It is no secret that Richard Branson does not care for ties, and he’s trying to convince everyone and their mom to get on his bandwagon. He has gone so far as to promote people to carry scissors around and cut off other people’s ties (which brings to mind scenes from my beloved The Wire when the homicide detectives would cut off their sleeping-on-the-job compatriots’ ties). As you can imagine, I am not the first men’s style site to pick up on this (check here and here), and I am sure I will not be the last.
It seems that his main argument against the wearing of ties is that they represent some form of old school stodgy business and that they limit creative thinking; not to mention they can be uncomfortable. Although I agree in parts to the first and third ideas; I could not disagree more with the second. But before I go further I should say that I am not of the opinion that men should always wear a tie, nor do I think they should always not wear a tie. But I do believe there is and should be a sizable place in a man’s wardrobe for his ties.
In another, more detailed article for his column over at Entrepreneur Sir Branson (he was knighted in 2000) also makes the argument that suits and ties are obsolete in the workplace. Which again, I disagree with; but I do understand his point and rationale. Personally, I think he overlooks the fact that there are some professions that require the wearing of a suit and tie; law (mainly while in the courtroom), politics and banking come to mind first. Then there are also certain establishments (like certain restaurants and clubs) that require a jacket and tie; but his case is primarily against ties for work, not for social settings. That said, I take most issue with his argument that ties can serve to limit creativity.
Let’s think how ties could potentially limit one’s creativity. As Sir Branson says, they can be uncomfortable which can distract people from creative thinking. In my years I have never really connected my creative thoughts to my comfort level. You see, I think you are either creative or you are not. I don’t think that it is necessarily something that you are born with (although some people may be), but it is something that you can bring out in yourself. I think creative thoughts and ideas can come from any state of mind; intoxicated or sober, comfortable or uncomfortable, naked or clothed, sitting or standing… You get the point.
And then there is a whole other way to think about the issue. What if wearing a suit actually helps someone be creative? What if some men take joy in pairing the tie with their shirt, shoes, socks, suit suspenders and pocket square. I know I do. What if this is their creative outlet? I remember when I worked as an auditor at Deloitte. Putting together my day’s dress was sometimes the highlight my day before I could sneak in a nap in the cafeteria at lunch; or if I was feeling particularly unmotivated I would even get a few minutes a shut eye on the toiler. Sad, I know; but perhaps you should go be an auditor and get back to me on that. No matter what I did, I did not find near the joy in pairing together a simple dress shirt and pants as I did when pairing together the various elements that go with a suit.
Personally, I enjoy wearing suits. However, I often get annoyed when people ask me why I am wearing a suit. Sometimes there is no reason, I just felt like it. What say you to that Sir Branson?
Like me, there are other men who enjoy wearing suits (and ties), for a variety of reasons. A tie can mean many things to different men. So, what if some men prefer to wear a jacket and tie? What if that is how they feel most comfortable? What if that is what they think they look best wearing? Some men even think of a suit as a form of armor (emotional armor, no doubt). Others think of it as a uniform or status symbol. Oh, and women seem to think of a man in suit and tie as some form of sex symbol.
I’d be lying if I said I haven’t had more than one girl tell me that she wouldn’t mind if I were to tie her up with my tie, no doubt sometimes inspired by the habits of one Christian Grey. Excuse me for a moment, but I find it pretty damn hard to argue with that.
But after all of this, Sir Branson does admit that he will don a tie when absolutely necessary, such as when attending state dinners. So I suppose all is not lost.