Diplomatic Ties – The Series: Why?
I don’t come from a background where ties were common. In my family, no one had jobs where you needed to wear a tie. Ties were just a very uncomfortable piece of clothing to be worn on big occasions: weddings, funerals, graduations. When I finished University and started out on what resembles a career, the tie was something I first struggled to get used to. Which ties to buy, fabrics, how to match them, different knots, shirt collars. But I gradually became fascinated. How this seemingly redundant slice of fabric dangling over your belly became such an important social, cultural and, yes, even class (in every sense of the word) marker. As a man with an interest in fashion, and colour, the tie quickly became a part of my identity, a way of expression. Today I have quite a substantial collection and I am very protective of them.
I’m not going to pretend that it has any fundamental meaning for me or that there are a number of hidden emotional layers. But clothes are often more significant than we want to admit. In the film “A Single Man” Colin Firth’s character “George” uses the ritual of getting dressed in the morning to actually “become George”, or at least the person George is expected to be.
I often feel the same when I get dressed in the morning. Not because, like George, I must assume a role just to make it through the day, but because I adjust my personality just a little bit to become the professional version of myself. In my teens I was involved in several sports, mainly basketball, and I still remember the feeling when you put on your team’s jersey. You suddenly represented something a little bit larger than yourself. Getting dressed for work is a little bit like that.
The adjustment (transformation is too strong a word) from the leisure me to the professional me is connected strongly to the tie. Because it is usually the last garment you put on to finalise the adjustment, because it is a garment without any practical use but important as a marker, because the tie is something I never really wore before I started the career I am currently pursuing.
Children, girls in particular, often like to dot their i:s with something a little fancier than just an ordinary dot, like a heart or a smiley. When I put my tie on in the morning it is much like dotting the I, the final part of the puzzle and I feel it should be done with a little flair. Without a great tie the flair is gone.
Even if I am proud of what I have achieved so far in my life there is another part of me that thinks that I should have done other things, preferably things that do not require ties. But I can’t deny, or rather I don’t want to deny, that in my life today ties play a certain role. It is not a major role but not without significance.
Diplomatic Ties is of course a vanity project. On a very basic level it’s just pictures of a regular, middle aged, slightly overweight man, not a model or a style icon, wearing nice ties. But hopefully it also says something about who I used to be and what I have become, for better or for worse.