Ever since Adam and Eve failed to follow their deity’s dietary advice, mankind has been cursed with clothing and, worse, conversations about what to wear at work. In particular, the tie is a constant source of consternation: are they outmoded, anachronistic, or still the best way for a man to look smart?
Honestly, it really doesn’t matter any more. The only people who comment on clothing in the office are people who want their own to be noticed. It’s the same rule with haircuts; people focussing on their work have much better things to be getting on with. Of course, there are some exceptions when a discussion of men’s fashion is appropriate in the workplace, for example, if you work in the armed forces, Antartica, or are a butler.
But if you’re none of those things, you may still be concerned that your dress sense will be criticised. After all, in the last month, Jeremy Paxman has garnered a healthy amount of commentary on his decision to ditch his neckwear – yet another Newsnight scandal. Meanwhile, the BBC’s new acting director general was forced into a U-turn on the topic, donning a navy blue number after a pensioner complained that he looked unprofessional.
So what are the rules on wearing a tie, and when is it appropriate to do so?
1. When meeting the Queen.
2. When attending a funeral.
3. Whenever you feel like it.
And when shouldn’t you wear a tie?
1. When visiting an industrial chemical plant.
2. When using wood grinding equipment.
3. Whenever you don’t feel like it.
Many aspects of office etiquette do still apply in the modern world. Wearing a suit is a good idea, because it makes you blend in. Being polite and shaking hands is also probably a good career move. But fretting about whether to strangle yourself with a slip of silk is really quite unnecessary.
It’s surprising that the tie has been considered important for so long. After all, there are far superior items of smart clothing that are now anachronistic. Take breeches, for example. They’re perfect for cycling to work in, and are warm enough for outdoor work, while still not too stuffy for overheated modern workplaces. Woollen suit trousers are far inferior in comparison.
Nonetheless, the tie persists because not wearing one can often be too much of a statement – making you look like a city trader or a 1980s advertising executive. The trick is really just to wear something smart and focus on your work, instead. Work maketh the man, as it were, while clothes merely keep him warm.
The tie doesn’t even achieve that, but if you’re going to wear one, how should you tie it?
1. Tie it, leave your top button undone and loosen the tie, pulling it slightly to one side. This makes you look as though you’ve been having a really tough day in the office, or have just rolled off the last train home after a heavy night out. This look is particularly favoured by journalists who want to pretend to be in All The President’s Men.
2. Tie it tight, leave it fat. This look is favoured in Essex and by Premiership footballers. It derives from an early style of tying a cravat, I believe.
3. Tie it as you always tie it, and concentrate on something else instead.