SMARTLY dressed Joe Higgison is never short of a colourful combo of shirt and tie to wear.
In fact, with a staggering collection of more than 400 ties and the same number of shirts, he’s more likely to be stuck for choice.
It means that if not he, then certainly wife Rebecca was hoping for sensible slippers rather than yet another crisp new shirt and tie for Christmas yesterday.
Joe, who has just retired from his job as one of Scotland’s oldest barmen, crams his outfits into a wardrobe at his home in Crawlees Crescent, Mayfield. The ties – hundreds bought specially to match new shirts and others which were given down the years by family and friends as his collection grew – are carefully hung up in rows on several tie hangers.
But while he mainly bought the combos for work, ironically in recent years he’s been unable to wear his fancy ties to his job behind the bar at The Sun Inn in Dalkeith – as the staff are all asked to wear matching, neutral ties.
Now he’s finally retired, however, Joe is set to break open the wardrobe to cut a dash once again in his often brightly coloured suit and tie combos.
Joe, 74, started his collection when he was working in marketing for the National Coal Board and had to wear a smart shirt and tie to work.
“I went through a lot of shirts,” he said. “Every time I bought a new shirt I’d think ‘I’d better buy a tie to match it’.
“So I have kipper ties, string ties, big ties, some with bright patterns, all colours. I wore a different festive tie every day leading up to Christmas. Some are a bit weird, but I like them. I keep them all on tie racks, nice and neat.”
Joe makes sure he looks smart whichever tie he opts to wear, tying it in a classic Windsor knot.
According to Joe, wife Rebecca, 67, has no problem with him taking up masses of wardrobe space with his collection. “It’s always been there,” he said. “And she’s used to it.”
Joe has even more opportunities to exploit his collection, now he has called time on his work at the busy gastropub where he’s worked for nearly 25 years. He started there in the early 90s after his marketing job with the NCB in Morrison Street was scrapped as the coal industry in Scotland collapsed.
That brought to an end more than 35 years in the mining industry, which had started when Joe was a 16-year-old working on the coal face at Lady Victoria Colliery, sorting coal from stones by hand.
While he had originally studied to be an engineer, health reasons prevented him venturing underground. And as wages above ground were lower, Joe started working in local pubs to help fund nights out. He worked part-time first at the Barley Bree in Easthouses and then at the Kirkhall Hotel in Gorebridge, where regulars often came to know him by his seemingly endless collection of shirts and ties.
Joe started work at The Sun Inn in the early 1990s, and during his time there it evolved into one of Scotland’s leading gastropubs, scooping AA Pub of the Year 2010-2011 and Scottish Gastro Pub of the Year 2011.
Now he is retiring, he might be gone from behind the bar, but like any good pub regular, he’s not going to be far away – he plans to continue working behind the scenes maintaining the pub’s precious pipes system.