Ford takes the latter approach: "The putative leader of the free world cannot tie a necktie properly." And he justifies his attention to the seemingly trivial by asking if it might "reflect weightier issues of self-discipline, competence and integrity?" And we, the readers, might ask if a law professor's enterprise of seeking meaning in the President's necktie might reflect "weightier issues of self-discipline, competence and integrity?" That is, does the professor begin with the necktie and find meaning in it, or did the professor begin with an opinion of the President and then ascribe that meaning to the necktie? What would the necktie mean if you loved President Trump? If the meaning would be different, then you're not analyzing the necktie.
Ford gets into some good detail:
Perfectly symmetrical knots with centered dimples betray an obsessive-compulsive personality. The Italians have mastered the insouciance of the slightly off-center knot — some even leave the narrower end a bit longer, letting it peek out from behind the thicker one in front, as if to say, I really couldn’t be bothered to redo it.And political self-awareness:
Trump partisans may well complain: Why is the Italian imperfect tie-knot considered chic and the presidential idiosyncrasy déclassé? Isn’t this a double standard set up by liberal elitists?I'd say double standards are an important part of the perception of fashion. The right stylish person can take something low class and make it elegant. And something stylish, widely adopted by gross people, can become horrible. I don't think elitists are imposing the standards. It's more about who's wearing what. That's why new fashions look so good: You only see them on models and styled-up stars. When that stuff finds its way onto the bodies of ordinary people, it looks dowdy and sad. Of course.
Ford's theory is that "the Italian" is showing "an aristocratic disdain for the trappings of masculine potency," but Trump's "symmetrical but overlong tie stands out like a rehearsed macho boast, crass and overcompensating." The Italian is high-class ("aristocratic") and not hung up on masculinity, while the billionaire betrays his low-class grasping at machismo. Does this theory save Ford from the "liberal elitist" charge? Why the love for a quality that feels to him like Italian aristocracy? Why the attitude about the wrongness of too much masculinity?
Ford does not progress that deeply into the subject. I guess the NYT reader is imagined to accept the notion that that "Italian" has it just right. There's only a picture of Trump at the link, so The Italian is a picture in your head. And doesn't he look excellent, your stereotype, this Italian?
The picture of Trump shows him exiting a plane with the tie flying backward in the wind, revealing, on its underside, an X of cellophane tape:
This is the opposite of the Italian’s devil-may-care. It betrays a devil who cares too much — and about the wrong things. Whereas the slightly imperfect tie knot demonstrates nonchalance, the badly tied and taped tie suggests a desperate but failed bid to look “correct.” It’s not only a failure, but also a fraud, a paper moon artlessly stuck over a cardboard sea.So it's both haphazard — artless —and too careful? What's fraudulent about taping something in place? And why isn't that damned Italian considered overcareful in his taking the trouble to "master" the "slightly off-center knot"? The answer is easy: It's all in your head. You like this Italian, and you don't like Trump. Ask yourself, Professor Ford, if you caught a glimpse of the underside of Barack Obama's tie and there was tape, would you not find that "insouciant" and "devil-may-care"? It's like those models who make clothes feel like fashion: The person creates the mood. The perception is in your head.
Mr. Trump’s neckties tell us something about his social and political ties. He has made the persona of the loud, tacky mogul a sort of trademark.Oh, come on! It's the other way around! Trump's persona caused you to think about his tie the way you did. Here's Bernie Sanders in approximately the same tie:
What does it mean now?