– 7 modern functions of a tie
– Look cool, conquer worlds
– Convey the right signals
When I wrote for the fashion magazine Men’s Style Australia, lots of young dudes would ask, why a tie? That is, what’s the point, purpose or principle of wearing neck ties?!
Guys, it’s simple. Your necktie is the single, loudest, most important, visual cue to who you are and where you’re going in life. (And if you prefer to look like a juvenile dork and wear a hoodie to a business meeting like Zuckerberg, fine; but make a few billion first if you want to be taken seriously.)
Blame (or thank) the Croats (or French).
In 1635, Croatian mercenaries went to Paris to support King Louis XIII and fashionable Parisians were mightily impressed by the trendy coloured scarves the Croats wore around their necks. Parisians then started wearing neck scarves ‘a la croate’, which led to cravat, or necktie.
Older examples are found on the life-size terracotta soldiers buried with Chinese emperor Shih Huang Ti in 210 BC, each wearing a silk cloth around its neck. Early neckties are also depicted on Roman columns. But let’s give the prize to the Croats for popularising the necktie.
So the historical message is clear: look cool, conquer worlds at the same time by wearing a tie. (You wouldn’t argue with history, would you?)
Neckwear has always been functional. Cicero and other statesmen tied strips of wool around their necks to warm their vocal cords on chilly days. The neckties of those Croatian mercenaries tied to the top of their jackets.
Ties have flourished for five centuries because they’ve always been functional; it’s just that the functions have evolved.
The 7 Modern Functions of your ties:
- To neatly demarcate work from leisure The tie is a workplace accessory; it shouts “business!” You wear different clothes for play time.
- To signify your transition into the adult world and proclaim that you take your work seriously. Oscar Wilde nailed it, “A well-tied tie is the first serious step in life.” Ties are for grown-ups.
- To comfort your audience. Your comfort, ease, and self-indulgence are trivial and unimportant. It’s the desired effect on your audience that matters. Maybe you think you’re cool wearing juvenile clothing but if your audience sees visual pollution it will not enhance your prospects in any serious, adult, worldly, business endeavour. “Looking good isn’t self-importance; it’s self-respect.” – Charles Hix
- To conceal the buttons on a shirt, which are functional rather than attractive. Thus ties are not worn with formal dress shirts which generally have concealed buttons.
- To set a point of difference between you and everybody else. It’s your chance to display something about yourself. Says John Miln, former chairman of the Guild of British Tie Makers, “Your eyes are drawn to a tie. It’s still very much part of a man’s wardrobe.”
- To broadcast your chosen signals: Ties communicate visually, powerfully and instantly everything you want the viewer to know about who you are and where you’re going in life. That’s a big payoff for a little necklet of silk.
To elaborate: ties work for you by communicating your socio-economic class, style, and aspirations. The basic purpose of wearing a tie is to convey that you possess certain desirable attributes, eg, trustworthiness, reliability, dependability. Ties are a visual statement of who you think you are (even if you’re not there yet).
Oscar Wilde sums it up, “With an evening coat and a white tie, anybody, even a stock broker, can gain a reputation for being civilized.” Ties confer respectability on anybody.
Oh, and by the way, a tie is comfortable. It’s uncomfortable only if it’s too tight or your shirt collar is too small. (Re-tie the knot, dummy!)
7. They look damn good and make you look damn good.
Bottom Line: In 1897, the Sears catalogue declared that “An untied man is an untidy man.”
In 2016, nothing’s changed.
Dr Duff Watkins’s articles appear in Men’s Style Australia, Sydney Morning Herald, Company Director Magazine, and many others. He hosts the AmCham Business Podcast and is Director of ExecSearch International- Australia.
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