Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tie clips: the newest endangered spieces?

I'll admit I'm a bit of a fashion person, but not in the "owns 12 pairs of shoes" way. I tend to buy the "good stuff" though, mainly because it ends up being more durable than the "cheap stuff." The one thing I do obsess over is tie clips.

The tie clip is a great invention. It keeps your tie straight and attached to your shirt without puncturing the tie (like a tie tack) or looking sloppy (like a tie chain). It has become increasingly hard to find tie clips in recent years and apparently I'm not the only one who noticed:

Already, though, the end was in sight. As the 20th century wore on, fashions became increasingly casual. Men discontinued the practice of wearing suits to baseball games and stopped wearing fedoras almost entirely. Perhaps the tie clip, too, became a sort of symbol of the "organization man," a badge of corporate servility and piety. As white-collar workers became less tied to one company and more like free agents, the tie clip was left in the junk drawer. And then, of course, there is the interesting correlation between the peak and decline of both the Cold War and the tie-clip boom. Could the tie clip have served some sort of unconscious psychological purpose in a war-ready nation—a little flash of light that recalled the gleam of a sword, or a military bar or stripe?

The tie clip is as functional as it ever was. If you are in the habit of standing up to shake hands, it helps to have one. (Such ornaments also draw attention to a nice tie, as T.S. Eliot noted in the "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.") And in those increasingly rare pockets of the world where jeans will never be considered a "dressy" option for men (such as some churches and private clubs), the tie clip may indeed hold out. But today it is mostly seen as old-fashioned, out-of-style, or aggressively dandyish. Vincent D'Onofrio wears one on Law and Order: Criminal Intent, but it reads as a sign of his character's daft iconoclasm, highlighting the mad-genius affectation he uses to solve crimes.

Still, there may be hope. The tie clip recently made a prominent appearance in a slightly cooler venue: athwart the ties worn by Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg in their new video for "Boss' Life." When the pocket square made a triumphant return a few years ago, it got a boost from the efforts of similarly intrepid wearers. If the tie clip turns up on a few more torsos, perhaps it can, like the ivory-billed woodpecker, mount a tentative comeback.

I love rap, but I don't know if we should rely on today's rappers to bring rescue an indispensable accessory like the tie clip.

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