It started when 89-year-old Jerry Pratt marched into Minneapolis’s WCCO-TV station three years ago and grabbed newsman Don Shelby by the necktie.
“He’s my favorite anchor, and I got sick and tired of looking at the big knot in his tie every night,” says Pratt, a retired U.S. Chamber of Commerce executive. So he decided to teach Emmy Award-winning journalist Shelby, 42, to tie a cravat his way. “One of the first things people look at is a man’s tie,” explains Pratt, now 92.
As a favor to his fan, Shelby began wearing “Jerry’s knot” during his newscasts—little suspecting that, three years later, he’d become the hottest thing in neck wear.
Early last summer a St. Paul men’s store spotted Shelby’s fashion statement, dubbed it the Shelby Knot, “the first new knot for men in over 50 years,” and mailed a how-to diagram to its customers. In August the New York Times took note of the knot and consulted the Neckwear Association of America, who agreed that it must be new since it wasn’t included in Gelling Knotted—188 Knots for Necks, the group’s exhaustive reference guide.
Since then, Shelby and Pratt have been bombarded with letters and phone calls from as far away as London inquiring about their breakthrough. Some are long-lost friends offering congratulations. Others question the originality of the knot, calling it a reverse half-Windsor that has been in use for half a century. (Pratt maintains that he came up with the knot on his own—some 50 years ago—while trying to get his tie to lie flat.)
Whatever the knot’s true origins, Shelby is enjoying all the attention. But he admits his daughters—Ashley, 12, Lacy, 10, and Delta, 9—are a bit annoyed by the hoopla. “They entered new schools this month,” he reports, “and their classmates are identifying them as ‘the knot guy’s children.’ ” Even so, Shelby’s happy with the development: “At least something,” he says, “will carry on the family name.”