The ties that bind

May 1, 2013

Is it OK for male lawyers to go without a necktie?

Photo: Shutterstock












The eventual arrival of spring – and the forthcoming film of The Great Gatsby – is reviving the debate about men’s accessories.

And that debate seems as polarized as ever. On the one hand, fashionistas such as Tom Ford are pro the tie, prizing it as a rare opportunity for men to accessorise.

In other circles, manlier men are opening up their collars to let the air in and the aroma of Lynx out.

In many firms, business casual now has its loafer-clad feet well and truly under the table. This is often true of firms which have undergone US mergers, when all men aspire to the preppy look that’s always better carried off by American counterparts.

Some firms also see tielessness as both en vogue (‘Call me Dave’, and what-have-you) and as a means to appeal to hip young trainees who presumably find neckwear too square for words.

Tie me up, dress me down

In an excellent article in The Guardian, Lancaster University prof Cary Cooper questioned the familiar defence that wearing a tie makes for a more professional outlook.

‘There’s no definitive research on the effect of dress on productivity,’ he told the paper. ‘But I’d be surprised if we didn’t find that smart casual saw productivity rise. The more informal an office – as long as it’s not slovenly – the better the communication. It’s about making the office less stressful.”

We asked a barrister who meets a lot of lawyers for her view. ‘In my experience, male lawyers usually don’t wear ties in the office unless they’re about to meet with a client or it’s a very old-fashioned office,’ she said. ‘Can’t say I blame them – ties are far too similar to nooses for comfort.’

An alternative point of view comes from a Magic Circle partner, who tells us that not wearing a tie ‘is like buying an off-the-peg suit or living in Essex – it’s not completely wrong, but it’s not entirely right either.’

Which reminds us of that hoary old internet gag: Why do lawyers wear ties? To stop the foreskin from creeping up their necks. AB

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