One of the most popular father’s day gifts is a neck tie. According to Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at the NPD Group (a market research company), the typical American man owns about a dozen ties. Silk ties range in cost from $15 to $120. The tie industry saw its peak in the mid 1990s (with over $1 billion in sales), and has been dropping ever since. Specifically, in 2010, neck tie sales were down to $418 million. Part of the reason is that the dot.com boom traded power suits for casual wear as the new standard office attire. And for dressier occasions, it became fashionable to wear tie-less dress shirts and blazers. In short, men began buying less ties and recycling their old ones. Cohen adds, “”Men don’t throw away their ties. They collect them without trying.”
Which begs the question: what do you call someone who collects neck ties? Interestingly, a person who collects ties is a grabatologist. And this begs a followup question: who owns the largest neck tie collection in the world? That distinct honor belongs to Alex Bennet of Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia. Bennett, 28, an assistant manager at a clothing store when he was last interviewed in 2013, has been collecting ties for 25 years. His collection boasts more than 60,000 ties — so you can honestly believe his claim that he never wears the same tie twice. He also knows the 85 ways to tie a tie. And yes, he wears bow ties.
The inspiration for his expansive tie collection began with the gift of several ties from his maternal grandfather when he was a young lad. Then his paternal grandmother contributed to this initial collection by taking him to garage and estate sales to buy ties. Bennett explains, “I was buying [ties] with my allowance money. I was a weird little kid.” But you can interpret “weird” as stylish, and certainly out of place sartorially among his peers since he wore a suit and tie to school every day since the sixth grade. Naturally, Bennett was known around school as the “tie guy.” Bennett put up with all the hazing and is not tongue-tied (sorry, couldn’t resist) in his own defense: “I don’t care what anybody thinks. It never bothers me. I’ve been dong it so long.”
Bennett looks for old ties (think polyester, wide, with crazy, bright patterns): “The older they are, the more I want them.” Some of the oldest ties in his collection are more than 100 years old. He typically buys his ties one at a time, with one exception. Several years ago, the previous neck tie record-holder, Derryl Ogden, passed away. Guinness had authenticated his tie collection at 16,055. Bennett climbed into a car with his father and drove to Lincoln Nebraska. His collection grew dramatically when he paid $500 for about 20,000 ties. Of course, like any collector, Bennett has a clear favorite: a white tie with black polka dots made by Soprano, a London-based firm that was founded in 1992. And, naturally there is a story behind it: “I wanted this tie so badly. I saw it in a movie when I was a little kid . I looked and looked and looked and finally found it.” He finally found his Holy Grail at a T.J. Max store in Kennesaw, Georgia.
Although the black polka dot tie is Bennett’s favorite, it is not the most valuable tie in his collection. The most valuable tie in his collection is the Salvador Dali tie, which was made in the 1930s, and features one of the artist’s paintings. The tie is worth more than $600. But wearing the tie with a freshly pressed dress shirt and impeccably tailored jacket — priceless.
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For further reading: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2010-03-02/business/sc-biz-0302-ties–20100302_1_tie-makers-tom-julian-fashions