OPINION: Tied to town and now a ‘strange’ tradition

Conor BuckleyGeraldton Guardian
The store sold suits and formal shirts. But not ties?
Camera IconThe store sold suits and formal shirts. But not ties? Credit: vasaleks/Getty Images/iStockphoto

At the end of 2019, I moved from Geraldton. It was a wrench as I had moved with my family from Ireland in 2009 to take up a teaching position.

I thought we were coming for a few years — three at the most but ended up staying for 11 years. I moved school once and home two more times.

Over the years, we deepened our roots. When my wife went through a fairly scary time with a serious illness, Medicare, our school and church supported us throughout that time. We bought our home, I trod the boards with Theatre 8, became an Australian citizen, our oldest children left school, my youngest became his primary school head boy, and we became grandparents. We felt settled in Geraldton.

Then the job situation changed. Numbers at the school dropped, and my position was made redundant. It was a stressful time, and a new job in Perth’s northern suburbs did alleviate the financial pressure. We moved; I felt that our ties to Geraldton were being severed.

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At the beginning of September, I attended the wedding of a former student.

Coming to Geraldton and staying in an Airbnb was distinctly odd; I was a tourist in the town that had a claim on 11 years of my life.

Then disaster struck — there was a wardrobe crisis. I had my suit but forgot to pack a tie. I rang three Geraldton friends, but no answer. I realised I had no choice. I would have to buy a shopping centre tie.

I walked up and down the men’s aisle in the department store, searching to no avail. When I eventually found a shop assistant, she told me the store didn’t sell them any more. Another assistant said to me that no shop sold ties for men in Geraldton. I was confused — the store sold suits and formal shirts. But not ties? And could it be true that no other shop sold them?

Certainly, none that I could find on a Saturday morning. It turns out that the Geraldton shops are not alone. The pandemic isn’t to blame, as one American report might suggest. In October last year, the Guardian (in the UK) reported that Marks & Spencer, the British retail giant, was cutting back the space devoted to selling suits.

Sales of ties had reduced 6 per cent, suits 7 per cent, and formal jackets 10 per sent. There is, seemingly, a change (lessening?) in standards.

Major financial institutions such as Goldman Sachs don’t require ties.

Young men, says a commentator, are “are more interested in fashion and more confident about choosing outfits” and therefore less reliant on the so-called, “safe uniform” of a suit. I’m not convinced by this argument. The suit is no more a safe option than a white wedding dress.

Anyone who knows me will cheerfully acknowledge that I am no Adonis. Yet I do scrub up well, particularly in a suit.

A local charity store came to the rescue, as they always do for so many in greater need than mine. I dread to think that the suit, which has served men well for over 150 years, will soon be no more.

My ties to Geraldton are not wholly severed. But it would seem that ties for Geraldton men have been.

* Conor Buckley is a teacher and a sartorial traditionalist

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