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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

Fry’s Ties: The Life and Times of a Tie Collection by Stephen Fry

To while away the time during a Covid lockdown, British comedian Stephen Fry foraged through long-forsaken wardrobes and chests of drawers and rediscovered his outrageously large collection of ties. He amused himself by creating Instagram posts about them, one tie at a time.

His many appreciative followers begged him to turn these into a book, so over a hundred ties later, Fry’s Ties was born. Told with his quintessential British sense of humour, I found this little book great fun to dip into.

A full-page photograph of each tie is accompanied by witty anecdotes about the history of the fashion house where it was designed, the menswear shop from which he acquired it, and why it proved irresistible.

Fry’s obsession with ties began early in life with some grand silk ones he inherited from his grandfather. By the time he was fifteen he had already accumulated more than forty from charity shops, jumble sales and church fairs. As his income grew, he was able to afford ties created by some of the world’s most illustrious designers such as Gianni Versace, Christian Lacroix, Lanvin and Hermes.

Fry shops for ties all over the world. When in London he loves to stroll down Jermyn Street which has been the ‘spiritual home’ of British neckties for the better part of three hundred years and where there are several high-end men’s wear shops. But he also has a soft spot for good old Marks and Spencer’s.

In New York he once could not resist following Andy Warhol into Gianni Versace where he was instantly approached by a forbidding henchman. He panicked and bought a tie. In Australia he picked a tie with a tiny jockey motif for Melbourne Cup Day. And in New Zealand, where he spent time filming Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug he bought a luxurious Robert Charles silk tie, designed here and handmade in Italy.

Fry’s taste in ties is truly eclectic! His formal elegant ties which hark back to his membership of an exclusive club or to his private school days do not appeal to me at all. I am entranced by his playful and arty ties, ones covered in liquorice allsorts, frogs, dalmatians, pandas and Disney characters or beautiful paisley patterns.

‘Anyone can wear a tie,’ says Fry. ‘All you need is a neck, and a shirt and a feel for color.’ But few do. They really do not go with our more relaxed lifestyle.

But what goes around often comes around in the world of fashion. Should that happen a copy of Fry’s Ties would come in very handy for those who do not know how to knot a tie. Six pages are devoted to showing different ways a tie can be tied!

In the meantime, Fry’s Ties is a thoroughly relaxing and humorous read. Anyone with an eye for fashion would enjoy it.

Reviewer: Lyn Potter

Michael Joseph


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