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Tie One On

I hate ties. I always have. It began with the discomfort of having to wear one. I don’t like anything that is too snug to my neck. Once confronted with the discomfort, my disdain for ties quickly developed further because I asked the simple question “Why?” and have never heard a valid argument in favor of them. I look at a man with a tie, and two words come to mind: “impractical” and “conformist.”

Were ties created to act as an adult bib to protect your shirt? If so, they were far too narrow. Were they at least intended as a readily available napkin for wiping your mouth? If so, they should not be made of fine fabrics and, besides, who would continue to wear a soiled garment the entire day? If only ties were that practical.

No, the history of the tie seems to have originated with merely superficial aesthetic ornamentation. It seems some Croatian soldiers wore tie-like scarves, and a French king took a fancy to them and decided to adopt the garment as yet another frilly pouf of Renaissance fashion. The tie quickly became a way to express any number of things — with color, pattern, material, and other attributes being used to mark various social affiliations, such as what college one attended, or one’s nationality. What’s ironic about this is that men like Honore de Balzac and Baudelaire wrote and spoke about the tie as a mark of individuality, yet every parameter used to describe ties involved symbols of membership and conformity. To be truly individual, one would have to not wear a tie at all!

Yes, today ties do come in thousands of colors, patterns, and fabrics and most men select them without regard to symbolic meaning, but more for pure aesthetics — except for the men who choose ties that have Escher-esque patterns of Yankees logos or Bugs Bunnies. Moreover, the tie itself serves no functional purpose. Wearing one — especially having to wear one — is still a mark of impractical conformity.

Most of all, today, I think of the tie as a corporate dog leash. This has become especially true in the post-dot-bomb era, when many companies are looking for any excuse to downsize, even if they have to resort to the silly tactic of enforcing a dress code that is stricter than business casual. Rather than being judged by the content of their minds and character, men today are still being hired and promoted based on whether they dress according to a dress code that began hundreds of years ago with a foppish king.

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By Christian Lee

Christian Stuart Lee's Rants and Chants has entertained and informed readers since January 2002. Rants and Chants includes non-fiction writing -- anecdotes, essays, movie reviews, and more. He is diligently working on a novel and other projects, which he hopes to publish soon. He is available for freelance writing -- the materials in Rants and Chants will give you a sense of his interests, knowledge, and style.