The Duke of Windsor and the Mischievous Elves are Probably Dining without Me

Originally posted on September 30, 2015. This was the most popular entry on the old blog, which may be a sad indication of its quality. 


Two years ago I was honored to be the best man in my friends’ wedding. Luckily for me the only sartorial request they made was that I wear a black lounge suit and a white tie, which seemed simple enough. I detest tuxedos — the only time that they should be worn is when singing at The Sands or at dinner with the Duke of Windsor.

I would happily wear a suit everyday of my life if my job called for it, and go full white tie — topper and tails — when required, but I always felt that there was something a little tacky in the tux’. I can’t help but think that the only shiny things a person should wear are shoes, and that the only thing that should be clipped on is a tie-clip. So while I really would have been happy to wear a tuxedo on the occasion, I was all the happier for not having to.

I borrowed a black suit from my father, made a speech, lawlessly (but joyfully) signed a ketubah and saw my friends off to a lifetime of happiness.

Then came a busy two years in which I had many strange adventures and accomplished many things, but I also failed at a few — namely returning my father’s black suit which I had (like any good suit-borrower) had dry cleaned. Now and again, when I saw my parents, I would tell them that I would bring the suit back the next time I saw them.

A few weeks ago I had to go to a funeral and felt lucky that I still had the suit. I put on the trousers and was a little surprised that they had a black strip going down them like a military dress uniform, but were that same color as the pants. Then I put on the jacket and marveled at the tacky velvet collar. My father wouldn’t have something like that. For a few seconds I was secluded in a castle of denial. I reached into the coat pocket and found the most offensive thing of all — a black, clip-on bow tie. My castle of denial collapsed in a sinkhole of despair. I had two other suits, one at the tailor, one at the dry-cleaner. There was no way out of it. I put on a proper black straight tie and I attended the funeral with the coat folded up under my arm so nobody would see what I was wearing* but it would at least look like I had the proper clothes

The dark and mischievous elves of the dry cleaner offered up a changeling.** I can’t imagine any other explanation. When I asked my dry-cleaner about what happened he said that no one had come back with the suit — this is no surprise since the suit is nicer than the tux’.*** My tailor also reminded me that if talked to him two days or two weeks later, he would have been able to help me. But there was no telling where my suit was after so long. The elves had won and I was stuck with the changeling.

What does a man do with a notched (not even peaked) lapelled velvet-collared abomination? I tried giving it to my father who actually thinks that this story is funny, but he doesn’t want it. So I did what any decently attired amatur philolgist would do. I bought a proper bow-tie for it (I wouldn’t suffer to have the clip-on in the house), and I’ve been shopping around for pleated shirts. Certainly, I don’t have occasion to wear black tie, but something may come up. There must be some group of people attending black-tie events. And now that I’ve thought about it I’m a little miffed that I never get invited. I will keep hoping. Maybe there will be an opera premiere, or a charity ball, or maybe I’ll be in another wedding.

If anything comes up, let me know.


*did I absentmindedly put the tux jacket on before I left? Yes I did. And let me tell you, gentle reader, that it is indeed a great relief knowing that whatever terrible social faux pas you may make in future your greatest will always be in the past. And it is an even greater relief that after you’re seen at a funeral in black tie people will still be friends with you.

**This is just one reason to not bring your baby to the dry cleaner. There are others.

***This is not an expression of my anti-tuxedo prejudice: it was a nice suit and the tuxedo is a little chintzy

Tags: The Sands, My Parents, Clip-On Ties



NOTE: This entry is featured on my old blog from July 29th, 2016.

NOTE: This entry was featured on my old blog from July 29th, 2016.

There is an old saw about raising children that says if you catch a child doing something weird but not quite criminal (setting small fires for example) not to make a big deal of it because the bigger a deal you make the more likely it will become a part of the child’s identity (thus creating an arsonist). The corollary seems to also be true — if anyone does something unusual even once that action may become transfixed in other people’s perceptions of him  — no matter how innocuous the offense. Furthermore, any change in behavior or outer appearance must correlate to some inner change or desire to be hidden.

Many years ago I shaved my beard off and a young woman of my acquaintance refused to believe that I was the same person. At first I thought she was joking but after a few months she would still insist that I was a bearded person in disguise and couldn’t really be myself until I grew it back. This wasn’t a lark or an aesthetic judgement — it was a statement of existential authenticity.  I couldn’t be the person she wanted me to be unless I was bewhiskered, and the person she wanted me to be was indeed my true self, my own opinions were entirely moot and my clean-shaven face a contemptible disguise.

That was an unusual example example of this phenomenon here is a commoner, less extreme version: I wear a jacket and tie every work-day and, for the most part, nobody notices, aside from a few old-timers who regularly remind me that neither are required and that I can wear jeans and polo shirts in the old-timer manner.

There is nothing particularly notable about the ties themselves. They are the nicest ties I can afford. Natural fibers, subdued colors  and what not — I take care to select good things but don’t make it into a fetish.

Two or three time a month I like to wear a bow tie. I still don’t think most people notice. But for a few people if they see someone once in a bow tie that person becomes that strange unwholesome deviant, ‘Mr. Bowtie.’ In their minds every other article of clothing one has worn, word spoken, or action taken, is instantly obliterated. This phenomenon is roughly akin to seeing someone eat a liverwurst sandwich and assuming that they live entirely off of liverwurst (for every meal and washed down with liverwurst juice) no matter how often they see them eat, and no matter how varied their diet objectively was. This belief would persist no matter what — even if they eat lunch everyday with the liverwurtian and only see him eat it once.

Sandwiches and beards can be ruinous to a reputation.

Recently a friend greeted me without a hug, handshake, or ‘hello’ but with a “where is your bow tie?” I didn’t have a snappy answer. I was already wearing a tie, so I thought I was covered. That wasn’t an isolated example. I get the ‘where’s the bow tie?’ question much more often than I wear bow ties. It’s not the worst thing in the world. People seem to like them.

So, reader, be warned. Whether you wear the conformists’ jeans and a t-shirt, or the rebels’ top hat and tails (or whatever it is that they are doing); whether you are clean-shaven or bearded down to your shaky hipster-knees, other people will define you often on the most fleeting and causal decisions you make. And the most you can do is fault them right back for their neckwear, or perhaps, their taste for liverwurst.


Tags: It Ain’t a Fetish, This Entry is a Rejected Magazine Article, Unwholesome Deviants, Advice, Shaky Knees, Beards