Friday Grab Bag: To Hell With Social Standards, The End Of The Necktie, And Suiting Up To Join A Racquet Club

We head into the long holiday weekend with a grab-bag of news items, starting with the New Yorker cartoon above, from an issue earlier this month. The cartoonist takes the thread of time and bends it, thereby bringing an Edwardian woman and a contemporary young man onto the same subway car. She concludes that his casual attire, slouchy posture, and engagement with his electronic device make him prime genetic material for marriage and child-rearing.

Next up, we cement that the theme of this week is the casualization of dress (by the way, I’m well aware of G. Bruce Boyer’s recent essay “Dress Up,” which we’ll explore in full later this summer).

The BBC wonders if we’re finally witnessing the end of the necktie, now that members of parliament are going sans cravat:

The tie used to be a powerful signifier of social status – the regimental tie, the club tie and, above all, the old school tie were all used as symbols of authority and belonging, and as a subtle way of excluding those who did not belong.

It is a tradition that stretches back to Roman times, when soldiers would wear different coloured neckwear to denote membership of different groups.

In today’s workplace power games, however, the man at the top is very often the one without a tie. The Silicon Valley chief executive look – chinos and casual shirt, no tie – is a way of letting your underlings know that you are a true meritocrat, and not hidebound by stuffy rules.

Meanwhile, Vice Magazine has a solid think-piece (spotted by Ivy Style reader “Old School,” of all people) on the various forces driving us all to dress down:

Broadly, it can be grouped into two categories: codes designed to uphold traditions of a bygone era, and codes designed to push people to defy the everyday. In other words, today’s dress codes are mostly employed for totally opposite ends—even when their means can be very similar.

Both types largely impact men—perhaps because their wardrobe possibilities are less lawless and the daily results are usually less daring. A recent applicant at the 100-year-old, male-only Racquet And Tennis Club on Park Avenue, for example, described to me what he wore to one of ten admissions interviews: “A Ralph Lauren suit, which I fucking hate. It’s purposefully oversized. The jacket is supposed to go down to the cuticles of your thumb. And I had to buy tortoiseshell glasses and get a haircut. I’m like, what if I don’t want to do this? My dad’s like, well, you then won’t get in. And that would be horrendously embarrassing.” Now accepted—”which I absolutely wanted; I love squash and they have all these anachronistic things, like an oyster room with a door where you call the oyster men”—the member complies happily with the code: suits and ties in the lounge (turtlenecks are allowed on weekends), all-white to play racquets, tennis, or squash (black shorts are allowed in the aerobics room), and nothing in the swimming pool. (The Colony Club, an all-female social and athletic club which caters to a similar crowd, requires “suits, dresses, skirts, tailored slacks, blouses and sweaters” for its members.)

And finally, reports that Jackie Kennedy’s childhood home is for sale, and you don’t even need to be a billionaire to afford it. — CC

19 Comments on "Friday Grab Bag: To Hell With Social Standards, The End Of The Necktie, And Suiting Up To Join A Racquet Club"

  1. David Lincoln | June 30, 2017 at 2:38 pm |

    Sad but inevitable news on death of necktie. It portends more tragedy ahead. I’ve always thought it reflected metaphorically the civilized agreement that the head (rationality) should be cinched off from the heart (emotionality). Look about and tell me if that’s not where we’re headed.

  2. I just ordered a new tie last night. Resist!

  3. Mitchell S. | June 30, 2017 at 3:00 pm |

    The waning popularity of the suit and tie is old news. And it’s not just a U.S. phenomenon. From Tokyo to Latin America to Indonesia, suits are rarely, if ever, worn- even by government officials. I think a large part of the reason is because of global warming making most suits superfluous.

    One exception is London (maybe Hong Kong,
    too), where men and women dress conservatively. This is not surprising since Savile Row perfected and popularized the suit and tie.

  4. “It’s purposefully oversized”

    I think he might he experiencing the comfort of a properly sized suit for the first time.

  5. Mitchell S. | June 30, 2017 at 3:07 pm |

    By the way, I have a bone to pick with the BBC. As I understand, the necktie did Not originate with the Romans. It was first worn by Croatian soldiers, imitated by the French (cravatte), then copied by Savile Row tailors. At least the etymology bears this out.

  6. Good one, GS.

    Suits and ties are doing just fine in the better law and money management firms. Especially in Southern cities like Charleston, Richmond, Raleigh, Charlotte…

    “From Tokyo to Latin America to Indonesia, suits are rarely, if ever, worn- even by government officials.”
    Okay, fine.
    But why would we care?

    Let’s take our lead from Hong Kong and London.

  7. That’s the kind of #resist I can get behind, Mr. Kraus.

    Thank you. S.E., and amen.

    I was just thinking, Ralph Lauren suits aren’t exactly roomy or sack-like these days. Not even Purple Label. Could it be a vintage suit that belonged to his father? The world may never know…

  8. Today, a sunny, mid-80s, pre-holiday weekend (sort of) Friday, I ventured out freshly shaved and wearing driving mocs, dad jeans (sorry, all khakis in the wash), a bright white OCBD shirt and a (hardly extravagant) LL Bean Panama style hat. In my opinion just a simple outfit appropriate to the weather and season.

    While picking up a few items at the local supermarket the 60-something owner/manager – affluent enough to commute each day in his own plane from 100 miles away – who typically never speaks to me thought my attire so unusual that he walked over to ask why I was “so dressed up”. “Huh…? I thought.

    I guess that makes sense when most of the boomer aged male patrons at the best bistro in our little burg, really a nice place, wore cargo shorts to the Mother’s Day brunch.

  9. At first I thought the cartoon was meant to represent Judith Martin venturing outside her usual ambit, but then I realized no, Miss Manners would be wearing a hat while riding a train.

  10. Hah, I too thought Judith Martin was the inspiration for the drawing of the woman.

  11. If you want to see lots of examples of Slobus Americanus then check out photographs of how our oligarch rulers appear when they get together at the annual Allen & Company Sun Valley Conference – happening right now – for top media and technology CEOs (spoiler: Rodney Dangerfield exhibited better sartorial taste in Caddyshack):

  12. If this means cheap crappy ties die first I’m all for culling the neckwear herd. There’s entirely too much crap clogging table space in this country and elsewhere. Same goes for any clothing, maybe it’s about time the retail apparel market had a little correction.

  13. Mazama: Speaking of Rodney Dangerfield’s attire, recall that in Back To School, Rodney’s character owned a chain of “Thornton Melon’s Tall and Fat” clothing stores.

  14. Gibson Gardens | July 1, 2017 at 5:55 am |

    Button down shirts don’t need a tie.

  15. Vern Trotter | July 1, 2017 at 2:24 pm |

    The Speaker of the House of Commons has only said he will not refuse to let a member speak only because he is not wearing a necktie. Nothing else. He himself recently doffed the wig and robe requirement.

  16. whiskeydent | July 2, 2017 at 9:51 am |

    The tie’s death could ultimately benefit trad. How? The current business casual look — tightly cut, wide-spread collar shirts, short jackets, and all in rather dull monochromatic hues — make drones of the wearers. The same is true for their skinny selvedge jeans they wear with dress shoes (ugh).

    Ironically, one can actually stand out in a crowd by wearing ivy staples sans tie. For example, a wintertime outfit that features the variegated colors in an oxford or royal oxford shirt with a billowy button-down collar worn under a tweed jacket of seasonal hues just beats the hell out of the modern look. Today, that trad look expresses more creativity, individuality and self-confidence. It says, “I am not a bot.”

    I often receive compliments — from 30ish folks of both sexes — when I wear my brown barleycorn tweed with a blue gingham button-down and British tan khakis amidst a crowd of men wearing today’s style. “That’s a cool look,” they’ll say. At 58 years old, I haven’t been cool in quite some time.

    I think the key is to wear one item that has somewhat aggressive colors, but avoid that flashy Rugby look that CC misses so much (kidding). Mix fabric textures that create a deeper look, as well.

    Take heart lads. There could be a sliver lining. This weekend, raise the flag and a toast to a better future.

  17. Didn’t the racquet guy grate on anyone’s ears–the f word, “I’m like,” My dad’s like”?

    And he had to get a haircut! The horror! I would hate to have to be him, with all of his problems.

  18. I work for a huge, international professional services firm. Once ties began their decline, it used to be that, when you showed up to work wearing a tie, it was because you had clients visiting from some more formal (i.e., tie-wearing) company. Then, people figured you were interviewing for a job over lunch. Now you can’t tell. No one wears a tie ever.

    By the way, David Lincoln’s metaphorical reading of the meaning of a tie is striking by being gruesomely apt. I wish I’d thought of it.

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