Off the rack
MY father taught me how to tie four-in-hands by making me practice on a bedpost. He taught me how to tie a bow tie by having me wrap a ribbon around a cardboard box. He taught me how to tie a Windsor knot, but I've forgotten how. What my father did not teach me was where to obtain an adequate tie rack.Skip to next paragraph
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With the vast technical ingenuity available in this day and age, one might expect to find usable tie racks everywhere. Not so. After hanging ties in a closet for nearly 20 years, I have yet to own a rack that doesn't willfully dump my collection of neckwear on the floor like a nest of coral snakes.
For the first few years that I wore neckties I draped them over the closet rod. And then I redraped them a few days later. If a closet rod is meant for neckties, a saddle is meant for a pig.
Next I graduated to a coat hanger. A coat hanger supports sleeves perfectly well, but trying to keep neckties on it for longer than 24 hours is like trying to pin tapioca to a bulletin board.
For a while I tried laying my ties in a dresser drawer. I had read somewhere that certain kinds of ties -- I was never quite sure what kind -- should be laid flat, instead of being suspended. Placing ties in a drawer, however, and struggling to keep them away from the undershirts and thus remain wrinkle-free, is like trying to dodge raindrops in a hurricane.
A friend once revealed that he never undid his neckties at night: He hung them up while still knotted. He loosened his ties, lifted them over his head, and then hooked them to little nails he had pounded into his closet wall. I tried that, but after a while the knots became permanent and the ties limp as fettuccine. I also ran out of nail space.
My wife has given me several tie racks. One with bobby pin-like holders kept my ties so impossibly stacked up I felt like an air traffic controller at O'Hare. Another rack had wooden pegs and hung on the inside of the closet door like a coatrack. It worked well enough: My ties stayed put. I just had to remember not to open or close the closet door. Ever.
Still another tie rack gift was shaped like a xylophone. It dangled from the closet rod. On each little note of the rack was a rung on which I could slip ties. But the rungs were made to hold only ties of a certain width. Ties too narrow slid off like toboggans.
Not long ago I saw a tie rack advertised in a gift catalog. It was called the ``Handy Organizer.'' It cost almost as much as two good neckties. I sent for it anyway, believing the catalog's claim that ``you'll never need another after you try this one.''
A few weeks later the mail order company informed me that the Handy Organizer had been discontinued. ``Your item has been found to be unsatisfactory,'' a form letter explained. ``We are in the process of developing a more reliable product. When available, you will be notified.''
I can wait.