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To answer a frequently asked question, I own about 50 ties. And no, that doesn’t count the multitude that we used at school last year in our weekly tie-cutting votes to recognize outstanding qualities in our students at NRHEG – those were all donated after people cleaned out closets or visited the Salvation Army.

Most days at school you’ll see me with a tie wrapped around my neck. It’s not a practice that is used frequently anymore by most male teachers. Long gone are the days when all men wore dress pants, shirt and tie while women wore a dress or skirt of some sort. Every Friday, both at school and at many professional businesses that usually have more formal dress, you will see casual Friday with employees wearing jeans. NRHEG, along with many of those other businesses, asks for a donation for a charity in exchange for the comfort of blue jeans.

Still, most days I like to wear my shirt and tie along with dress pants and shoes. I have ties that range from various color patterns to more fun ones that show off some of my interests like Star Wars, Dr. Seuss, sports, and even a batch of Christmas ties. I even added a Mark Twain tie this summer while visiting his hometown. One of my most prized ties is one I don’t wear anymore. One of my basketball teams from years ago got a white tie with a Panther logo and they all signed it for me. I wore it occasionally for a year after that, but am so afraid of staining it that it has been retired.

So here’s a conundrum that I thought about while looking around church before mass one Sunday. I rarely wear dress pants or a tie to church. As I glanced around at others entering the church, I found that I was not alone. Growing up, church was much like those aforementioned businesses: men and women alike were dressed in their finest. I could count on Dad to wear a suit coat to church, no matter the weather. I don’t even own a suit coat that Michelle would allow me to wear out of the house.

So what happened? Have we just become a much more casual society? And is there anything wrong with that? There might come a day when I stop wearing ties to work, though I’ve grown so accustomed to it, and it certainly helps to have a professional look when meeting with parents. There really is no functional use to the tie; it doesn’t hold a pen for me or anything.

While researching the history of ties, I found that some form or another dates back over 1000 years to ancient China where neck scarves were a badge of honor. Another style of those was used mainly in a military sense during the Middle Ages. The cravat became the height of fashion come the 19th century, and the modern-day tie evolved more into the 1920s. When I was a teenager, the skinny tie was all the rage, and I keep waiting for those to return, even though I’ve ridden myself of most of the ones I owned.

Some folks still dress up nicely for church each week, though they tend to belong to the older generation. When I played piano for church, I would dress up for Christmas and Easter; I’ve always believed that I perform my best in situations that I dress nicely for. That was something one of my college speech professors stressed, and I’ve stood by it. That’s probably as good a reason as any as to why I still dress up for school: every day is a performance!

I’ve struggled a bit with seeing my own kids wear a T-shirt and shorts to church at times. I’ve decided it’s not a battle worth fighting. If the kids are more comfortable, maybe they’ll be better prepared to pay attention during the ceremony. And it’s clear I’m not the only parent who has decided to forego the issue. After all, Jesus and his disciples wore the equivalent of togas and sandals, right?

And see, there’s one thing that bothers me a bit: footwear. I’ve never been one to walk around barefoot or to wear anything on my feet that show off the actual foot. I like to keep my feet covered up; they’re not my finest feature. I always worry about if they smell too. If I’m walking around outside in the summer, there may be sweat involved. Eww.

I think I deal better with seeing people in sandals than those horrid flip-flops. The latter are just nasty. Have you ever looked where your foot goes after wearing them for about a month? Folks, the color has changed. There’s that sweat factor again. Ugh. And that’s to say nothing of the sound; flip-flops may actually be onomatopoeic, making the sound of their name. If your footwear is so loose that it’s flip-flopping down the hall, that can’t be good for your foot, can it?

Who knows, maybe I am a bit old-fashioned after all. I do know this: I’d much rather wear a tie seven days a week than expose my feet to the general public as I go tramping along in flimsily-constructed footwear!

Word of the Week: This week’s word is pullulate, which means to swarm or teem, as in, “The flip-flops were pullulating with germs which increased by the day.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!

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