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Last weekend, I participated in my favorite of Christmas traditions: trading in all my gifts for shit that I actually want. And for the most part, it went as expected.

Sales were plundered. Sizes were corrected. Puppy-dog eyes were dispensed to account for missing receipts…

But in one final moment, a salesman turned the whole endeavor into a lesson on style, brand loyalty and what I will henceforth be referring to as the Brotherhood of the Bow Tie (trademark pending). And I’d like to thank him for that.

You see, the whole exchange started off without any fanfare. After a full day, I’d arrived at a Brooks Brothers outpost* with the intention of replacing a rather, ahem, loud bow tie that I had received from my brother for Christmas with something more low-key. (It was burnt-orange and purple, eek; but it’s the thought that counts.)

Of course, I gravitated directly toward the shop’s more expensive cravatery. And upon selecting a handsome gray-and-maroon square-end number, which I knew not to be an even exchange and would end up costing me a bit out-of-pocket, I made my way to the register.

This is where things got interesting.

As I lay both bow ties on the counter and explained the exchange, the older gentleman manning the post (sporting a bow himself) looked up at me skeptically. “You sure you want another bow tie?” he asked in seeming disbelief. “We have regular neckties.”

I laughed and nodded casually. This wasn’t the first time I’d been questioned about a neckwear choice. It certainly would not be the last.

He was unconvinced, however. “For some special occasion? Heading down south?”

I smiled, shook my head. “Nope, just the occasional change of pace.”

Wide-eyed though he was, he seemed to accept this answer, and with a smirk rang me up. This took longer than I expected for such a simple exchange. At the time, I attributed the fiddling and button-pressing to that old grudge between octogenarians and touchscreens. But when he then told me that I was “all set” with a wink and a smile, and handed me my receipt, I wasn’t so sure. Noting my confusion, he reassured me that everything was taken care of and sent me on my way. How could that be right, though? I owed the man probably 40 bucks, so somehow he must have miscalculated.

But miscalculated he had not. Instead, he’d manipulated. The evidence was right there in the receipt: the second tie, discounted 38.855%, dead even in pricing with that Cheeto-colored eyesore.

Now, I can’t say for sure why this fellow took the extra effort to make my cravat-swap that much more affordable. Maybe he was just feeling generous. Or maybe there was an oddly specific sale going on that was not advertised anywhere. But I like to believe that maybe, just maybe, it was a torch being passed. A genuine moment of humanity to bridge the gap between two generations of menswear enthusiasts.

Or maybe I’m overthinking things. Regardless though, I think I’ll be stopping by that store a bit more often now. Not for under-the-table discounts, but for the camaraderie.

Though the discounts definitely don’t suck.

—S.P.

*Store location omitted. I want to thank the man, not get him fired.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Stephen Praetorius