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Dennis Lythgoe

Ties aren't only silly but harmful

I am increasingly opposed to the silly cultural tradition that dictates that men wear ties around their necks to indicate proper dress decorum.

Who is to say that wearing a coat and tie makes a man look better than an open-neck shirt with sweater and slacks? In fact, I would argue that often it is the reverse, especially given the incredibly bad taste many men have in coats and ties.

Wearing a drab coat and tie that has been in the family for a decade often seems the antithesis of fashion and inspires men who are required to wear them by their employers to be more out of touch with fashion than they would otherwise be. When work is over, you will often' see these same drab men sitting around the house in dirty T-shirts, cut-off jeans and gym shoes, as if they build up a burning need to wear the worst thing they can think of as soon as they get out of the office. Their fastidious employers would be shocked.

And if they have to go anywhere else, they immediately don the reliable coat and tie as their badge of respectability. I think that if most men could dress more comfortably at work they would not feel the need to dress deplorably at home.

Doctors, lawyers, businessmen, accountants, salesmen, college professors and newspaper editors, would be just as credible in a nice sweater and slacks combination as in a coat and tie. A tie invariably chokes any man who wears it, and most men worth their salt on the job will quickly loosen it, giving the impression of greater comfort and greater productivity.

The question is, if you go to work and immediately loosen the tie, why wear it in the first place?

For those who hate conformity, ties present the perfect symbol to rebel against. I had a friend in high school who developed a reputation for refusing to wear ties at absolutely any event, no matter how important. He took the reputation throughout life, and amazingly enough, has succeeded financially, socially and culturally without ever bowing to the conformity of the necktie.

My views are supported by some reliable evidence. Psychology Today magazine did a study of neckties in the workplace and found that wearing a tight shirt collar and tie can interfere with perceptual skills by hampering the flow of blood to the brain and to sensory organs like the eyes.

Not only that, the resulting slowdown in perceptual response can persist for a while after the collar and tie are loosened. So, if you wear a tie to work, you may be a few bricks short of a full load. This is no joke, because a slowdown in perceptual skills can affect job performance, and that can be important if you're a bullfighter or a bus driver.

To measure the potential problem, researchers set up a visual discrimination test for a group of lawyers and businessmen, most of whom were wearing collars and ties that were too tight. The participants were confronted by light that blinked with increasing rapidity and asked to press a button when the flashes became so rapid they appeared to be a steady beam.

Reactions were compared with another group of tieless men whose shirts were open at the collar. Sure enough, the tight neckwear significantly reduced response time.

The researchers suggested that such a loss of visual perception can harm performance for computer operators, airplane pilots and a host of others whose findings also hold implications for a variety of other sensory and cognitive functions necessary in the workplace. Dressing for success, in short, could help make you a failure!

Now I would add that in spite of all these convincing arguments, sometimes I like to wear a necktie. I just get up some mornings and feel in the mood to be choked, to move a little more slowly, and sustain a smaller blood flow to the brain. For some reason, I just don't feel as productive, and I want my eyes to move more slowly across the computer screen, and a necktie is the perfect solution.

And what the heck? It adds a little variety to my dress. It also shocks people who think they can predict how I'll be dressed.

So don't be surprised if you see me occasionally in a necktie - even an ugly Christmas one - but don't expect me to be at my best.

By Dennis Lythgoe - Deseret News January 26, 1990