While clearing out Ivy Style headquarters I came across an amusing clipping in a box of ephemera. It’s a letter to the editor that ran in the San Francisco Chronicle in 1994, when I was 24 and was publishing anything I could, anywhere I could. It’s in response to a columnist who had written about getting rid of the necktie.
Funny how long this necktie death has been dragging out. I’m putting the final polish on a work of fiction right now that centers around the fate of the tie.
The letter’s sensibility reveals a retro-eccentric “angry young man” bitter at having entered the real world only to find it does not conform to his antiquated sensibilities. The “epater le bourgeois” phallocentrism shows the influence of Baudelaire, while the metaphoric prose betrays the conscious imitation of J-K Huysmans. — CC
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Letter To The Editor
By Christian Chensvold
San Francisco Chronicle
April 3, 1994
Image by Mercer & Sons
I wish to respond to Mr. Carroll’s preference to go to work sans cravate. I am afraid, if the tone of his piece has resonated properly, that Mr. Carroll feels he is being something of a revolutionary, a kind of prophet of casualness come to preach the gospel of lazy dressing. Perhaps in his workplace going without a necktie is daring or even heroic, but I found his ideas rather commonplace and even, despite the lucidity of his prose, pedestrian. Mr. Carroll’s piece offers no new thinking; it seems plucked from the mind of the average American citizen. His thoughts are clearly in the mainstream, and the deluge of contemporary slovenliness seems to have swept away yet another victim.
I will now brave the torrents and suggest that the gradual disappearance of the necktie in many business fields follows the loss of the tuxedo on Saturday night dates, the waistcoat, braces, fedora, handkerchief, walking stick, watch chain, and every other accessory that used to make a man look like a man. It’s a wonder we don’t go about completely naked these days. The old axiom that clothes make the man seems especially poignant when applied to neckties, above all when one considers the shape of a tie.
Having been thus stripped of nearly all our manly accoutrements, I fear that the loss of the necktie will mark the extinction of the last visible symbol of the male phallus, exterminated in an age suspicious and even hostile toward masculinity, and leading to a new era when, as Mr. Carroll points out, we will all simply wear sweat suits. Only then will we have reached the logical conclusion of this hundred-year-old striptease: soft, limp, unisexual clothing, with its cherished goal of comfort.