Q: What makes otherwise sane, normal, caring people persist in trying to force men to spend the whole of their working lives with a noose around their neck?
A: Fetish (Merriam-Webster): an object of irrational reverence or obsessive devotion.
I have nothing against ties per se, but I have long thought that the blind insistence that they are the one and only means by which a man can look smart, is irrational and, frankly, somewhat odd. With the rather obvious exceptions of the wimple and the dog-collar, no other item of clothing today, for either men or women, is treated as an almost religious symbol of piety and virtue in quite the same way as the tie. The mere wearing of a badly tied and dubiously stained tie bestows on its wearer, in the eyes of many, an unassailable aura of probity and sartorial elegance, while its absence plunges the hapless, though comfortable, non-wearer into the abyss of lazy, incompetent ineptitude.
I have been following, and participating in, the comments on several newspaper blogs on this subject recently and have come to the conclusion that, if we discount the theory that the tie is a substitute religious vestment, the insistence on others wearing one can only be regarded as fetishism. I looked up “fetish” on the Oxford and Merriam-Webster online dictionaries. Being of a charitable nature, I put the definitions involving sartorially-related sexual habits on the back burner for the moment, but, even if we discount these, the following two definitions seem do sum up quite well the irrational, illogical and objectively unjustifiable attitude of the “tie-or-die” brigade.
Fetish (Oxford): An excessive and irrational devotion or commitment to a particular thing.
Fetish (Merriam-Webster): an object of irrational reverence or obsessive devotion.
The arguments in favour of forcing men to wear ties are always subjective, usually pompous and opinionated, and often downright nonsensical. I have tried to summarise some of the comments I have come across in blogs on the subject, with my response:
“I just think they look nice”
Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and, as in the case with Granny here, may succeed in charming others into giving in. That’s fine, but not all men like to be treated like children.
…and in a similar vein… “I think they are sooooo sexy…”
OK – perhaps even ties have their good points.
“Today, the tie is largely a workplace accessory, used to neatly demarcate work and leisure time”
Sorry, this is nonsense: if a man needs a tie to tell whether or not he is at work, he has bigger problems than his dress sense. I wonder what on earth the poor women are supposed to do, since they no longer have any compulsory items of work wear to help them decide if they are in the office or at home?
The argument that I find the most pathetic, though, is “wearing a tie shows respect for the other person“.
I find the idea that a man has to show respect by tying a leash about his neck almost feudal in its expectation of servility. Must a man also touch his forelock to show respect? Should we still expect women to curtsy and look down demurely at the floor as a token of respect? I am afraid that if your only way of recognising respect involves the other person wearing a tie, psychiatric help may be in order.
If we accept this argument, how on Earth do women manage to show respect? They rarely wear a suit, even more rarely a tie, and would certainly shout “sexism” at the top of their voices if they were forced to dress as uniformly as men.
By all means wear a tie if you want to (and I often do), but don’t try to force others to do so using the false argument of “showing respect”.
To come back to my original thesis, there is absolutely no logical reason to insist on men wearing ties. Those who do so are merely trying to inflict their own tastes and stereotypes on others. The fact that some folk place so much value on such a meaningless piece of cloth, and judge themselves and others on that basis, is a clear example of a fetish: an excessive and irrational devotion or commitment to a particular thing.
So, by all means complain every time you see a politician or news presenter in an open-necked shirt. Whine about the good old days of doublet and hose. Remember with nostalgia the days when men were men, and women made the coffee. Don’t think, though, that you have the moral high ground. At the end of the day, insisting that a man wears a tie is no different to insisting that a woman wears high heels, a leather mini-skirt, or fishnet stockings.