The Speaker has spoken. A final barrier has been overcome. A major landmark passed. A message sent out. The UK parliament has today joined many other workplaces around the world and entered the 21st century. Order, Order. Men no longer need to wear a tie in the House of Commons.
As a passionate and long-standing non-tie wearer I could not be happier. Well done, Speaker Bercow.
I respect traditions and history – I like the pink ribbons that still hang on parliamentary coat pegs to rest the sword of the Honourable member – but this is an overdue change in the dress code of parliament. It is doubly important because of how visible parliament is through the media; traditional and social. At least once a week, our news screens are dominated by events in parliament with the men looking – and it has to said at time sounding – like representatives not of the people but of the 19th century. This decision announced today by the Speaker sends out an important message and removes another barrier between the people and its parliament.
A tie; whether necktie; bow tie; Ascot tie; bola tie; clip on tie or cravat is a symbol from a bygone era. A way of distinguishing workers from owners. The rich from the poor. The working class from their middle and upper betters. White collars from blue.
Depending on your reading of history, ties could be said to have originated when first worn by Roman soldiers around 410AD or in Europe during the 1618-1848 ‘Thirty Years’ war when Croatian mercenaries apparently attracted the attention of their French counterparts who spotted the piece of cloth they were wearing around their necks and took the idea back to Paris. In recent years, there has been a backlash against the tie, especially in the workplace. Some believe it to be a sign of submission and modern office-based, corporate slavery – rather like a workplace chain or collar. Some even call the tie a symbol of being a “wage slave”.
I attracted unwanted comments and attention – it has lessened a lot over the last two years thankfully – in my working days from Accenture to PwC and everything in between for being a non-tie wearing member of the team. I rarely went a day when a negative, sneery, pointed or “jokey” comment would not be made – usually by someone more senior – about why I wasn’t wearing a tie. A constant push to get me to conform to a view of how men should appear at work, which I always viewed as so much less important than what I did when I got to the office and started working.
You do not – and should not – need to wear a tie to be taken seriously in a workplace, for an interview, or for any other professional activity. If you choose to wear a tie, knock yourself out. But just as women should not be told how short or long to wear their skirt, what shoes to wear for work (hoping some of Britain’s biggest firms, including ones I know well, have now taken note!) or how they wear their hair or make-up, men should not be made either by dress rules or expectations to wear this outdated, ugly and pointless piece of clothing.
I am yet to wear a tie this year, although that sad day is coming. I will make my tie-wearing debut in 2017 in a few weeks for my sister’s wedding. I will fasten that top button, feel uncomfortable and look pompous for the day in the interests of tradition and keeping others happy. I will resent it but do it with good grace. It is after all not my day. Last year, I wore a tie twice; once for a funeral – I was in two minds but was persuaded at the last minute by Mrs (Dr) J to don it in respect of her Granny who had passed. It was removed within five minutes of the Mass ending; I went in peace to love and serve the Lord and feel more comfortable. I’m sure Granny wouldn’t have minded; she always had a soft spot for me! The other occasion was an interview at the golf club when I was seeking membership. I wish now I’d had the courage of my convictions and gone tie-less but I decided that discretion was the better part of valour. A moment of weakness.
So, today is another hammer blow for the tie. I hope it will soon be the death knell but I am relaxed. The inevitable is coming. The day – a great day – when ties are only worn for fun, through choice or to help re-enact scenes from the past – is just around the corner. That will be the day when we cut one more pointless, constraining tie with the past – the piece of meaningless material that stops us being ourselves.