To tie or not to tie

The clip-on tie debate still going strong
Wednesday, October 15, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:32 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Aaron Molina was recently deciding between a navy blue striped tie and a solid navy blue tie for a job interview.

With his career and pride at stake, Molina, 25, wasn’t interested in cutting neckwear corners. He hoped taking the time to knot a traditional necktie would prove his determination for the job.

If “by the slightest chance the employer noticed I was wearing a clip-on tie, I’d be humiliated,” Molina said.

Apparently, easy-on ties aren’t high on the list of shortcuts for men. After more than 100 years of wearing recognizable neckties, the traditional variety is still most common.

Just like the universal remote control, clip-on ties can make a man’s life easier. Equally easy to put on, zipper and slip-on ties still wrap around the neck, ensuring that no one can detect a difference simply by peeking under the collar.

But despite the convenience and style of such easy-on neckwear, the ties don’t seem to be catching on.

It doesn’t help the case for clip-on ties that they have long been associated with pocket protectors and thick black glasses. However, upon examination, the association makes little sense. Nerds are supposed to be smart, and those who don’t tie their ties are assumed to not know how. The Geek Squad, a computer technology support company based in Minneapolis, embraces the stereotype, however random it might be. The firm’s dress code requires pocket protectors, short-sleeved white dress shirts, along with — you guessed it — black clip-on ties.

Geek Squad guidance engineer Marcus Foster loves the ease of wearing the clip-on, and although he wears a traditional necktie for formal affairs, he prefers his work attire.

“If I could wear a clip-on without people teasing me, I’d wear it all the time,” he said.

Columbia resident Henry Lane has worn clip-on ties since 1961, he said, because they are comfortable, convenient and always have a perfect knot. Although quite capable of tying a tie, Lane is in such a rush in the morning that he just can’t be bothered, he said. He has no patience for the clip-on tie stigma debate.

“I’m not a person interested in clothing. I wear what I like — what I feel comfortable in. If people don’t like it, I don’t care,” Lane said.

However, Lane is considering a change — not to satisfy naysayers, but for a special someone. His “lady friend,” Mari Lou Weilbrenner, bought him a traditional tie a few months ago, but he has yet to wear it.

Surveying other men about their preference in ties resulted in indignantly lifted collars to prove they indeed tie their ties.

Even if a person makes a secret decision to wear a clip-on tie, it can be difficult to buy one in Columbia. Stores that do sell easy-on ties will steer customers toward tie-ons, enticing them with informational brochures and how-to lessons in tying.

Bob McNear, a sales associate at Puckett’s in Columbia, said his store does not sell clip-on ties, nor does it bother with slip-on or zipper ties. Puckett’s salespeople are more than happy to instruct customers on the fundamentals of tie tying, he said.

Casual Male Big & Tall on Stadium Boulevard will do the same. Manager Levi Young said the store doesn’t sell clip-ons, but the zipper ties sell fairly well — especially with young customers who don’t often wear ties and older gentlemen with arthritis.

Lane said it would be difficult to part with the clip-on tie, an integral part in expediting his morning. He also has slip-on shoes, but still uses a traditional razor over an electric version and cooks with the stove rather than a microwave.

Lane’s inner clip-on debate continues. He must decide — his girlfriend or the tie.

“I’ve hurt her feelings by not wearing (the tie),” he said. “We’ll find out one of these days. I sure would make her happy if I wore it.”

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