The majority of them — especially the ones that get worn the most — are on the loud side. Not screaming-in-your-face-loud, but not dull, either.
I can’t recall seeing anyone wearing Christmas or holiday ties when I was a kid. My dad never owned any. Even my Uncle Roger, one of the loudest dressers I’ve ever known, had to make do with a just a bright red tie when Christmas rolled around.
It wasn’t until the early 1990s that I recall ever seeing them. And that’s about when I acquired my first one — a gracious holiday gift from MDJ columnist Judy Elliott. It seemed edgy for its day, but is remarkably demure compared to today’s holiday ties: a blue-and-tan checked number (not even holiday colors!), with little Christmas trees in the tan squares. If you were more than four feet away you’d never know it was a Christmas tie.
But that tie opened the floodgates as far as my wardrobe closet. I started buying a holiday tie every Christmas, and more recently, two or three per Christmas. As with my everyday ties, I don’t go overboard when it comes to price. For one thing, it makes little sense to pay 35 bucks for a tie that you’re only going to be able to wear one month a year. Plus, it’s not hard to find great ties for just $10 or less if you know where to shop, and that holds true for Christmas ties, too. They also tend to get marked way, way down in early January. And several of my more recent and more unique favorites I picked up at summer yard sales for just a couple bucks each. Talk about Christmas in July!
I now could go the entire holiday season without repeating a tie.
But as with any other genre of clothing items, I tend to have favorites I wear over and over. So it is with my Christmas ties.
Two of my most-remarked about Christmas ties also happen to be two of my loudest. They’re virtual twin ties, each consisting of bright, near-pastel-colored strands of Christmas bulbs; one tie set on a bright red background and the other against a jet black background. Either can light up a dark room all by itself.
I’ve also got holiday ties depicting dancing, prancing reindeer; Santa driving a train full of toys; Santa driving his sled; Santa plastered on the roof of a covered bridge, shouting “Ouch!”; Snowmen; mistletoe; Christmas trees galore; and so on. One of last year’s favorite acquisitions is a Jerry Garcia tie depicting luminescent-looking Christmas ornaments. It’s a $36 tie I picked up for $4.50 at a post-Christmas department store sale last year. The other new favorite is a black tie covered with little gold champagne flutes crossed in a “toasting” position. Happy New Year!
A sentimental favorite is a black-and-red tie acquired some years back covered with little drums and musical notes. How appropriate, since it has a microchip and speaker embedded in its tip that, if its button is pushed, plays a medley of “Jingle Bells,” “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas.” Its battery is starting to wear down now, which means the once-perky tunes are warbley and off key these days. There are two reasons for that. The first is that it’s hard not to trigger the tie accidentally, either by folding your arms across your midsection or by pushing your abdomen too close to the edge of your desk. There’s nothing like a few choruses of piercing, computer-generated Christmas carols to disrupt a newsroom or an interview or a chat with the boss.
But no matter how annoying that tie can be, I’ll never get rid of it, even after the battery finally kicks the bucket. Why not? Because my children, Lucy and Miles, especially when younger, loved to grab it and push the button to make it play. It helped make Christmas merrier for years at the Kirby house, and now in my memory as well. And happy memories are a key component of Christmas.
And so to all of you — whether you appreciate holiday neckwear or not — I wish the merriest of Christmases!
Joe Kirby is Editorial Page Editor of the Marietta Daily Journal and author of “The Lockheed Plant.”