Christmas cliches: Ties

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Ties are the classic duff present -gifts from mythical aunts with bad taste. If comedians and sit-coms are to be believed, ties given at Christmas are destined for the darkest corner of a wardrobe or the jumble sale. But it doesn't have to be this way and most tie-wearing men would be only too happy to receive one on the 25th December - provided, of course, it was to their taste. But don't let a little thing like personal taste get in the way. According to the assistants in all the tie stores I visited, few men have the faintest idea what they like on the tie-front. Legend has it that the dark tie with contrasting spots has always been bought by the man wearing it. While the tie covered with discreet flowers or animals (elephants usually) has been bought with guidance from a store assistant, wife or partner. As for the guy in the tie emblazoned with Mickey Mouse or Donald Duck, well, it's obvious: it's either a present from his four-year-old, or he's mad.

Large department stores usually have wide selections of designer and own-label ties. Selfridges is particularly good. Although designer names impress, avoid this year's drab offerings from Armani and Calvin Klein. To call them vile would be generous. Try Yves St Laurent, Paul Smith and Gucci instead. All their ties start at around pounds 45. A look at these designs will remind you that Seventies colours and patterns are de rigueur, as are one-colour ties, especially if they're hot orange or pink, electric green or blue, and the silk is textured. These should be worn with a shirt in a contrasting colour unless you want to look like Robert de Niro in Casino.

If these are beyond your budget head for Marks and Spencer who, as usual, are top of the heap for good value. You will almost certainly see something similar to the Paul Smith and Thomas Pink ties shown far left for between pounds 10 and pounds 18. And as this trend for wild ties may prove to be nothing more than a one season-wonder, a tenner is about all you'd want to spend for three-months' wear. Alternatively you could try your local charity shop, where there'll certainly be a rack of Seventies' ties.

Should you want to buy something classic that will last for years without drawing too much attention, then Pink also has a very good selection in fashionable colours with safe, small prints. Assistants are extremely helpful and you can certainly return a tie if it's greeted with looks of utter horror. Not that many of their designs are in that league.

If you are overcome by the desire to buy a Christmas-themed tie then tread very carefully. Anything with Father Christmas, snowmen or red-nosed reindeer can really only be worn for the office party and three days over Christmas. They are also naff. The soldiers on the right by Fornasetti, pounds 49.95, look like "drummers drumming" or "lords a leaping", taking a break from their festive activities. These are just about acceptable. Best for those with show-off tendencies.

The real problem with ties, it seems, is that above all else they are seen as a fail-safe guide to a man's character. By wearing the wrong (or possibly right) tie a man will expose himself as vain, boring, insane or a pratt - which is presumably why most men are happy to be given them because they can always blame someone else for the statement they've knotted round their necks.

Small pictures from top left: Yves St Laurent, pounds 45; dark green and light green spotted tie, both pounds 49.95, Paul Smith, bronze tie, Thomas Pink pounds 39, Paul Smith, pounds 49 and blue floral, pounds 34.95 Selfridges own label; Safe small prints from: Gucci, Pink, Selfridges, and Salvatorre Ferragamo. Right, Soldiers pounds 49.95 Fornasetti.