Jun 25, 2008

The Necktie Story !

Necktie wearers of the world unite! You have everything to lose: your stripes and paisleys, solids and patterns, silks and linens, cottons and wools. Heck, you stand to lose a whole lot more, including grace and elegance, style and dignity. And even more insidious, as this column will reveal, you stand to lose your personal freedoms to a bunch of fundamentalists, health fascists and faceless bureaucrats. In the past few days, the news media have circulated reports trumpeting the steady decline of the necktie. According to these reports, fewer than 6 per cent of men wear neckties to work anymore. Consequently, sales have plummeted to just 50 million neckties annually from nearly 250 million in the 1970s. An Associated Press reporter filed the story from New York in advance of Father's Day, when ties fly off the racks and are presented to dads, year after year; the famous "peg". He sounded positively gleeful at the decline of the necktie. The piece was funny as obituaries go. But wait, there's more to the story. It will wipe the grins and stifle the chuckles this jocular-veined story may have evoked. It is no laughing matter for the journalist has made common cause with the three main opponents of the necktie. The three are strikingly different from each, united only by their hatred of the necktie. To begin with, there's the Islamic Republic of Iran, whose fundamentalist rulers have carried on a campaign against the necktie since 1979, when a religious revolution deposed the monarchy of Shah Reza Pahlavi. To them, the necktie is a symbol of decadent western culture that could adversely affect their country's pure Islamic traditions. The Shah was condemned as an agent of western imperialism. After his ouster, the new regime moved to purge Iran of all symbols of the West. A strict dress code was imposed for men and women alike. The necktie was discouraged as an insidious western influence. Bands of revolutionary guards took to patrolling the streets to enforce the Islamic dress code. Even harmless barbers were warned and forbidden to entertain customers with neckties. Then there's the giant internet firm, Google. Its privacy lawyer took up cudgels against the necktie when he wrote to the Financial Times, asserting that the firm had "unofficially" banned the wearing of ties as part of its new privacy policy. The tie, Google's learned counsel averred, "acts as decorative camouflage for the business suit, designed to shield the middle-aged male physique, with its shrinking shoulders and protruding paunch, from feeling sufficiently self-conscious to hit the gym". Incensed by an article written by the newspaper's fashion editor in favour of neckties, the Google lawyer wrote the letter nearly a year ago, just about the time when Iran's aya-tollahs were embark-ing on their crusade, also "unofficial", against the tie. He went on to argue that a necktie cons-tricts circulation to the brain. While the mullahs of Iran came at the tie from their intolerance of the West's decadent culture, the Google official flaunted an attitude that's become a concern in America; it's called health fascism. The difference between Iran's totalitarian state and the health fascism of the emergent "nanny" state in America is just one of degree. In the former, the government wants to protect culture; the latter wants to protect its citizens' health. That is not all. In their bureaucratic way, officials at the European Union headquarters in Brussels also want to ban neckties. Mercifully, they limited their ambit to the summer season. The argument is nevertheless ingenious. They say that by not wearing neckties, men would be cooler in the summer. This would allow them to turn the temperature in their air-conditioned offices up a notch or two. The result: savings of significant proportions. They put a "green" angle on it and suggested that this would help mankind in its mortal combat with global warming. The barbarians are at the gate. Their battering rams are totalitarianism, health fascism and global warming. Straighten your ties, gentlemen, the time has come to take the activists on!

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