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Neckties? Contrary to obituaries, don’t write off the superfluous piece of attire anytime soon
Dennis Wyatt 2022
Dennis Wyatt

I no longer own a necktie.

The last one I had in my possession by now is likely in a Goodwill store.

It was in mint condition as it had never been worn.

Do not misunderstand.

I used to wear neckties all the time.

Back in the 1970s, it was a rule—  at least in what was then a small town like Lincoln in Placer County — that if you represented the high school, you wore a tie.

Football and basketball players wore ties at school on game day.

The same for those in Model United Nations, science competitions, FFA events, or if you competed in a Lions Club speech contest.

That said, it didn’t matter if your attire included wearing blue jeans, a “70s” style shirt with a design that would make the Partridge Family envious as long as it had a collar, and your “dress jacket” was a windbreaker.

My earliest recollection of wearing a neck tie was in 1964.

Dad was treating the family to a meal at a nicer sit-down steakhouse.

It wasn’t swanky, just a nice place with booths.

And given the large neon sign above the restaurant that advertised its signature item — a cut of steak for 99 cents — it clearly wasn’t Tavern on the Green of New York City fame.

Even so, we had to don ties and sportcoats. I was 6 at the time and my brothers were 10 and 14.

If you wanted to go to the eighth grade graduation dance, ties were mandatory for the boys.

For the most part, ties were the mainstay of formal occasions.

My previous employer at one point in the 1980s had a publisher — Bob Swan — who required all of his male reporting staff to wear ties and slacks at all times.

His preference was for males — at least those that thought they had a future with the paper — to wear at least a dress jacket, if not a suit.

The Press-Tribune in Roseville was the only newspaper in the Sacramento-Placer counties area to have such a requirement.

You could cover an event and look like you were auditioning for a bit part as an associate walking down the corridor of the law office in the TV show “Suits” while the partners were verbally duking it out.

And if a Sacramento Bee reporter was at the same event, depending upon who the sent, they could be wearing a Hawaiian shirt with shorts, be dressed like they picked their clothes from the clearance rack at the Salvation Army store, or were moonlighting as a Brooks Brothers model.

One of Swan’s points was that such a dress code would mean people would take you seriously.

Realizing he wasn’t exactly overpaying his staff; the bare minimum was a necktie.

Even if you were working by yourself in the office at midnight typing stories from a council meeting you had just covered for the next day’s afternoon edition, he wasn’t pleased if he walked in for some reason and saw you sans necktie banging away on your typewriter.

I admit, at times, it did get you “respect”.

One time when there was at a major highway accident at 3 a.m.

When I pulled up wearing a suit and tie and hauled my aluminum camera case out of the trunk, a CHP officer I had never seen before waved me past the police tape. He assumed I was from the coroner’s office.

Most of the time, it was plain bizarre.

Until he relaxed the requirement for “outdoor sporting events” if we were covering a football game — which involved taking notes and photos walking along the sidelines — we were expected to wear ties and preferably slacks.

That included covering Roseville-Oakmont baseball games on a 95-degree day.

And although Swan would allow deviations from his preference for slacks and even a suit jacket, he never wavered from the necktie requirement.

If you think such a requirement is old school in terms of American civilization, guess again.

Ancient versions of the necktie — or neckwear, if you will, for men — dates back at least to the year 221 when Zheng managed to unite China for the first time.

The neckwear, used to designate rank, can be found on the army of terra-cotta soldiers buried to guard the deceased leader after his reign.

A little bit closer to modern times, the European neckwear with direct lineage to what we consider neckties today appeared in France in 1618.

They were around the necks of Croatian mercenaries fighting in the 30 Year War from 1618 to 1648.

In the late 19th century and early 20th century in the United States, it wasn’t uncommon to see machinists — wearing vests for obvious reasons — and even delivery men wearing ties.

Ties are part of school uniforms of both girls and boys in many parts of the world.

They also are part of dress uniforms for militaries.

And it goes without saying they are part of the uniform for the corporate suite.

If you fast forward to today, you would assume neckties are slowly but surely following the path of the dodo bird.

The social media and traditional media reaction to President Joe Biden and former Presidents Barrack Obama and Bill Clinton showing up sans necktie to a Madison Square fundraiser prompted predictions the necktie was heading toward the cultural garbage heap.

Those who thought the trio was channeling their inner John Fetterman to blaze a new standard of dress where neckties would fade away and die, need to guess again.

Social media influencers are embracing neckties and such.

And they clearly aren’t of the type Donald Trump wraps around his neck.

Instagram fit pic men — a term describing the act of men documenting what they are wearing from head to toe and not a reference to muscle bound anatomy — are embracing knit ties with off patterns that would be scandalous on Wall Street.

Check out trendy clothing lines that aren’t aimed at consumers clinging to fossil fuels or flip through the pages of GQ, and you will see neckties are alive and well,

And they are far from 1950s sensibilities.

The idea of the necktie —  a superfluous piece of clothing if there ever was one — has worn out its welcome in civilization, is a bit premature.

There are 20 plus centuries of neckwear being imbedded in the psyche of civilization as being a way to preen and to telegraph status.

Neckwear has come a long way from 221 China.

And it’s likely that they have a long way to go.