Jewish World Review Nov. 6, 2002 / 2 Kislev, 5763

David Grimes

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Consumer Reports

A noose by any other name ... | In perhaps the most important legal battle since Wile E. Coyote took on the Acme Co., a British man is suing his employer for forcing him to wear a necktie to work.

Ian Jarman, 46, is suing Job Center Plus, a government employment agency that instituted its necktie requirement earlier this year.

"It is ridiculous," Jarman told the Associated Press. "I have done this job for 26 years without wearing a tie and it has never affected my ability to do the job."

Jarman claims that the necktie rule is sex discrimination because female employees are allowed to wear open-necked blouses. The company's management, which has apparently suffered brain damage due to prolonged necktie strangulation, argues that men must wear ties to project a professional image.

I have long been a staunch opponent of neckties, a stance that is perhaps a little odd given the fact that I do most of my work at home in my bathrobe. Still, there are occasions when social pressures require me to don my tie (I own only one) and I am reminded of what an evil, dangerous and absolutely unnecessary fashion accessory this thing is.

There's that old saying, "clothes make the man." What most people don't realize is that this is only part of the old saying.

The complete old saying is "clothes make the man feel like he is being slowly asphyxiated." My guess is that the old saying was never completed because the person who wrote it was wearing a necktie and passed out from oxygen deprivation before he could finish his thought.

But it is unlikely that ties will be banned simply because they are uncomfortable.

Fashion has never paid the slightest heed to comfort, as anyone who has ever worn high heels, a bra and pantyhose can attest. (This is not to imply that I can attest in any way to the comfort or lack thereof of high heels, bras and pantyhose unless you count that Halloween party back in '86, which I personally do not.)

Those who defend neckties invariably fall back on the tired and utterly baseless argument that a tie projects a professional image.

What a tie more often projects is the fact that you A) Have no taste, B) Cannot tie your shoes, much less a four-in-hand, or C) Had spaghetti and meatballs for lunch.

Taste, of course, is a matter of individual opinion, but wear a necktie and everyone suddenly becomes a fashion critic.

People who wouldn't think of reproving a woman for her choice in makeup or footwear have no qualms whatsoever in critiquing a man's necktie.

"Did your family give you that as a joke gift on Father's Day?" is a fairly typical comment, as is "My uncle had a tie like that. Of course, he was blind."

Ties look stupid for the simple reason that they are stupid. The purpose of a necktie, from what I've read, is to conceal the buttons of a man's shirt.

No one has yet explained exactly what it is about shirt buttons that is so offensive. I am looking at my shirt buttons right now and, try as I might, I cannot summon any discomfort, embarrassment or outrage.

It seems odd to me that a society that can tolerate pierced tongues, purple hair and thongs on 250-pound men has a problem with shirt buttons.

There is also the myth that wearing a tie makes you smart or dignified. A great many ties are worn by politicians and corporate executives, which should tell you something about the connection between ethics and knotted silk.

In conclusion, ties are a menace to society over and above the fact that they can get caught in the garbage disposal or flop into our soup.

And for those people who think I will back down on this important issue, I can only quote President Bush:

"They misunderestimated me."

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JWR contributor David Grimes is a columnist for The Sarasota Herald Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


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© 2002, Sarasota Herald Tribune