Billionaire Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Group, does not wear neckties. He doesn’t have a dress code at any of his offices. He hates neckties. In fact, his bio on his Twitter page literally starts out as describing himself as “Tie-loathing.” He believes such strict codes of dress and conduct are not conducive to a productive work environment. (Read an older article on it here). For that matter, there are a few other massively successful people you never see in neckties anymore. Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg come to mind.
I’m a lawyer by trade, so sometimes I have to wear ties to court or whatever, and I always hate it. Neckties are tight, they are uncomfortable, and they serve no practical purpose. I was once told that the primary purpose of a necktie is to hide the buttons on the front of a dress shirt. I suppose that seems feasible, but I have no idea if that’s true and it doesn’t actually make any sense. Is showing your shirt buttons a fashion faux-pas?
Why do I Hate Neckties?
Oh, so many reasons. As I mentioned, they are uncomfortable. When buttoned all the way to the top, the collar of a dress shirt should fit snugly around your neck without being tight or digging into the skin. However, that is markedly more uncomfortable than just having the top button unbuttoned. Add to that less-than-comfortable situation a necktie that needs to be tight against the collar, and it’s multilayered discomfort. One theory suggests that having something around your neck symbolizes the need to keep your head down and get work done. This also means loosening your tie at the end of the day is a sign that work is done. I don’t know about that. To me that’s just Al Bundy fashion.
Neckties are also expensive. Sure, not cheap ones at Walmart, but still. Even at Kohl’s, which is generally seen as a reasonably priced store, the average necktie is around $20. Twenty dollars? For something that’s uncomfortable? And you can’t even wear the same one every day without looking like a psychopath? What’s the point? And as the materials themselves get less uncomfortable, the price goes up. A silk tie from a luxury brand like Hermes can be as much as $200! Imagine that! Two hundred dollars could by way more important stuff like food, alcohol, gas, or other, less stupid articles of clothing.
Neckties are difficult to clean. Here in Texas we eat a lot of salsa and queso and ranch dressing and barbecue sauce. Those are four very spillable foodstuffs, and I reckon I’ve had at least four ounces of barbecue sauce on my neckties through the years. (Quick shoutout to Lockhart Smokehouse for having brisket so good it doesn’t need sauce, as brisket should be). When that happens, you either: 1. try washing it in the machines or by hand if it’s a cheap enough tie; 2. throw it away if it’s a cheap enough tie; 3. save it for a more practical use like using as a tourniquet if you’re bleeding; or 4. spend a weirdly large amount to have it dry cleaned, at which point the stain still may not come out.
I have never looked at someone who was wearing a tie and thought, “Wow! That person deserves respect!” My reactions alternate between seeing someone who is just trying to look more important than they are or wondering why on earth neckties exist.
And then there’s the fact that neckties have varying degrees of formality. Unreal. All of the sudden I have this uncomfortable bit of formal wear that I can’t wear to work unless it’s casual Friday? Or maybe it’s a themed tie that can really only be worn around specific holidays? What?! So I have some goofy Santa Claus themed tie that I wear once a year? Seems silly. But at the same time, you can’t wear too nice of a tie because then you’ll look like you’re wearing a James Bond tuxedo in your JCPenney suit. Unreal.
I’m Not Advocating Eliminating Neckties
I’m not. I promise. If people want to wear neckties, go for it. If companies want to have dress codes, they are well within their right to do that. Same thing with restaurants, grocery stores, whatever. Incidentally, this logic also applies to facemasks. If Kroger says you can’t shop without a mask, they are within their right to do so as a private business. They are not violating your constitutional rights because they are not a state actor. But I digress.
Personally, I hope that the only times I ever have to wear a tie again are in court (because let’s face it, that standard isn’t changing anytime soon), or at a super formal event that I’m in some way obligated to go to. That said, I’m never going to make fun of someone for wearing a tie or advocate for their abolition or anything of that nature. If there’s one thing I believe in, it’s personal liberty. If you feel like doing your daily living in old tighty-whities and Crocs and nothing else, I will 100% judge you for it, but I believe it’s your God-given right to do it.
But I do think that folks generally accomplish more and feel better when they have more control over their environment. For me, that means not wearing neckties, listening to music a little louder than most would like, and being able to kick my shoes off if I want to. If for you that means three-piece wool suits with $200 silk Hermes neckties, $1,500 custom Italian leather wingtips, and a gallon of product in your hair, then by all means, Gordon Gecko it up. Whatever you do, don’t come crying to me when you spill barbecue sauce on your $200 tie.