Wednesday, 5 August 2009

The Ties that Bind

The comments on my last post seemed to raise many questions. Sadly, the only ones I understood fully were "Do I wear a tie?" and "Why did I choose such a silly name for this blog?". So I'll address the first one today. I might look at the other one some time.

In short, the answer is my favourite one - yes and no. To be somewhat more informative, I can elaborate this slightly to say that yes, I wear a tie at work, but no, I don't usually wear a tie at any other time. It takes something really special for me to tie up outside work - weddings, funerals, christenings, meetings with David Cameron and the like.

Those examples give a clue as to why I wear one at work. It is, quite simply, a mark of respect. Clients meet with me, and offer me the respect of paying a (frankly) exorbitant hourly fee. In return, the least I can do is (a) pay attention to their suggestions as to how I should spend my time instructions as to what they want me to do for them and (b) look a bit smart. Bluntly, they pay my wages - being smart is a way of saying thank you.

And that is why I consistently disagree with my partners who point out that many clients now visit us without suits and ties. That is, I argue, their prerogative. They, after all, are paying the piper. If they want to turn up in a clown outfit and do headstands in my conference room, then provided they hurt no-one and pay the bill then that is just fine. I will neither laugh, point, or giggle (while they're in the building, at least).

Under pressure from others, I experimented with a middle way for a while, putting on a suit and tie when I knew I would be meeting a client and not bothering on other days. The problem is that leaves you inflexible - you need at least a day's notice of any meeting. Clients absolutely love it if they hear you offer to drop in that afternoon to talk something through, and in the end I grew frustrated. Yes, there was a greater degree of comfort some days, but I grew to find the loss of spontaneity even more irritating.

And that, to my mind, is the odd thing. These days, I spend all day with a tie on and do not notice the cervical constriction that it imposes - until I arrive home. Then, suddenly, it feels uncomfortable and the tie has to come off, there and then, in the hallway.


  1. "It is, quite simply, a mark of respect."

    Precisely, which is why David Cameron ought to wear one rather than trying to look casual and informal, like he's some kind of chum to us all. For him not to wear a tie is patronising.

  2. Time for someone to start an equality campaign, demanding that all women in formal workplaces have to wear suits - even in the heat of summer.

  3. I don't think you can achieve equality in this sphere simply because women have to wear bits of underwear that men don't. I've never worn such underwear (obviously), but I guess they can be hot and uncomfortable, so I suspect if we required women to wear suits, they would be within their rights to require us to wear women's underwear. The only men who would be happy with that are probably wearing it already.

  4. On the other hand, Albert, DC seems to wear one when at work (in the Commons Chamber) and not when outside. Maybe he is "tailoring" his appearance to the audience?

    As for LfaT's suggestion, I must admit to being tempted. And I feel sure that Albert's objection could be resolved in a fair and equitable manner, by a balanced package of regulatory measures - strengthening smartness requirements where needed and allowing additional comfort-related regulatory relaxation in other less visible areas?

  5. I don't wear a tie. But then, I'm not a lawyer, so I guess it doesn't matter.

    If I was an MP, of course... Well, I'll be honest, I still would not wear a tie. I would be a representative of the people, and the vast majority of them wear ties rarely at best. The business of Government may be important (although the jury's still out on that, I say) but it is still just business.

    Would you rather your MPs spend their hours on their appearance, or their work?

  6. I keep my suit jacket and tie easily to hand I can make myself smarter quicker than Superman could put on his red pants.

    Unfortunately this morning I was caught short because our receptionist showed the client in before I had a chance to say jackrabbit.

  7. Sorry Patently, are you saying you would be tempted to wear women's underwear (provided a range of regulations ensured smartness and comfort)? Perhaps Measured and I were on the wrong track when we thought it was your tie that would disclose your personality...

    Stu I think the point about ties is that almost all men wear them for formal occasions and occasions when they need to show respect for others (funerals, weddings, job interviews, important meetings etc.). So for a working MP not to wear a tie, implies he lacks respect or doesn't take his work (or his people) seriously.

    No I don't think MPs should spend hours on their appearance instead of their work. The nice thing about a tie is that it takes seconds not hours to make a man look smart, and the trouble it costs him is a simple reminder of the importance of the occasion he is attending.

  8. No Albert, I'm not, although I commend your efforts to misinterpret my comment!

    Your past comments suggest a close involvement on your part in the Church. Is that not the profession where the men mostly wear dresses? I should be careful, then, if that is the case. People in glass houses, etc.

    Blue - I did wonder about that. A colleague does it. I think I'm just not organised enough, though. And I have a glass-fronted office, so the secretaries might object.

    Stu, I can see why you don't wear a tie now. But if you became PM and went off to meet the Queen, or Obama, or another head of state, I'd like to think you would wear a tie for that. You would, after all, be representing all of us so any discourtesy would be expressed on behalf of us all.

    The Chamber would be less formal than meeting His Barackness, but more formal that your current office. I think it would fall above the threshold that must exist somewhere between the two...

  9. I've been known to wear some unusual clothing in my time, but nothing that could be called a dress. However, there may be some fierce Scottish Highlanders who might take offence at your insinuation that wearing a skirt is on a par with wearing women's underwear.

  10. Do they have the Internet up there?

  11. Let it be known that I wore a full Price Charlie and kilt to my own wedding. I would probably tone that down somewhat for a visit with the Blessed Obamassiah, but perhaps not for Her Majesty...

    But the Commons Chamber? Nobody else seems to treat it with any respect, not its members and certainly not the public. I don't see why a great charade should be made, why the semblance of sartorial seriousness should be maintained, for such a disgraced and perverted institution as the Palace of Westminster. Let Black Rod refuse me passage if he likes, for I should not even by my appearance recognise the pretence of dignity nor the sham of respectability that that House, laughably, imagines itself to be held in; all the better to mask their contempt for the populace that they still claim to serve. Nay, a Parliament of dogs and whores it is, and thus shall it be known to all. How could I ever wear a tie in such a place?

    Nah, just kidding really. I'd probably shine my bloody shoes. But it sounded good, eh?

  12. Stu, it not only sounded good, but I was actually coming to agree with you.

  13. You have all got your thinking into knots, discussing ladies' underwear and skirts! Yes, enough of peccadillos. Back to ties.

    Respect, Patently? Who's kidding who? Reassurance. Clients and colleagues need to know you are capable.

    I will not prevaricate. Men wear ties for:
    i. respect
    ii. reassurance
    iii. recognition of status/position
    iv. expectations
    v. manners
    vi. confidence vs insecurity
    v. habit ...........

    Not an exhaustive list and some overlap. Individuals' priori*ties* differ too. These days it is a choice that is at the discretion of the individual as it is not common to be ostracised for not wearing a tie, is it? I like shirts with collars and then a tie can be in your pocket, but no rules, regulations or laws, please.

    Albert, DC with his background in marketing knows precisely what he is doing when he does not wear a tie. When he is PM, bet your bottom dollar, er.. no..pound, he will wear a tie more frequently.

    LFAT, that is enough of you being provocative. Though this be thwarted if women had to wear a uniform, assuming that they do not already conform? Thinking about equality though, is it fair that it is easier to pull a tie off than undo the back of a bra? there is a thought. ;-)

  14. Thank you for not betting a euro, Measured.

    Reassurance ... yes, you probably have a point.