A holdover from the 17th century, neckties are direct descendants of the ascot, itself a descendant of the cravat, which itself is the descendant of the traditional decoration of Croation Mercanaries during the 30-Years War.
But who cares? They're stupid.
Men who wear them now do so only as a matter of tradition; a way to dress for work or occasions that supposedly require that tradition to be effective. People think that men in ties look dashing, or classy, but I always think that people wearing them look like fops - one handkerchief dangling from a cuff away from having a fainting spell when seeing a spider.
And why shouldn't I? That image has been carefully cultivated when looked at from a historical perspective. Nowadays people claim that a necktie is a great opportunity to show your individuality. In case you don't see the irony here, let me be clear: it's about 1/100th as great an opportunity as being able to dress yourself as you see fit. No, instead we basically force men to wear the same, ill-fitting, uncomfortable clothes as everyone else and tell them they have 10 square inches to express themselves (from the available pool of acceptable ties) in an effort to differentiate them from the rest of the IBM Engineers of the 1950s.
Some men like this, and to be honest, I can see their point. When you have no personality to speak of, then not having to worry about dressing yourself in a way that projects that personality is great. We have 400 years of tradition to fall back on, so if you wear black pants, white oxford and a tie without Looney Tunes on it, you're going to look "ok".
I'm not claiming I'm a basition of individuality. I hate having to pretend to care about how I'm dressed, and if not having to think about it works for them, great. My beef is with the level of comfort and the type of activity being done in these ridiculous things.
First of all, ties need to be tied, an annoying procedure that can be accomplished in a great many styles, such as the Windsor, the Half-Windsor, the Buckingham, the Elvis, the Ghandi and the Twist. My particular preference is to have someone else do it for me, and then simply make the hole large enough so I can slip my head in and out of it when I need to. Tying ties takes practice, and I for one don't think it's worth it to be good at it.
Second, they're uncomfortable. It's literally tied around your neck. Who the hell thought this was a good idea? My dog's collars are looser than this. For one, it forces you to do up the top button on your shirt, itself uncomfortable for people having to, say, swallow or breathe. Have you noticed that when men get off work they loosen their tie and undo the top button? Why do you think that is?
Finally, it's not appropriate for every job. If your job involves, say, doing maintenance on tractors, working in an assembly line, digging ditches or painting, then you shouldn't be made to wear a tie. I would suggest that my job is a poor candidate for tie-wearing, but no matter. Wear the tie we must, because we must wear the tie.
You might laugh, but it's a real phenomenon. Nevermind the gruesome image of the industrial accident, ties themselves are a disease-transmission vector, since they're a) right in front and down of someone's face and b) almost never washed. In September 07, the hospitals in England outlawed the wearing of ties in hospitals for this very reason. This comes in addition to the fact that the first thing paramedics do when confronted with an unconcious tie-wearer is to, yep, cut off the tie. But it's worth it, we look so cool!
One possible solution to this is to wear what is known as a clip-on tie, that is, one that requires no tying, no strangulation and, when yanked, pops right off. You'll be ridiculed for dressing like a 6-year-old, but that's not a bad solution overall. It's not as good as wearing no tie at all, though, is it? It's like wearing a tie clip, instead of just taking the damn thing off.
Can we get rid of them, please? Workers are more productive when they're happy and comfortable. Let them wear t-shirts and jeans if they want and you'll make more money. If they prefer suits and ties, or feel they have to wear them to sell cars or whatever, then that's fine, just don't make it a mandate in jobs where it's not appropriate. Look no further to the famous historical culture shift between IBM and Microsoft, and look where they are now. Even Iran has banned them, on the grounds that they're a symbol of Western Oppression. Let me repeat that. A symbol of Western Oppression.
The wearing of neckties is on the decline, thankfully, but not in my immediate vicinity. Casual Fridays and places of business where they're not stuck in a time warp have led to the declining membership of tie manufacturers and designers in the Men's Dress Furnishings Assoiciation. I say good riddance.
Tomorrow: Why "dress shirts" should be used as cannon wadding.
So, as a matter of protest, I suggest the ultimate in minimal-effort disdainful neckwear: the Bolo Tie. If anybody gives you guff, just tell them if it's good enough to be the official neckwear of the state of Arizona, it's good enough for me.