Why A Tie?
Watching the trailer for ‘Rogue One’, the Star Wars prequel, you can’t help but be struck by the way it hits this decade’s most popular trope – the rebel girl. ‘On your own from the age of 15,’ says the commander, ‘reckless, aggressive and undisciplined,’ as if these are adequate job qualifications.
‘I rebel,’ says the stroppy, rather weedy heroine against a montage of her somehow finding the strength to thrash robots. Is this what rebellion has now come to mean? Once it meant not wearing a tie. Rebellion is non-conformity (not in Hollywood movies, though, where it clearly means being recruited into a military force). A tie is conformity.
The idea of wearing one mystifies me – I’ve been bought a few on silver salvers by flunkeys in swanky joints over the years, but my school required one and – along with a briefcase, another preparation for adulthood – the tie stayed around my neck until I started work.
It would have stayed longer but after my first boss saw me in one and confided that they nearly didn’t hire me because of it, I never wore one again. Not in the creative industries, you don’t. Besides, while some people look cool in a tie, I look like I’m being strangled.
When Swiss bank UBS published a 44-page dress code, which advised client-facing staff on everything from appropriate underwear to wearing ties and having neat haircuts, it was leaked and widely mocked. After all, this wasn’t in the Edwardian era but in 2010.
However, fashion houses reckon that ultimately people remember how you look, not what you say. (Of course they would say that, wouldn’t they?) Apparently people were more likely to describe themselves as ‘businesslike’ in smart clothes, and ‘easygoing’ when dressed casually. This research comes courtesy of the School of the Bleeding Obvious.
The modern necktie spread by Europe traces back to the time of the 30 Years’ War (1618–1648). That’s when Croatian mercenaries in French service, wearing their traditional small, knotted neckerchiefs, aroused the interest of the Parisians, so ties are another stupid thing we have to blame the French for, along with steak that bleeds and French Exploding Bread (croissants).
Due to the difference between the Croatian word for Croats, Hrvati, and the French word, Croates, the garment gained the name ‘cravat’, and boy-king Louis XIV began wearing a lacy one, Fotherington-Thomas style, in about 1646 when he was seven, thus setting the fashion for French nobility.
It started a huge craze in Europe (although not among the Poors of course); men and women wore pieces of fabric around their necks. The cravats were often tied in place by cravat strings, arranged neatly and tied in a bow. And now, over three and a half centuries later, we’re still stuck with the damned thing simply because no-one has come up with anything better.
Whenever we had an event at the Cannes film festival, my business partner insisted on all the men wearing tie-up bow-ties, and as he was the only person in the company who could tie a bow from the other side (facing you) he went around to everyone and did theirs for them. No-one wears a tie to a premiere unless they’re Orlando Bloom and can get away with it.
Meanwhile, we’re stuck with a hideously ugly item regarded by the naffest establishments as something they can kick you out for not having. And women complain that they have to wear high heels!