weren’t in my closet when I was hired in late 1977. I knew only the most basic things about wardrobe selection and had critical voices in my head about “putting on the dog,” a phrase my father had used with some disdain. As a high school teacher, he wore the standard uniform of a suit, white shirt and basic tie to work. I don’t think he owned a blue shirt.
I remember summoning up my courage and going to Irwin’s men’s store at the then-fashionable Downtown Mall in Sacramento. A patient, knowledgeable salesman taught me what color slacks would go with which sports jackets and the proper length for cuffs and sleeves. He showed me how to coordinate a tie with a shirt’s color and pattern. I developed an appreciation for good shoes.
But ties were the thing that really tapped into my sense of myself. They gave me a way to feel artistic in my choice of color and patterns. I could match them to my moods. I could project bold statements that seem at odds with my quiet demeanor. They opened the door to conversation.
“That tie doesn’t seem like you,” an observant female reporter said one day.
Oh, really? And why is that?”
“The colors are so bright and cheery.”
“Maybe we should talk about this over coffee,” I said.
After I got married at the mature age of 55 and T-shirts became acceptable work attire in some industries, I continued to wear a tie to work. I viewed it as a touch of professionalism that reflected the serious business of journalism.
I don’t know whether I’ll hang on to the dozens of ties still in my closet. I need a few for the increasing number of funerals I attend. Beyond that, they are just the ties that bind me to the past.