Learning to tie a necktie used to be a right of passage for young men. I remember watching my dad tie his tie every Sunday morning and I always enjoyed watching a man stand behind his son in the mirror while helping him tie his tie. You don’t see young men in ties very often.
I was in a local department store a few months ago doing fittings for a fashion show. I was in the men’s department selecting suits and I noticed a few parents come into the department to assist their sons with suit purchases. I overheard them say, “Who is going to tie the tie?” Their solution was to have the salesman tie the tie on the young man, loosen it, slip it off so they could slip it on later and tighten it.
I’m not the only one who has noticed that a young man should know how to tie a tie. Antwone Fisher just penned a book “A Boy Should Know How to Tie A Tie: And Other Lessons For Succeeding In Life,” (Simon & Schuster $19.99). When Fisher became a recruit in the Navy he realized that no one had ever taken the time to teach him the bare necessities. As he tried again and again to tie the Navy’s required half-Windsor knot, Fisher had trouble concentrating on the tie while thinking angrily, “a boy should know how to tie a tie.”
While tying a tie might seem superficial to some of the challenges Fisher faced as a young boy, he realized that many of these skills are essential to becoming a successful man. Antwone Fisher, author of the best selling memoir, “Finding Fish” (2001) based on the critically acclaimed film “Antwone Fisher” directed by Denzel Washington, had to find the answers to these questions himself, the hard way. How do you properly iron a dress shirt? What color socks should you wear with brown shoes? How do you shave without irritating your skin? How can you keep your finances in check? Drawing from his rough youth, first in foster care and then as a homeless teen, his time in the Navy and lessons he gathered in his adulthood, he passes along practical wisdom.
The book is part memoir, part practical day-to-day advice. It is a guide for young men that covers the basics of dressing to impress, self-confidence, hygiene, personal finances and diet. When Fisher was asked, “Why did you write a book directed at young men?” He replied, “Because I have daughters!”
As a big brother or father figure, Fisher teaches young men basic skills necessary to be well-groomed, stylish, presentable and an adequate reflection on the outside of the man he is to become on the inside.” Reading the book reminded me of an encounter I had with a young gang member years ago. A friend of mine gave him some dress shirts so he could try to start a job. He never had a dress shirt before. The young man came to me and said, “Miss Debbie, these shirts have holes in them.” He didn’t realize they all had French cuffs and required cuff links; he substituted paper clips. I think this book should be in the schools and the jails.
(E-mail the columnist at email@example.com.)