Fists of Ivy Fury

Editor’s Note: S.E. wrote this comment, which I am reprinting without permission because, well, it was already printed here. It is a great response to the Ties-Are-Dying crowd.

The wearing of a necktie is an act of rebellion. Hell, the same can be said for opting for Classic Ivy. But more about that in a minute.

JB speaks courageously about “getting better.” Although I feel sure I’ve never been where he (once) was, I’ve known plenty of men who privately confess feelings of depletion and despair. How was it Thoreau once put it? “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” True–and reason for both lament and the mustering of courage.

For all the talk about habit-forming, “getting outside,” plenty of exercise, and diet (veganism is the thing around these parts these days), I’ll offer another suggestion: rage against the machine(s). Raise the fist to-and-at the bureaucracies, stifling and staid, that threaten to weigh an individual soul down. Resist.

Too many books and movies to count have chronicled this act of courageous defiance. William H. Whyte wrote a groundbreaking book about the spirit-sapping power of bureaucracy, which is really about (a.) being told daily and often what to do and how to do it (by a manager, or, God forbid, team of managers) and (b.) telling others what to do and how to do it. This is a form of modern-day slavery — and it’s brutal. No amount of diet, exercise, therapy, or habit-keeping will save you from it.

If you’ve become, to borrow from Whyte, “an Organization Man,” do yourself a life-saving favor and get out. Escape. I don’t care about the size of the mortgage, car payment, or savings for the summer house. Get out. Escape. Run.

A bit of excavation has confirmed that this is the root cause of 99.999 % of the listlessness, lethargy and despair I’ve witnessed in men.

I have a theory about all revolutions and uprisings throughout history– they’re all (basically) rages against bureaucratic machines. This includes Jesus’ raised fist to-and-at both Rome (the emperor and his empire) and the religious bureaucracy (Sanhedrin). This is how he ended up on a cross. The same can be said for Luther and Calvin (Protestant Reformation), and … well, the list goes on and on. When men have had enough of being told what to do and how to do it so they can subsequently tell others what to do and how to do it)– well. It’s powerful.

Thoreau continued: “…What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats. A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things..”

And so on.

Do what you must to take care of yourself– and get help if it’s become clear to you (or others who care about you) that you’d benefit from it. In the meantime, here’s a thought:Put on a blazer, a pair of linen pants, and a necktie. And your loafer of choice.

Be different. Be unique.Resist and defy. You’ll feel better– in a matter of seconds.

19 Comments on "Fists of Ivy Fury"

  1. RIchard E. Press | July 18, 2022 at 9:12 am |

    S.E. courageous remarks bring to mind Patrick Henry’s rejoinder: “The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.”

  2. Hear, hear! I tip the hat to you sir, and loudly applaud your sentiment. BTW I have been suffering from CPTSD for years now (veteran) and dressing up have really helped me with my mental health and with the fight to keep going and not give up.

  3. Well said, SE.

    Ironically, ivy style was considered rebellious and iconoclastic. Casual, comfortable, youthful ivy style was shocking to some at its inception.

    Now, ivy style has come full circle. A rebellion against what Christian Chensvold calls “tattooed slobs.”

    • John Burton | July 18, 2022 at 5:56 pm |

      I don’t know about the tattooed slobs jam. I am getting my first. I think rather a rebellion against anyone telling anyone what to wear just because they don’t wear it.

      • Okay John, having a tattoo and wearing ivy translates as “ultra rebellious.”

        Something I have only seen done by Nick Wooster.

  4. Behind Enemy Lines | July 18, 2022 at 9:34 am |

    We are The Tie Assocation.

    Nice one, S.E.

  5. This is beautiful. There is a liturgical dimension to dress. Words and prayers direct the heart towards heaven. Kneeling is a physical expression of a spirit properly oriented to the Creator. The blazer and tie are an outward manifestation of a well-ordered spirit. Liturgy goes in both directions. Both expresses and directs. Dress has a similar impact on the wearer.

  6. I so rarely wear ties, and it’s a shame. Ties do not have much of a presence in my line of work, and if I’m honest, I admit I’d feel rather conspicuous wearing one in my day-to-day life. I have a handful of ties, all of which I quite like, but nothing like the massive collection my father had for most of his career when ties were an expected part of daily dress.
    As a teenager, I dyed my hair different colors and waxed it into dramatic spikes, wore a lot of black and occasionally some eyeliner. It suited my sense of rebellion to go out on a limb like that at the time. Back then, ties were a mark of the bureaucracy. They felt tight and stifling around my neck. But at this point, the wearing of a tie in any field besides politics and law is becoming an act of rebellion not totally unlike my youthful experimentation. Maybe, if I want to wear a tie more often, I’ll have to reconnect to the defiant, fist-shaking energy of my youth. Maybe nowadays, ties can mean something different than they once did.

  7. Lovely piece, S.H. More of this please.

  8. Couldn’t it be argued that, not so long ago, refusing to wear a tie was an act of Camusian rebellion against suffocating corporate/bureaucratic/social structures? In retrospect, that act seems more heroically rebellious than wearing a tie today as a metaphorical middle finger to the ignorant non-Ivy masses.

    • John Burton | July 18, 2022 at 6:41 pm |

      I am not sure either is heroic. That word gets used a ton, and this is from a guy who is pretty loose with his words. Further, I don’t know how you quantify heroism. What unit do you use to measure it? Yards? So not wearing a tie was 9 yards back in the day and wearing one now is 8? Do you adjust for inflation? Camusian is a big word, sure, but when you start a sentence with “In retrospect” and then you compare something to “today” –

    • Hardbopper | July 18, 2022 at 8:17 pm |

      Anybody can not wear a necktie, but not just anybody can.

      It is not ignorance which condemns, but it is the willful rejection of the truth which condemns.

  9. There is a kind of reactionary worldview that, especially lately, likes to fancy itself rebellious against certain developments in the world. It’s the whole “standing athwart history yelling ‘stop'” thing. The notion that such a perspective is at all rebellious amuses me: The changes it rails against are actually the long-running rebellions against *it*.
    While I don’t wear ties very often, the fact that I desire to wear one more frequently is now a question of personal style, not of withdrawing into a fantasy of the past.

  10. Hardbopper | July 18, 2022 at 7:43 pm |

    I don’t always wear a necktie, but when I do, it’s because I damned well please. Stay courageous my friends.

  11. Hardbopper | July 18, 2022 at 7:51 pm |

    I’ll give you my necktie when you pry it from my cold, dead hands.

  12. Styles change over the decades. Men once wore hats all the time and JFK not wearing one at his inauguration was certainly bemoaned by old-timers. Decades later and the idea that someone “should” wear a hat is largely seen as what it is: a sign of an earlier era. So ties aren’t dying, but what IS dying is the idea that one NEEDS to wear a tie, which is an arbitrary rule that maybe can be tossed. Prescriptive ideas about what people should wear is mostly in the category of “none of your business.”

  13. Gentlemen prefer ladies who prefer gentlemen who wear neckties.

  14. Haven’t worn a necktie out in what seems like forever, but 4 years of Catholic high school, 3 years of frat life, and 10 years in consulting pre-pandemic = the ability to still tie a great half-Windsor with no practice. Still got it!

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