The Values of Dress Codes and Uniform?

English: All Of The Ties Worn Uddingston Gramm...
The Old School Tie

[tweetmeme]The decision to wear a tie (or not) can be a “sartorial minefield” for politicians and the public alike; so says historian David Cannadine in his BBC article The language of ties and many would tend to agree.

I wonder if the ‘problem’ is born out of our inherent desire to ‘fit in’ which, as a consequence, also drives our perceptions of acceptability?

Considering the fact, as individuals (and as a society), we have a tendency to judge people simply by their appearance, I’ve always been one of those who is more interested in substance and functionality, rather than form or appearance, be it actual or contrived.

What someone is wearing or how they appear, rarely replicates who they are in reality or indeed, how they actually perform. My friend and social sparing partner Rab is a fine example in point however; these factors can also be used to create a false image; the image we, or our employer and/or society, are seeking to portray.

The tie is just one part of the often elaborate rouse we employ to portray an initial image. But this little strip of cloth also serves to create an almost constant “should I, shouldn’t I” dressing conundrum, even more so for those in particular roles or positions within society it would seem. The tie was once de rigueur however today, actually not wearing one can also be just as important, apparently.

To press the flesh and get yourself elected, it seems essential to dress down and appear casual, like ordinary voters, rather than be buttoned up or formal…(David Cannadine)

But the humble tie is not just another one of those shocking fashion failures of history,it’s also indicative of uniformity. Mostly due to the symbolism associated with ties, dependant upon design, wearing a tie in Britain might imply you are a humble office worker, or that you belonged to one of the closed academic or organisational worlds that form part of our establishment.

There was some justification for this view, well summed up in the phrase “the old school tie“, which was – and in some quarters still is – redolent of snobbery, elitism, connection and privilege…(David Cannadine)

The term old school tie is often used as a derogatory metaphor by the media for old-boy social networks, nepotism, and the relatively disproportionate success of former pupils of major public schools, especially in politics and business. For example, after the 2010 General Election, The Times noted that 6% of the parliamentary Conservative Party were Old Etonians, under the headline “Tories’ old school tie still rules” (source

Those with liberal views (a friend who fits this category knows who he is), along with those who hold somewhat more radical anti-establishment desires, see the tie as an aspect of enforced uniformity. The way in which it’s worn can also be used a symbol of rebellion. By refusing to wear one at all, or by wearing it in a non conformist manner, as with the youth of today where “the British school tie has gone rogue” (see here).

When free to choose, deciding whether or not you wear a tie can be difficult, it’s a choice not helped by the now common place dress down ethic. A trait designed to imply a more touchy feely and approachable type of persona. But being encouraged to ‘dress down’ for your role or by your employer doesn’t always achieve the desired result.

It has to be said that many of the advantages of a uniform or dress code (actual or perceived) are often negated by the wearer in any case. After all, so many people have the inbuilt ability to resemble a bag of shit, no matter what they wear!

2 thoughts on “The Values of Dress Codes and Uniform?

  1. My overall point entirely old chap… Never judge a book by it’s cover however; if you’re uniformed or subject to a particular dress code, do it with pride don’t buck against it.


  2. Now then, now then, or should I not use that phrase given the (alleged) revalation in tomorrow nights programme about the late, great (?) origionater of that phrase. Anyway back to ties, I am that person that always looks like a bag of shit, except when in Highland Dress, thats the kilt to you sasanachs. Oh yes and I despise ties: Why? Well let me tell you; as Dave has intimated they stink of cronyism, of jobs for the boys, and downright eliteism, (all made worse by the boorish Tory cabinet minister PLEB Mitchell’s insistance that all that work in his department will wear them). As many know I served my country for 25 years having to wear ties for much of that time, throw in my school time and you will understand why I will not wear them now (some funerals and weddings excepted). Also when you do the type of job that I do a tie is often seen as a sign of authority and therefore is a barrier to the young people communicating with me. Choice, thats what we fought for, if you want to wear a tie, fill your boots. If you don’t, does that make you a lesser person, less able to do a job, less loyal, less anything? Or does it make you a rebel, a non conformist, a union man? Bollocks: I think that I am an individual, that can’t stand the whole stinking nepotism thing that wafts around the whole subject. And yes Dave your right, never judge the book by its cover, I may not look like people would expect, but then if they form judgements without getting to know me then it is their loss. Slainte.


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