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Your hands aren’t tied by the past

Photo credit: WikiMedia Commons

By Jason Hertz
Staff Writer

Neckties are silly and need to stop being worn. Because previous generations were expected to do the same, doesn’t mean we have to. At the risk of inferring general opinion, you are already aware of this plight.

Knowing the origins of the tie and still choosing to wear one is even more ludicrous than the reasons we still use them. Since I want to see absurd and dangerous fashion choices diminish, I want to let you know the history of ties too.

In the mid-seventeenth century, during the Thirty Years’ War between most of Central Europe, King Louis XIII hired Croatian mercenaries to help defeat the Habsburg-led Holy Roman Empire. The war would exact a terrible cost from everyone involved, which would not repeat until the two World Wars. But, one product of this tragic period would live on neckwear as fashion.

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Members of the French court imitated soldiers as a way of coming across as manly and commanding. Set the enlightenment when you will. But toxic masculinity was the standard in this time. Throughout the war, the trend continued.

Young men adopted military garb despite never having set foot on a battlefield. Their purpose was numerous but pointed to imposing social standing on one another.

The greater a peacock could make his plumage, the greater his social rewards. Naturally, when the fierce Croatians came to stay in Paris, their uniforms became the latest fashion. That standard included a brightly colored strip of cloth around their necks.

When boy-King Louis XIII made appearances at courtly parties and was asked what manner of garb he wore around his neck, he responded simply, “la cravate;” and the still-used name for the French necktie was christened. Supposedly, the King named it to honor the soldiers who inspired the look. But that may be an example of period propaganda meant to boost the King’s image as a benevolent ruler. After a period of time, the cravat lengthened and changed shapes. Thus, morphing into the neck accouterments we wear today.  

The Croatians, like most soldiers-turned-fashion-heralds, originally had a practical use for their cravat. It served to tie the tops of their jackets shut when necessary. But one man’s function is another’s fashion and the neckties of today only serve as a social expectation. They are an answer to a series of unspoken questions: are you dressed appropriately? Are you aware of this carefully curated atmosphere? And will you fall into line as your superiors have dictated?

Is it not absurd to realize that today we wear decorative strips of cloth tied tight around one of the most vital parts of our bodies because four centuries ago a young aristocrat wanted to seem tough to impress a girl?

I insist that ties are an antiquated social mechanic meant for a more authoritarian age. In a world built on freedom of choice, the next generation should be rebuking all but the best-intentioned social practices. And we, students of higher education, should be the ones in the best position to argue for that change. I fully support freedom of fashion choice. Some people pull ties off very well, but they should not be a requirement of business dress.

Doctors don’t wear neckties anymore because they capture and transport germs well. Factory workers banned ties for getting trapped in machinery causing terrifying injuries. And even in low-risk jobs, they cause neck and shoulder pain. This is because they restrict the range of motion and blood flow.

Neckties may be an absurd remnant of professional culture, but what they represent is anything but silly. Necktie wearers risk discomfort and pain. In some cases, they risk death for their superiors. So, let’s see those buttons, young professionals.