Good Luck With That: To Tie, or Not To Tie?

Jan 24, 2020

  photo of Charlie MillerTony Bennet is into his nineties and still performing. He credits his popularity with the younger generation to the fact he wears a necktie. According to Tony, “You have to be different”.  He always was a sharp dresser. Dhani Jones, retired NFL linebacker, likes to rock a bow tie. He said, “Just because you wear a bow tie doesn’t mean you’re a Nerd”. After his NFL career, Jones found a charity organization called  “Bow Tie Cause” to raise money for various charitable causes. And  Rick Kaplan of “The Kaplan Report” says, “Wearing a bow tie is a statement, almost an act of defiance.”  These three men, all successful in unrelated fields, have something in common. They all like to wear neckties. But I fear this is no longer the norm today. The tie has gone the way of the Fedoras and Homburgs. In my younger days, a sharp-dressed man would never think of leaving home without one. Today they have been replaced with a ball cap.  It makes me fear the haberdashers are becoming extinct.

When I began my career as a draughtsman there was a dress code. We all wore ties at the drawing boards. The only problem was, I didn’t know how to properly tie a necktie. My tie knots always looked half done. Then one of the older draftsmen took me aside and showed me the proper way to tie a Windsor knot. I’m still grateful to him today for teaching me that life skill. Button-down shirts, neckties, and dress slacks were the mandatory dress code for much of my career. Later, when I moved into engineering sales, a sports jacket was also required on sales calls. It didn’t matter if it was the hottest day of the year, it was mandatory to wear a jacket when meeting with a client. I can remember one client visit made with my boss. When we arrived, he donned a Navy-Blue Blazer that was pulled from beneath the seat of his car. He called it his “Power Jacket”. He was the boss. Who was I to doubt the sales energy emitting from his garb?  Although it was not required in the office, many of the older sales engineers wore a sports jacket out of habit to work every day.

But somewhere in the mid-1980s, the dress codes changed. Jackets and ties were replaced by knit polo shirts with funny little logos embroidered on the left breast. Little griffins, or guys riding polo horses became the new norm. Neckwear became passé. A new generation was taking over the business world and with it, the dress codes were changing. And I changed right along with them. The comfort of polo shirts can seduce you, especially on hot summer days. Today neckties seem to be reserved for weddings, funerals, and maybe a holiday or two. I see a few older men like me that wear neckties to Sunday service. And except for a few individuals at the annual company Christmas party, I don’t think I have ever seen any of my coworkers wear a necktie.

Daper Dave sporting old fashioned clothesA few years back I was feeling nostalgic and wanted to change my persona. I wanted to turn back time to the early days. I started to wear a necktie into the office every day. At the time I only had a few ties that I wore to weddings, funerals, and the occasional special event. But then I started to collect them. One of my favorite comedians was the late Harry Anderson. He once said, “Neckties satisfy man’s desire to dress in artwork”. This I can agree with. I’ve collected ties over the last several years and their designs range from the beautiful to the truly bizarre. I now have over 400 neckties and a few bowties as well. They cover just about any gambit you can imagine. I acquired most of these in used clothing stores. I rarely pay more than a dollar or two for a necktie. There is a special thrill to score a Jerry Garcia original in mint condition for .99 cents at Goodwill.  My wife also scouts out unusual neckties for me. She has a flair for colors and patterns and when she finds something she knows I would like she picks it up. I even have a few friends who know of my fetish and occasionally bring me an unusual necktie they found.

Doctor Donald Wright, MD, MPH, is the former Head of Health Care Quality for OSHA. He is also a fan of wearing neckties. He said, “The more you look like an executive the better treated you are. It catches people by surprise.” Dhani Jones says, “When you wear a (bow) tie, doors open for you. Your posture is a little more erect. Your shoulders a little further back. It is all about the reestablishment of a gentleman.” I don’t disagree with either of these two men. I believe wearing a necktie adds to your professionalism. People notice you more when you wear a tie. This may be because tie-wearing has become so uncommon in today’s business environment.

But it could be that things are swinging back. I’m noticing more young boys wearing neckties to Sunday Services. Some high school athletic coaches are enforcing a dress code including neckties worn when their teams travel to other schools to compete. And I know of one young lad who liked to be a sharp-dressed tie wearer in his grade school years. When I see young boys wearing ties, I always comment on them because it makes you feel good to be complimented on your tie.

Of course, it is a personal preference to wear a tie. Going tieless does not diminish your skills in any way. Tiger Woods’ father once told him, “Just because you dress in a coat and tie doesn’t influence your intelligence”.  That is true. You can be very successful in life and never wear a tie. But I would leave you with the wisdom of ZZ Top, “Every girl is crazy about a sharp dressed man”. If you don’t agree, well, good luck with that!