Sunday, March 27, 2011

“Oh, Please Don’t Touch The Tie! Just Tell Me What’s Wrong.” – The Problem of Soiled Ties

Last October, just as I was getting ready to be introduced before my presentation on “Simple Verbal & Nonverbal Skills for Creating a Highly Favorable First Impression” at the Project Management Institute’s Global Congress 2010 North America held in National Harbor, Md., I quietly asked a woman seated in the front row whether my hair looked combed and whether the tie and shirt collar were in alignment. [During the previous 15 minutes or so, I had been struggling with some of the equipment in the room.] Apparently, everything was not okay with the way I looked because this person raised her hands with alacrity to center my tie, at which point I instantly recoiled and blurted out “Oh, please don’t touch the tie!”

Since there wasn’t sufficient time for me to run to the men’s room and fine tune my attire, I quickly took out a clean handkerchief, placed it on the knot of the tie, and said to that helpful woman, “OK, now go ahead and straighten it,” thus ensuring that she wouldn’t be touching the knot with her bare hands. And while she was engaged in all that manipulation, I politely explained to her and to the couple of others looking on in bemusement that one should never ever touch a tie, especially the length that goes into the making of the knot, unless one’s hands have been freshly washed. Why? Because each time you tie a knot with even mildly unclean hands, the natural oils and any dirt on the fingers leave a stain on the tie—a stain that is, of course, indiscernible at first but which, with repeated tying of the knot with oily or dirty hands, will develop into a dark and ugly patch.

Indeed, it is not uncommon to see men who are in high positions and frequently grace television don ties that are clearly soiled around the knot. See video link in next blog post. [BTW, if you have not noticed anyone wearing soiled ties so far, you certainly will after reading this blog post.]

Solution. So, what is a man to do? Because ties don’t take kindly to dry cleaning, and since there are supposedly only a handful of highly reliable dry cleaners in the nation when it comes to ties, here is my two-part solution, something that I have been practicing for over 15 years: First, just before putting on a tie, wash your hands with soap and water and then dry them thoroughly. Second, when untying the knot, simply use a fresh, clean tissue or something equivalent as a membrane between your fingers and the tie. This will obviate the need to wash and dry your hands when removing a tie.

Let me know if you have a better idea.

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