You’re still wearing a necktie – oh no!

I grew up in a Mennonite household.  My Dad was the pastor of the little tiny church in our community and we didn’t do a lot of things other people did.  We didn’t go to dances, movies, ballgames – and we sure didn’t wear neckties.  All those things were signs of being in the “world.”  In my rebelliousness I used to hide a necktie in the barn and grab it on my way out so I could look “cool” like all my friends.  As I grew up and on my own I wore the wide, the hand painted, the narrow, the flamboyant and the muted ties as styles changed.

Ray as the young man (3)

Over time I found I wore a tie less and less.  While not reverting to my legalistic theological roots, I simply can’t find any good reason to wear one.  Two weeks ago Joanne and I were on a cruise with our friends Michael and Gail Hyatt.  I decided I would wear a suit and tie for formal night.  My hands fumbled as my brain tried to remember the awkward process of tying a knot around my neck.  Really – who ever thought that was a good idea?

Why are fewer and fewer guys wearing ties?  Ah – maybe it’s because they serve no useful function.  I did a little research to see why anyone ever wore one.  It seems to have come from early military uniforms where the tie identified the person as a member of a particular unit.  Then it carried over to indicate the wearer’s membership in a club, school, professional association or even athletic team.

I must admit sometimes when we’re in a restaurant and I see someone in a suit and tie I wonder – where did that poor guy get stuck in his career path?  You would be run out of town if you showed up for work at Google, Amazon, eBay, Yahoo, Dave Ramsey’s organization or Apple in a tie.  Hospitals now take seriously the cross-infection of patients by doctors wearing neckties, because neckties are less frequently cleaned than most other clothes.  President Obama is frequently seen without a tie (opening the door to criticism from Donald Trump).

In some parts of the world there is a strong anti-necktie sentiment as in Iran where they have denounced the tie as a decadent symbol of European oppression.  In other cultures neckties are viewed as a symbol of submission and slavery.  Some see the symbolic chain around one’s neck as a clear indication of being a “wage slave,” an obviously negative term used to draw the analogy between owning and renting a person.

So my Dad was simply cool and ahead of his time.  Check it out.  I can probably get you one of those jackets if you want one.

What do you think? 

  • Are there still professions where you expect and want to see a necktie?
  • Are there situations where you feel stronger and more in charge in a tie?
  • Have we gotten sloppy and uncaring in our appearance?
  • Has the workplace become too casual?

As for me – I didn’t, I did, I don’t.


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  • I live in Nashville, the only place that still required wearing a tie in town is BMI and government. I have worked at both and feel it is more about vanity than a true need.

    • Peter

      Ties are great! If everyone dressed like your Dad, we wouldn’t need ties. Unfortunately that is not the case. People are dressing worse and worser! They look like slobs and losers. What is just as bad is the T.V. talking heads that have their tie knot 8” below their neck, thinking it is cool.
      I do realize that a tie does not make the man but it sure makes him look classy and better!!
      Obviously i like to wear a tie and dress up! Makes me feel good and my wife likes it!

  • afinepress

    I think gone are the days of tie as uniform. I sure do love an opportunity to wear one, though. And I’m mighty thankful for the return of the bowtie.

  • Pelly

    I am sitting at my desk with a tie on right now, conforming to the peer pressure of expectations. At least on Fridays I can go tie-less. So what is it about Friday’s that make it acceptable? Are we slowly slipping away as a society accepting the Friday mentality of debauchery, hedonism and wild living. [sarcasm noted]
    Actually just the other day I told my kids that my career goal is to never wear a tie again. My mother, over hearing me gave a nervous chuckle, probably thinking “What is my son saying? He has been in this respectable job for years. He is not thinking practically. Just conform for a few more decades.”

    • Pelly,
      That’s a hoot. “Just conform for a few more decades” – ouch!

  • I hate wearing a tie. Sometimes I need to but avoid it at all cost. I would prefer to be comfortable then conform to what others think I should wear.

  • Chris

    I have always disliked ties. I hear some say it shows respect like at church or funerals etc. My son once wore a tie to a courrt date, showing respect, there were 5 people (kids) there for the same offense, (selling cigarates to under age) and my son got the biggest fine. Didn’t say anything anyone else didn’t say. I guess the judge didn’t like ties.

  • Dan, I think suit and ties are good for formal occasions such as celebrations weddings and funerals. My profile picture here is actually from an employee celebration a couple of years ago. Otherwise, I try to avoid wearing one at all costs. I don’t think it is necessary or helpful at work. The only real effect is to obstruct blood flow to the brain.

    • Ken – don’t you just hate it when your eyes bulge out and you can’t catch your breath?

      • Yes. It makes me feel sorry for the poor dogs that have to wear choke collars. Take care.

  • I do find ties funny. Are we ashamed of the buttons on our shirt?
    As funny as they are, they do add something when it comes a special occasion. It is like wearing a scarf when it worn for fashion and not warmth. In the day to day though I do not like them. I have never wanted to need to wear one.

    If we are applying to a position where a tie is not part of the every day attire, then should we wear a noose to an interview? It sounds like a no.

    • Christopher – yeah, I still struggle with the open collar not staying in one place and looking crisp. I wear sweaters in the wintertime and do use a lot of scarves for accent.

  • larkinsimpson

    I wear a tie everyday for work. I am not required to, but I choose to. I also wear cufflinks and shine my shoes. Raised as a gentleman in the South, I was always taught we wear ties five days a week and twice on Sunday. I am the only one in the office who chooses to wear a tie. I don’t think much about it. Wearing a tie for me is very much like putting on a pair of socks for most people. It’s just what I do when I go to work. I also make sure when I get home to play with my boys that I take my tie off. It mentally helps me separate work time from play time.

    • Dan

      If you require a tie to mentally help you separate work time from play time (and this is a common thing that those pro-tie say) then couldn’t that suggest a lack of mental capability? Anyway, I don’t mind if you wear one, what I hate is those that want to force me to wear one.

  • PaulVandermill

    Greetings Dan,

    It sounds like neckties were once a symbol of conformity to a group. Oh, it appears they still are, in a broader sense. I think one of my goals needs to be the retiring of my ties.


  • K

    WHOA, WHOA, WHOA! Guys, please don’t stop wearing neck ties! Some of us ladies find a man in a suit and tie very attractive. I always stop and do a double take when I see a man in a nicely fitted suit and tie.

  • Gordon

    I don’t think your research went far enough back. The tie does have practical roots. Ties go back to closures on shirts (before buttons); in Europe, a northern clime, they also were a means of keeping warm. Consider how ties and their cousins (e.g. jabots) have changed in shape & material (see late 18th/early 19th century). Certainly they evolved to a decoration (what’s wrong with that?) and certain tie patterns reflected military regiments, or clubs. But the writer and many commenters seem to have lurched to a new conformity: no tie!! So if you’re really nonconformist, it’s time to put a tie back on! Personally glad I don’t have to wear one every day, but I like to on special occasions. And when it’s cold (a nice wool tartan tie).

  • scottjedwards

    As the saying goes, “to each his own”. Personally, I love ties but don’t wear them outside of church often. But when I do sport a tie, I use different style knots that really shows how non-conformist I am 🙂 Seriously, I never knew how many cool and unusual tie knots existed. Youtube the “eldridge” or “ediety” knots sometime, they are my current favorites. I love how they turn the conformity of ties on its head. I always get a comment and it’s often a great way to strike up a conversation, at least for an introvert like myself.

    • Oh my gosh – I watched the video on ediety knots – that is too cool. That kind of different could almost talk me into wearing one now and then. Thanks for your input.

  • Kevin Simmons

    I like to wear bow ties but despise neck ties. I do not do clip-ons, either. I like to tie my own ties. I eel that I stand taller and have better posture when I wear a bow tie.

    • Kevin – very cool. I’ve never tried to master that art.

  • Bill Romance

    I don’t think anybody has addressed another more important reason for the necktie in certain situations …. it allows the viewer to follow a vertical line in the middle of your body, challenging them to look at your face and in your eyes while they’re talking to you.

    • Bill Romance

      A tie also reminds it’s wearer if his button down shirt is getting too small …. if you can’t button your top button and fit two fingers in between your neck and the shirt collar, than you need a different sized shirt.

    • Bill,
      Wow – interesting insight.

  • DDDDDuane

    This article reminded me to get rid of the ties I’ll never wear again….

  • Rochelle Delain

    But I love love love to see a well dressed man with a tie and I find it very attractive and sexy when my husband wears a suit and tie especially when we go out on the town or at church. I understand that the tie does not make the man but it sure makes the man look nice and dare I say… professional. But that is just my preference. Maybe I am old school but I would say that things have gotten way too casual nowadays. I have seen young men go to job interviews or church or special occasions like weddings in dirty saggy pants and flip flops or scuffed and dirty shoes and mismatched ill fitting shirts. I don’t care if you choose not to wear a tie but at least wear clean, well fitting clothing and look like you care about yourself.

  • Ron K

    Whow!!! Such controvery over ties. There are occasions when people should wear them. Weddings, funerals, formal occasions, meeting dignitaries (would you wear a tee shirt and flip flops to meet the President?), to convey an appearance of professionalism such as an attorney in court, and to satisfy other requirements where is may be manditory by the company. On the other hand, most vocations simply do not require it. A tie isn’t needed. I’m old school and believe every man should be able to tie a tie and dress appropriately—if need requires.

    I have tried to teach my grandsons to be clean, dress neatly, look people in the eye, smile, speak up confidently, and shake hands firmly when they meet someone new. All other things being equal, those factors will give them an edge.

    • Dan

      Wearing a tie won’t “give them an edge” nowadays. About the only people who still wear ties are those that are trying to convince you do to do something that is against your interests and in theirs eg Mormon missionaries and insurance salesmen. The other group of tie wearers are those low enough on the employment pyramid to be forced to wear one eg some retail workers, security guards etc. My first thought when I see someone wearing a tie is to be on guard.

    • Adm Tech

      Makes sense to me, it is akin to a uniform if decorum calls for it. They key word is context – wearing one to a sporting event, for example (unless you’re a coach), would be ridiculous. I do think they serve no practical, functional purpose though.

  • Anthony Ally

    About 20 years ago, when IBM Business Intelligence was recruiting me from Booz Allen & Hamilton, one marketing promo was to NOT wear a tie to the interview. However, when I was working on Wall Street to implement multimillion dollar financial solution for clients in the Towers, it was required for us to wear a tie. I like Steve Jobs’ style much better 🙂

  • Scooter J.

    Back in the early ’90s I owned a consulting business, we had a major Client whose culture was to be very dressed up. I owned and wore lots of ties. One day my 4 year old son asked for a tie. I told him “Daddy works very hard so you won’t ever have to wear one.” Still have a few but haven’t worn one since ’98. Plus, have you priced one lately? I can buy a lot of Starbucks with my Clients for the price of a tie!

    • 48DaysDan

      I used to buy gorgeous silk ties on the street in New York City. They really were beautiful and I kinda miss that.

  • Michael

    I wear a tie to work. I work in a lead generation outbound call environment. No one else wears a tie but me. some people wear tennis shoes, t shtirts, and occasionally I wear a suit coat and tie. If I worked for Apple I would wear a tie unless they specifically said not to. It helps me to feel professional. My high school had a basketball coach who was very successful, and he had the players dress up when they went to games. he said people act differently when they are Dressed up, or something similar.

    • Adm Tech

      Like they say, “dress for the job you want”.

  • Just got done cleaning out my closet but I kept my three ties. I think I’ll toss them today. Haven’t wore one in years.

  • Ron K

    Perhaps I am a sentimentalist or maybe, worse, a hoarder. But I still have the silk tie hanging in the closet that I wore the day my wife and I said “I do” forty-three years ago. Simple wedding with no tux or super-expensive gown for her. The tie is a reminder of the blessings that day has brougt to me.

    • Ron – no there’s a tie with a purpose! I can appreciate that. I had some cheap rented tux and tie – long gone. And Monday Joanne and I will celebrate 46 yrs of marriage. Maybe I’ll go buy a tie for the occasion.

      • Ron K

        Congratulations!! You have been married a “long” time. Betty and I will celebrate 43 years in April. I enjoy getting your email each Friday and the articles inform and, even better, inspire me. May God bless you with increasing influence as you reach more people who are struggling to get out of ruts and find their direction.

  • Krystal L

    I think getting away from the requirement of ties is a symbol of our blending of work and life. At the same time, my dad owns about 50 ties, almost all of them gifts from my brother and I. Its the only gift my dad ever really likes. I think he enjoys wearing them since it gives him a conversation starter. Some of his ties have come from all around the world. His favorite is the gondola one I bought him in Italy!

  • Thomas O.

    The answer to the question, “why the tie?” is found by asking a different question: “when the tie?”

    The necktie is de rigueur for events such as weddings, funerals, awards ceremonies, rights of passage, and job interviews. Professionally, it is often expected in banking, finance, legal, hospitality and political careers. There is a common pattern here, these are all events or activities which are considered important. The donning of a necktie is a symbolic gesture acknowledging something of importance.

    How this came to be is speculation, but the best explanation I’ve found suggests the necktie probably began as a scarf to hold the collar up against the cold. Since only a man of means during that period could afford high quality materials, silk or fine spun wool for their scarf, the practical value was transcended by the necktie as a form of conspicuous consumption. These were important men, who did important things, who wore ties. The necktie thus symbolizes something of importance.

    Maybe the necktie is dead, but I wonder what is driving its demise: Is it the inexplicable nature of the symbol; could it be that we just don’t consider much to be important anymore; or maybe we have become so into ourselves to care about the message we convey to others?

    Most people speak of wearing a necktie from a victims point of view, something they are compelled to do. I wear a necktie because, in the right context, it conveys a message which gives comfort to others or makes them happy.

    • Thomas – wow, you present a very thoughtful, compelling case for the tie in some situations. Thanks for your meaty input.