There was a strange mixture of hand-wringing and schadenfreude at the news that Tie Rack is to close down (The Times, BBC). In IT of course many people have had a relationship with ties of ambivalence at best. Traditionally, IT is divided into Suits and Beards, and techies pride themselves on not wearing ties. After all, they might get caught in intake fans, Incredibles-style:
Thing is, fewer and fewer techies work with hardware these days. If you’re hacking Ruby, you’re about as far removed from the hardware as it’s possible to get. In the other direction, the Suits have also stopped wearing ties, preferring blazers with open-collar shirts or even going the full Zuckerberg and showing up in T-shirts and hoodies.
In other words, the whole no-tie thing has definitively jumped the shark. You are no longer making any sort of statement by showing up tie-less; if anything, wearing a tie has become the provocative statement.
In fact, suits & ties are actually the ultimate nerd apparel. You have to put some effort into shopping, sure, and they tend to cost a bit more than a random vendor T-shirt and ancient combats, but the advantage is that you can thereafter completely forget about wondering what to wear. You can get dressed in the dark and be sure that the results will be perfectly presentable. If you want you can go to a little bit more effort and inject some personality into the process, but the great thing is that you don’t have to. By wearing a suit & tie, you lead people to pay attention to what you say and do, not to what you are wearing. And isn’t that the whole point?
This is why I was reassured to see plenty of ties this week at the Gartner Datacenter conference. Reports of the death of the tie have been greatly exaggerated.
Long live ties!