One hazy lazy Sunday afternoon, Max decided to watch an old movie. He just loved old movies. He made himself a snack and got all cozy in a big overstuffed chair in front of the large television in the den of his house.
Max turned on the TV and began clicking through the channels until he found what seemed like a good movie. There was a pretty woman with pointy shoes and a handsome man with big teeth. It turned out to be an old Doris Day and Rock Hudson movie, and although Max had never heard of Doris Day or Rock Hudson, there was something about Rock that just seemed familiar, like an old pair of shoes.
Max soon began to notice that Rock had quite the sense of style, but he was wearing something around his neck that Max was unfamiliar with.
“Hey Mom!” Shouted Max.
“Yes Darling?” His mother called back.
“What is Rock Hudson wearing around his neck in this old movie?”
His mother walked in and had a look. “That is a neckerchief, Max.”
“Why, what’s a neckerchief Mom?” Max asked, rather perplexed.
“Well, it’s like the tie that your Dad wears to work, but it’s more for casual affairs. Just something to spice up one’s outfit.”
“I like neckerchiefs Mom! I want to wear a neckerchief too! Just like Rock Hudson!”
His mother laughed. “Son, nobody wears a neckerchief anymore! Ha ha ha ha!” His mother, though not intentionally cruel, left the room laughing.
Max, a little hurt, but determined, settled back in to watch the rest of the movie. He decided that after it was over, he would find a neckerchief to wear and he would wear it everywhere. He was going to bring back the neckerchief!
Max stretched as the movie ended and turned off the TV. “Now to find myself a neckerchief!”
Max went into his room and opened his drawers. He had never seen a neckerchief in his drawers, but he had never thought to look for one. So he dug through his socks and then through his underwear and then through his tee shirts, but there was nothing that looked like a neckerchief.
“Hmmm,” He pondered and pondered. “Where would I find a neckerchief? Maybe Dad has one!” So Max walked into his parent’s bedroom and pulled a chair up to their dresser. He opened the top drawer first. Max looked around and began pulling things out.
“That’s not a neckerchief. Nor is that. Dad has matches. Dad can play with matches because he’s an adult.” He pulled out a box of candy. Max thought about slipping one into his pocket for later, but knew he should ask first.
No luck in that drawer so Max opened the next one. He dug through his Dad’s socks and then his Dad’s underwear and finally his Dad’s tee shirts, but still, nothing that looked like a neckerchief. Then Max remembered that his Dad kept his ties in the closet, so he carried in the chair and turned on the light. All the ties were on a crazy looking contraption that moved when you pushed the button. Max pushed the button marked SLOW and the ties began moving around. He waited patiently as the ties went along, but soon got bored, so he pushed the FAST button and ties began moving faster and FASTER until Max got so dizzy that he had to stop.
“No neckerchiefs there!” He said disappointedly. Max went into the kitchen where his mother was drying her freshly painted toenails on the edge of the oven door.
“Mom, can I ask you something?”
“Of course Max!”
“What’s a neckerchief made out of?”
“Well, let’s see, it’s just a hanky or a square piece of silk that you roll, then twist and tie around your neck.”
Max looked confused.
“Hand me a paper towel and I’ll show you.”
Max tore a cheerily decorated paper towel off the roll and handed it to her. “Here Mom!”
His mother folded the paper towel into a triangle and began rolling it from the point to the long side, then she gave it a couple of twirls and wrapped it around Max’s neck. She tied a small knot in front and turned it to one side.
“There you are Max! Your very own neckerchief!”
“Thanks Mom!” Max ran into the hallway and looked in the giant mirror at himself. How smart he looked! How very much like Rock Hudson! He twisted the neckerchief from one side to the other until he decided the knot to the left seemed the most fashion forward. Then it occurred to him that something wasn’t right. “It’s not silk.” Max said to himself. He walked back into the kitchen and stood in front of his mother.
She smiled and said, “I like the knot to the left, Max. Very fashion forward!”
Max screwed up his face.
“Why what’s the matter, Max?” His mother looked concerned.
“Well Mom, I’m really glad you showed me how to make a neckerchief, but it’s still just a paper towel. It’s not silk and you said that neckerchiefs are made of silk, and I just can’t wear a paper towel to school. The kids will laugh at me!”
Max’s mother laughed, “Max, no one wears neckerchiefs anymore!”
“But Mom! I like neckerchiefs! I’m going to bring back the neckerchief”
“Oh Max!” His mother laughed, “I’ll tell you what. After my toenails dry, we’ll go to The Tie Shop downtown and find you a silk neckerchief! Would you like that?”
“Oh Mom, that would be terrific!” Max ran off to his room to get ready for his trip to The Tie Shop.
After Max was securely belted into the front seat, his mother drove them downtown to the best tie shop in town. She pulled into the empty space right in front of the shop.
“Just like Doris Day,” thought Max.
They walked into the store hand in hand and Max’s eyes opened wide. He had never seen so much silk, so many patterns, and so many colors. His mother tugged at his hand. “Come along Max, let’s ask at the counter for some help.”
“Please let me ask, Mom!”
“Okay, Max!” His mother said.
There was an older gentleman behind the counter. He had white hair and a neatly trimmed Van Dyke. His glasses were way down his nose and he was busy writing something.
“Excuse me.” Max asked politely.
The older gentleman looked over his glasses and then down at Max. “May I help you young man?” He sounded foreign.
“Yes, please. My name is Max and I’d like to buy a neckerchief.”
“A neckerchief? Nobody wears neckerchiefs anymore! Do you mean an Ascot?”
Max screwed up his face. “Mister, I don’t know what an Ascot is. I’m looking for a neckerchief.”
His mother smiled at the gentleman and said, “Max just saw a Rock Hudson movie and wants to wear a neckerchief just like his.”
“But nobody wears-“ The gentleman began, but then noticed that Max was wearing a rolled-up paper towel around his neck, and a big smile spread across his face. “Let’s find you the finest neckerchief we have Max!”
Max jumped up and down. The gentleman came around the counter and said, “You may call me Signore Cravattore. That is my name. I am from Italy and my family has been making ties for 500 years.”
“Wow!” Said Max.
Signore Cravattore took Max’s hand and lead him through the shop. “What color would you like your neckerchief to be?”
“Azure is my favorite color!”
“Ah, the color of the Bay of Naples, where my family is from; in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius. That is a volcano, you know.”
“A volcano? Wow!” Signore Cravattore was the most exciting person Max had ever met.
Signore Cravattore pulled out a tray of azure colored silk neckerchiefs, all with different patterns.
“Now you must pick out the pattern you like.” He said.
Max was overwhelmed. He looked and looked. There were bees, and ferns, and trees, and monkeys and just about everything he could imagine. Finally, Max saw the one he had to have. It was a beautiful scarf of azure silk covered with small gold lions. It was outlined with a beautiful gold stripe.
“This is the one I want. The one with the lions.” Max waited till Signore Cravattore gently pulled the silk scarf from the pile and handed it to him.
“The little gentleman has excellent taste. The finest Italian silk and the lion is a sign of royalty, you know.”
“Wow!” Max said. “May I try it on?”
“Please allow me.” Signore Cravattore rolled up the neckerchief, gave it a couple of twirls and wrapped it around Max’s neck. Then he tied it in a knot that wispily danced on Max’s neck. “Have a look Max.” Max turned to look in the mirror. He couldn’t believe his eyes. It was the most beautiful neckerchief he had ever seen. He thought it was even more beautiful than Rock Hudson’s. But wait! Something was wrong. Max screwed up his face.
“What’s wrong Max?” Signore Cravattore and Max’s mother both asked at the same time.
Max held up a finger then jauntily turned the knot to the left. The three of them laughed and laughed. Max had his neckerchief.
Max could hardly sleep that night he was so excited about wearing his new neckerchief to school. He was up early and had already picked out his ensemble when his mother came into his room.
“Why Max! You’re up already!” His mother said.
“I sure am, Mom! I’m excited to go to school today.”
“You’re not excited to show off your new neckerchief, are you?” She smiled at him.
Max looked aside and blushed. “I guess I am Mom.”
“Good. You enjoy your neckerchief. It’s sure to be a hit!”
Max had a good breakfast of oatmeal and toast with jam and then walked to the bus stop, proudly wearing his new azure neckerchief with the gold lions. Waiting at the bus stop was his best friend Evan.
“Hi Evan!” Max said running up to his friend.
“Hey Max!” Evan said. “Say, what’s that around your neck?”
“It’s a neckerchief. Rock Hudson used to wear one. Do you like it?”
Evan looked and looked. “Who’s Rock Hudson?” He finally asked.
“He’s an old movie star. He wore a neckerchief in a movie I watched this weekend and I knew that I had to wear one too. Do you like it?”
Evan was quiet for a while. “I don’t know yet, but you better not let Tommy see you wearing it or he’ll tease you.”
“Hmmm. I don’t care what Tommy thinks.” Max finally said.
“Hi Evan. Hi there Maaaaaax.” It was Ella. “What’s that around your neck, Max?” She asked.
“It’s a neckerchief, Ella.” Max tweaked it to the left. “Do you like it?” He held up his chin to show it off.
“I like everything you wear Max! It’s divine.” Ella sighed.
“Do you like it now Evan?” Max turned back to Evan.
“I’m still thinking about it Max.”
Just then the bus pulled up and the doors swung wide open. The three of them climbed on board and said hello to Bruce, the bus driver. Everyone loved Bruce the bus driver.
“Well, hello Max. Is that a neckerchief you’re wearing around your neck? Bruce asked.
Max was excited that someone knew what it was. “It is Bruce! Rock Hudson was wearing one in an old movie I watched this weekend and I knew I had to wear one too. Do you like it?”
“It’s you Max. It’s certainly you.” Bruce answered smiling. “Grab your seat so we can get a move on.”
Max looked down the aisle for an empty seat, but the only seat left was right next to Tommy Flanagan, the class bully. Max didn’t want to sit next to him, but there was nowhere else to sit.
Tommy leaned back against the window and folded his arms as Max sat down. “Hello Max. How are you today?”
“Fine, thank you Tommy.” Max adjusted his neckerchief. “How are you?”
Tommy leaned in close to Max and stuck his finger under the neckerchief. “What’s this Max? A dog collar?”
“Very funny, Tommy. It’s a neckerchief.”
“What the heck is that?” Tommy asked, pulling Max a little closer.
“Stop it Tommy! You’re going to stretch it. It’s fine silk!”
“Whatever. I wouldn’t be caught dead wearing something like that!” Tommy said. He gave the neckerchief a hard tug and let it snap back.
“Some things are not for some people, Tommy.” Max was hurt, but he adjusted his neckerchief and made sure the knot was to the left.
Max got to school but his neckerchief was not well received. Jimmy said it looked like something his grandmother would wear. Amy said that her mom’s kitchen curtains were made with the same fabric, and Tommy told everyone that Max was wearing a dog collar! Poor Max was devastated. He wanted to take the neckerchief off and throw it away. Finally, the lunch bell rang and while the rest of the kids went off to eat, Max sat at his desk feeling miserable.
His teacher, Miss Herring, asked, “Max is something troubling you? By the way, I like your neckerchief. You don’t see those very often anymore.”
Max brightened. “Thanks Miss Herring, but that’s my problem. Everyone is making fun of my neckerchief. I don’t know what to do. I want to keep it, but I’m getting tired of everyone teasing me.”
“Well Max, I think people sometimes make fun of things they don’t understand. Perhaps if we explain what a neckerchief is, they would understand it and stop teasing you.”
“Okay, but how are we going to do that?” Max asked.
“I have an idea!” Said Miss Herring. “You run along and have your lunch and I’m going to organize a little surprise for everyone this afternoon.”
“Thanks Miss Herring, you’re the best!” Max went off to lunch, feeling a little better, but not quite caring if the knot on his neckerchief was to the left or to the right or hanging straight down.
That afternoon Miss Herring made an announcement, “Children, I have a special guest today for art!”
They all turned to the door. In walked Bruce the bus driver, and much to Max’s delight, Bruce was wearing a bright red neckerchief!”
“Hi kids!” Bruce smiled and waved.
Tommy yelled out, “Hey, Bruce has a dog collar on too!” He laughed, but he laughed alone. Everyone loved Bruce the bus driver.
“Actually Tommy, it’s a neckerchief and not a dog collar.” Bruce pointed out.
Evan raised his hand, “What exactly is a neckerchief for, Bruce?”
“Well, Evan not too many people are sure of the exact origins of neckwear but they do agree that it was popularized by Croatian horsemen in the Thirty Years’ War around 1648.”
“My grandmother is Croatian!” Said Evan.
“Yes, I know Evan. King Louis XIV hired these Croatian horsemen, and they wore small-knotted neckerchiefs that distinguished them from everyone else. When the Croatians returned to the King to celebrate their victory, he noticed their neckerchiefs and began wearing them as well. Everyone wanted to please the king so they became very popular in his Court. After several centuries, neckerchiefs once again became popular with the Jet Set and Hollywood types in the 1930’s, long before any of you were born, and still can be seen in many wonderful old movies. Anyone have any questions?”
Jimmy’s hand went up. “How do you know so much about neckerchiefs, Bruce?”
“Well my Father, Signore Cravattore, owns The Tie Shop downtown. Our family has been making ties for 500 years!”
“Wow!” The class all said in unison.
“That’s where I got my neckerchief, Bruce.” Max said. “Your father helped me pick it out!”
“I know, Max. He told me about you and your neckerchief!”
“I want a neckerchief!” Jimmy yelled.
“So do I!” Echoed Amy
“Me too!” Everyone turned to see who had said that. It was Tommy Flanagan. “I want one too. They’re cool!”
Max proudly tweaked his neckerchief knot to the left.
Miss Herring said, “I’m glad that you’re all so excited about neckerchiefs because I’ve decided that for art time, we’re each going to make and decorate our own neckerchief!” Miss Herring then pulled out a large roll of paper towels and a bucket of colored markers.
A cheer went up from the entire class, but the loudest cheer came from Max. He was happy that he had brought back the neckerchief, but he was especially happy because his neckerchief was the only one made of genuine one hundred percent silk.