COLUMN: Rebel, gentlemen, and untie yourselves

There it was, hanging innocently enough on the rack on the wall.

There it was, hanging innocently enough on the rack on the wall.

Colourful, unthreatening, but still, under its silky exterior lurked a snake with a cruel legacy.

I pondered. I debated. I weighed the consequences.

There was no way out of it.

With resignation, I wound the ligature around my neck.

It was a tie day.

I am very fortunate. I don’t have many mandatory tie days. Open dress shirts and sweaters are acceptable in my office environment.

It’s with both empathy and sympathy when I consider those men for whom every day is a tie day.

Shower, shave, and fasten on the fashionable noose.

Apart from the utterly purposeless function of this particular clothing accessory, what is truly remarkable about the necktie is that it has lasted as long as it has.

Apparently, we have Louis XIV to thank for its 17th century introduction into the mainstream of male attire. The story goes that he saw some Croatian soldiers wearing a bit of cloth under their chins. Ignoring the possibility that they may have had sore throats, or have been messy eaters, Louis immediately seized upon this as fashion genius and began sporting his own piece of neck-strung fabric.

You would have thought his male peers would have said, “Louis, you old poofter! Lose the silly chest rag!”

But no. Louis obviously had major clothing mojo, because everyone else started to wear what became the necktie, and the staple of the well-dressed man.

Now, the world of fashion changes constantly, and is chronically fickle. In that environment, the tie ought to have gone the way of white spats or whalebone corsets. But, again, no.

This infernal device has doggedly hung on through bowler hats, bell bottoms, and checkered suits.

And most confoundingly, it has done so despite the fact that it is a source of discomfort.

What’s the stereotypical reaction of a man under duress? He runs a finger around the inside of his tie-bound collar.

What’s one of the first things a guy does when he gets home after a long day at the office? He loosens his tie, or takes the cursed thing off altogether.

Gentlemen, why do we put up with this?

Think about it…

Let’s take a narrow length of cloth, and wrap it around our throats. Yes, put a knot in it so it has a death-grip on your larynx. And not just any knot – a special square, flat pattern that requires countless hours in front of a mirror to learn. Some will never quite get it, and they will look like uncultured clods.

Each one of these chunks of cloth will cost you about $50, and you’ll need a least a dozen so you can change colours every day.

And they’ll go out of style every so often, so you’ll have to invest in longer, wider and shorter, and big stripes versus thin stripes.

Purpose? None, really. We just voluntarily garrot ourselves in the morning and stay that way all day.

Madness you say? Well, who’s tolerating this?

What if crazy Louis had spotted soldiers frolicking about with garlands of ostrich feathers around their mid-riffs? Would that be accepted with similar male stoicism spanning centuries?

Why do we do such penance? The tie offers no redemption from real or imagined sins. It teaches no lessons. It symbolizes no devotion other than  that of conformity.

Men of the world! Rise up!

Cast the yokes from your throats!

Untie yourselves!

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