A Defense of Neckties

A Defense of Neckties


Ladies and Gentlemen, I understand why you may find the necktie distasteful. It has been abused by corporate intentions, slandered as a tool of conformist oppression and diminished as a symbol of repressed desire. It’s a con to get men to spend money on unnecessary clothing. It is true that the Hollywood protagonist, when realizing that he just has to follow his heart to be free, tears off his tie. However, these same criticisms are not unique to the necktie, they can be levied against, say, pants, or dental hygiene—it’s just less dramatic to show Clooney not brushing. People who bandy about these criticisms of the tie tend to be people who don’t want to wear them in the first place, to which I say, “It is a free country. If they do not love you, let them go and look like slobs.” The necktie is the subtle apex of sartorial innovation and evolution, the modern man’s termite-grabbing-stick, pheromone gland, and coconut-breaking-rock all rolled into one swath of silk.

We in the Western world no longer need to carry around wooden staffs or swords, a wonder of civilization in its own right. Rising up to take that place is this supple length of fabric, allowing a man to simultaneously evoke his phallus while declaring his allegiance to the ideals of liberal democracy. “Ladies,” the well-knotted Windsor says, “I am engaged in exchanges in the marketplace of ideas and my fingers are skilled enough at intricate tasks to be desired in an erotic situation. Also, should we be attacked by forces unknown, I have at my disposal a handcuff for our enemies, a zipline for our escape, and a tourniquet to salve all wounds, all in one well-appointed paisley pattern.” Obviously, the tie is not only for the heteronormative ideal of masculinity, but can and has been adapted for all ways of life. As Jack Donaghy pointed out on this week’s episode of 30 Rock, “Where I come from, if you have more than two colors on your tie, you’re looking for a certain kind of bar.” Oh, the wonders of sartorial communication!

Furthermore, the tie indicates intention. Even if your plans are lounging around, polishing off left-over Taco Bell and watching reruns of Mystery Science Theater 3000, at least in a tie you can do it purposefully. I put on a tie before I sat down to write this. Why? Because it meant I was ready to work. It gave me someplace to start from so that I could devolve, after coffee and frustrations and writers block and cigarettes and distractions and Johnny Walker, to underpants and bloodshot eyes. If I had started there, all I would have written would have been, “Tie. Good. Dress.” Faulkner, Fitzgerald, Cheever, Roth, Bellows, Ginsberg—those guys all wore ties all the time. You know who doesn’t wear ties? Stephen King. Neither did Raymond Carver, but he didn’t wear pants all that often either, allowing him to rise above these spurious criticisms.

Finally, the necktie, properly executed and willfully worn, offers a certain degree of indemnity against judgment for the dissolute behaviors that the skinny-jeaned, three-wolf-shirted, crushingly-ironic youth-of-today are engaged in. The necktie is the passkey of assumptions. “Yes officer, I realize it must look suspicious that I am walking away from the Micky D’s with a statue of Ronald and pocket full of play-pit balls. No officer, I just need to deliver these to a board meeting. I believe you’re looking for the guy in the thermal and New Kids on the Block T-shirt. I saw him drinking Four Loko around the corner. And good luck to you, sir!”

Carl Atiya Swanson

Photo: William Faulkner, as seen on This Recording