Untied

It’s Friday. And all round the working world there will be offices and other workplaces in which today’s convention will be to ‘dress down’. In such places men often won’t be wearing ties, and there’ll be a lot of denim in various forms, some of it pleasing, but much of it unfortunate.

So is it time more generally, and not just on Fridays, to re-think clothing? Should we, following the lead of places like California, give up wearing ties altogether? Or is there a risk that men, many of whom are not style icons, will simply descend into general scruffiness? Is it time to free the neck but persuade men in particular to be more imaginative in what they wear? Or is that all just too trivial? And how will any of this work in universities, where a sense of personal style has perhaps never been one of the most obvious hallmarks of academic life?

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16 Comments on “Untied”


  1. In my opinion it’s time to bring back the cravat and ruff
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ruff_%28clothing%29

  2. anna notaro Says:

    *And how will any of this work in universities, where a sense of personal style has perhaps never been one of the most obvious hallmarks of academic life.* Well this all depends on the cultural geography of academia, some cultures are more sensitive to this aspect than others, academics included… Also there is a middle ground for men (and some women too) between not being ‘style icons’ and scruffiness which includes avoiding sandals with socks and knee-lenght trousers!! Everything else is fine🙂


    • Oh I don’t know, Anna. There are quite a few things ‘in between’ that are best avoided!🙂

      • no-name Says:

        “There are quite a few things ‘in between’ that are best avoided!”

        Indeed — such as sneering at other people’s clothes?

        “And how will any of this work in universities, where a sense of personal style has perhaps never been one of the most obvious hallmarks of academic life?”

        Is it really the case that somebody who doesn’t dress the same way as you do lacks their own individual style?


  3. One of my favourite stories from the frontline of shared governance in the university where I work is of a colleague in administration lamenting that there’s no point in having Casual Fridays “because the academics just dress like that all the time anyway”.

  4. don Says:

    Is it ‘Untied’ or ‘Untidy’? Many organisations and some professions (legal, medical) make a virtue out of dress code adherence – with jobs on the the line for non-compliants. Today’s (Friday) debate in Ireland on the Dail (Irish parliament) considering introducing a dress code, resulting in possible expulsion from the chamber for non-compliants, demonstrates that some people prefer style over substance. Plenty of ‘well-dressed’ people (collar, tie, suit) have dropped this country into the economic abyss, so forget dress codes. Just roll up the sleeves and get on with the job…As for academics, one definition of academic (in the OED) is ‘…of no practical relevance…’ Let them get their respect from students and peers by what they teach/publish etc. Anyway, students and the public expect a few eccentric dressers in universities…adds to the mystique…

  5. no-name Says:

    Yes, it’s trivial. At what point does one become “scruffy”? Who gets to decide this? What qualifies that person to make that decision? What’s wrong wtih scruffiness anyway? It’s oviously hard not to judge people by their appearance, but it’s pretty narrow-minded, isn’t it? Clothes, and what passes for “style”, vary greatly between countries, even regions…some of the best people I know wear sandals and socks at the same time…;-)

  6. anna notaro Says:

    The German sociologist René König argued that “fashion is as profound and critical a part of the social life of man as sex, and is made up of the same ambivalent mixture of irresistible urges and inevitable taboos.” Maybe we should not dismiss this issue too hastily with the usual ‘substance is more important than appearance’ argument..

  7. cormac Says:

    I’m always struck by how scruffy I look in those group photos at conferences. Perhaps scruffy is the wrong word – too casual is probably better. Simply put, the guy in T-shirt and creased jeans looks junior to everyone else, it just doesn’t look authoritive.
    I wish I had developed the ironed shirt-and-tie wardrobe early in my carer, it’s hard to change now.

    • no-name Says:

      Do you think you would have made more progress in your career if you had dressed in a way that you perceive conveys authority?

  8. Al Says:

    More male clevage???

  9. cormac Says:

    No-name: no, but I think perception is important. I think I might have been taken a little more seriously, especially in Cambridge and Harvard, instead of being continually mistaken for a student!


  10. […] about whether what we wear is a student communications issue, as he’s been asking about dress codes in university settings. This was also on my mind, as two of us are off to a conference next week on social media in […]

  11. Isabelle Says:

    Giving men a bit more leeway to dress interestingly, rather than just have their ties to make their mark with, is a good idea. At present, women have far more scope to express themselves with what they wear. Simply getting rid of the tie but leaving men’s clothes otherwise unchanged, would make them even less interesting to look at🙂

  12. kevin denny Says:

    I wonder would a similar post commenting on how women dress at work have generated the same reaction? I suspect not.
    Personally I think this is all a trivial issue.
    The move to regulate dress in the Dail is particularly risible. They are not to be allowed jeans but will still be allowed to behave like buffoons & chancers? Its the latter that matters for the dignity of the house.


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