What Is Your Necktie Hiding?

If you’re wearing a necktie right now, you might want to take a moment to loosen it — especially if you’re a doctor.

Years after studies first found that dangerous bacteria routinely hitch rides on the neckties of doctors, U.K. health officials have banished the old four-in-hand, along with jewelry and long sleeves, from their hospitals. They hope the ban will slow the spread of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a so-called superbug that accounts for more than 40 percent of inpatient blood infections in the U.K. (Health officials in the U.S. might be advised to follow suit: a 2004 study found that half of the neckties worn by doctors in a New York hospital harbored dangerous pathogens.)

But your tie just might be hiding something besides germs. In a letter to the Financial Times, top Google lawyer Peter Fleischer had the following to say about neckties:

Decorative camouflage for the business suit, designed to shield the middle-aged male physique, with its shrinking shoulders and protruding paunch, from feeling sufficiently self-conscious to hit the gym…. Wouldn’t you like to know whether your business partners are fit? Why should you trust a man in business if he abuses his own body?

Or in politics? Political reporters often fawn over candidates who go tie-less on the campaign trail.

If Fleischer’s crusade catches on, and the tie becomes a symbol of shiftiness, will the presidential necktie go the way of the presidential beard?


Jon

I don't do neckties, and I'm a senior manager in the public sector. You don't need them, they mean nothing. Just leave them at home.

zoe

Well, gee. You could say those same things about control top pantyhose.

Charles

Camouflage is a very strong word to use for a tie. I work around suits all day and can tell the fit from the flab. I'd be suspect of my lawyer if his perception was so blown by a thin piece of fabric.

theo

Don't love the necktie. Never have. Most likely never will. I they're uncomfortable, and they get in the way. It's just another article of decoration that somehow became the norm, and we haven't had the guts to get rid of it yet.

I'll be honest, I wear a tie as rarely as possible. I prefer my clothing to be simple, casual, and comfortable. Natural tones that make my skin look good, and flatter the shape of my body. The tie does none of this for me, so I abandon it.

As far as it being 'camoflage,' I don't think it's too strong a term at all, although For many different reasons. I doubt that people wear ties to look thinner (the gods know it doesn't make me look less fat). The tie is however, one of our cultural masks. It's a symbol of status, of professionalism. It says one of two things, either a) I respect you enough to dress professionally, or b) I'm important and you need to recognize that.

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Barb

I'm a fan of keeping the necktie around. Call me a bit of a feminist here, but I say don't ditch the tie unless employers are willing to allow women to "dress down" too

oddTodd

Okay Barb, I'll make you a deal: Women can stop wearing neckties, too. Or is that business suit you wore to work somehow "dressier" than the business suit your male colleague wore to work, with or without tie?

MM

I always wondered why Ahmedinejad doesn't wear one. But that wouldn't explain it, he's a Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus himself.

MM

I have a different theory. A man often (always?) has to wear a uniform to get the respect of other men and the love of women (don't deny it). So men wear uniforms as firefighters, cops, soldiers, military, athletes, guards, and of course business people with THE SUIT. A man without one of these uniforms is either an artist, or a punk :)Individualistic differentiators are allowed in each case as long as they are small differentiators. So a tie can be different but if it is too different, the guy loses all respect again. It's a tough crowd.

Ubu Walker

Men hate neckties for primarily two reasons: They are uncomfortable to wear and most men do not know how to tie more than one or two knots.

However, I like wearing a tie with a properly fitted shirt that doesn't strangle me. I also know how to tie a dozen or so tie knots. I am instantly impressed if someone knows how to tie a Cavendish or a Nicky.

Monika

Oddtod, hey now, we have to wear panty hose. PANTY HOSE. You ditch the neck tie, we ditch the hose, ok?

Bob B

I think MM has it about right except for one thing. Ties whether you like to wear them or not are a social norm in most corperations. If you don't wear one you are discounted. Its like Billy Crystal used to say in SNL "it is better to look good than feel good." I think we may have also taken it on step further...in most cases if you are overly fat, thin, old or otherwise ugly and unattractive no shirt and tie will save you. You'll never make it above middle management.

whoanellie

Yea Monika! I agree, pantyhose for ties. Although, really, I don't want to see this group of professionals: the men with their chest hair exposed (some men have this with just the top button undone!) and the ladies pasty legs and feet jammed into a pair of heels. I have to admit, ties and hose are uncomfortable, but a fashion necessity. People just look better as a result! Also, I don't think that ties necessarily make a man look thinner, but they draw attention to a man's face (bringing the eye upward) which can be flattering depending on the man.

Alan J. Barnes

I am a male physician working at an academic medical center and wearing a tie is considered the expected or appropriate level of attire. The research scientist types can get away with more casual dress. But if you are providing patient care, the uniform is required. I would happily shed the silken decoration given sufficient support to do so. And few reasons would be better than prevention of infection.

Mary

Who still wears ties? I almost never see them, even when working in professional capacities in large cities. The world has gone 'business casual', or is it just in finance?

The panty hose thing-- You certainly don't have to wear them with a pant suit.

Shannon

For the prevention of infection can we add a ban to long or fake fingernails? Im totally disgusted when I see a person in the medical profession performing a proceedure with a nail poking out of a glove, or ungloved. Sick! for comfort, can we ditch high heels? Bad luck for podiatrist.,,,

S

crquack

I feel vindicated!!

I have advocated getting rid of ties in the medical profession since I entered it some 35+ years ago. There is nothing more useless than a tie to a busy physician except possibly the white coat. It gets in the way. You are forever tucking it to avoid it dangling in blood, vomit and worse. I ditched it the moment I reached the exalted position of a consultant.

I still have some of the ties from the junior Dr. days. The only good use for them was to open ampules of drugs. They are not a pretty sight...

Oddly enough, tie-wearing docs are not universal. In Germany, in at least one hospital I know, the docs had to change completely into an OR-like garb on arrival in hospital and this was in the 1970's. In the old Czechoslovakia I believe matters were similar but someone with more immediate knowledge might correct me.

Ferndave

One thing I've noticed while wearing a tie, and more specifically, a suit and tie, is a higher level of respect or attention is given. Casual or business casual is very much the norm. When I wear a suit and tie to the Post Office, store, or the like, it certainly seems like people treat me different. When I wear one to court or to a business meeting, I'm just another guy, because everyone dresses that way.

D

The tie is one of the last "accessories" a man has to add personality to the suit/blazer dress attire. Not into flashy jewelry, demand nice shoes, belt, watch and fitted clothing.

Koan

Everyone has missed the true hidden function of a necktie. Neckties aren't so much for distracting from a poor physique, they are designed to draw attention downward to a man's "special area". The necktie is crucial in the willy waving contests that are business and politics.

See, this is why you never trust a man in a bow tie.

(I stole this from State and Main)

Lucy

I've never understood neckties. How does wearing this thin strip of fabric convey respect? It's just a cultural symbol which could easily be replaced with a different, less uncomfortable symbol.

Using clothing to convey status is lame. If we didn't have the neckties and fancy suits you'd have to find another way to figure out who's smart and important, such as talking to people.