Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Casualties of Casual Day

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Casualties of Casual Day

Article excerpt

Women everywhere this holiday season are out buying neckties for the men in their lives. They might just as well be gift-wrapping spittoons.

December 1998 finds the American workplace more casual than ever: Four out of five workers get to dress down at least one day a week, according to Peter Simon of NPD Group, a market research firm. And a recent survey of hiring executives by Management Recruiters International found that 42 percent believe the suit and tie will ultimately disappear. (Most of these doomsayers think it will happen in the next 10 years.)

Consider the situation at the Pro Player sports licensing unit of Fruit of the Loom in Hudson, N.H. A company spokesman described the place as so actively hostile to neckwear that it bans ties from the premises. Until recently, the company had a rack in the lobby where guests could park these primitive totems; the rack was removed recently because no one ever turns up in a tie anymore. Times certainly have changed. In the days of afternoon baseball and snap-brim hats, of hair oil and smoker's coughs, men who pretended to any sort of social class wore neckties to ballgames and apologized for being in public without a suit coat. The necktie was the emblem of masculine propriety. As Monica Lewinsky put it, in grand jury testimony that must have rung bittersweet with haberdashers everywhere, "Ties were a big issue with us." If neckties are an endangered species, it should not be too surprising. They are the ultimate Freudian accouterment in an increasingly gender-neutral workplace. In that sense, the old four- in-hand can seem as Neanderthal as pinup calendars and secretary- chasing. Neckwear is also associated with a more formal era, when people worked in downtown offices and did business face to face. These days, more of us do at least some of our work at home, or in suburban office parks far from the public gaze. And in an age when everyone is cool and confession is valued over concealment, neckties can seem awfully buttoned up, their wearers secretive, rigid and constrained. On sitcoms, a high-school student in a tie is usually a geek, the sort of social climber who intends to run for student council president. …

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