Is Wearing a Tie a Nuisance?

A reader tries to convince the White Guy that conforming to standard Western business attire is equal to sexism or homophobia. Read how the White Guy responds.

Luke Visconti’s Ask the White Guy column is a top draw on Visconti, the founder and CEO of DiversityInc, is a nationally recognized leader in diversity management. In his popular column, readers who ask Visconti tough questions about race/culture, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability and age can expect smart, direct and disarmingly frank answers.

Ask the White Guy Luke Visconti


I’m still irritated by the blitheness with which you assure your readers that it’s OK for everybody to be forced into the mold of hideousness which is “standard business attire” unless they have a religious or ethnic excuse to get out.


Standard Western business attire is ugly, uncomfortable (for those who cannot afford tailoring, anyway) and sends a message of conformity and soullessness. Must human dignity be sacrificed for everybody but a handful of lucky Silicon Valley geeks and unambitious low-end “creatives” in advertising/media? I feel that this is on some level almost as oppressive as the discrimination on grounds of gender, faith, sexual orientation, etc., acceptance of which [was] once considered proof that you were a “team player” and fit into the WASP culture of “REAL” Americans!


(Note: I’m a union steward; I don’t consider “Because management has the power to force you to do this” a valid rationale.)



Unreconstructed hippie without a tie.



Please–wearing a tie may be a nuisance, but it’s hardly an assault on human dignity.


You have a nice job as a union steward. Your position must give you some latitude in how you dress, but I haven’t seen the shop floor that allows total freedom. For example, if you wanted to wear flowing robes with sleeves that draped over your hands around a lathe, would that be OK?


“Standard business attire” is a good way to keep insignificant aspects of who you are (like your clothes) from overshadowing your talent. To be successful, newcomers must adapt to some level of conformity to fit in. I’ve seen more progressive companies adopt a wider level of tolerance in how people dress–but I’ve also seen that reversed.


At a well-known retail company’s headquarters, I noticed the relatively young and attractive work force was much more conservatively dressed than they were dressed during my previous visit. I asked about it and was told that the new CEO was uncomfortable with the increasing amount of skin exposed (bare midriffs, etc.) and tightened up the dress code.


There’s another issue I’d like to bring up–correct spelling and good grammar is necessary if you want to be successful. I covered this in another column.

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  • Please re-read my comments: I made the point that a shop steward has restraints in dress as well.

  • “Unreconstructed Hippie” needs to get over himself. Upset over a tie? I’d like to see him spend a day in high heels, which were considered de rigueur for professional women for many years. In any event, if he is that unhappy with his employer’s dress code and it is not an objection of conscience or heath/safety, then he needs to seek other employment. Period.

    By the way, on the other hand, I am also a union board member and shop steward in a white collar job. The White Guy’s insinuation that being a shop steward is a license to bend the company dress code or other policies is absurd. But that’s another column.

  • While I agree that looking the part commands respect, I think that it”s ridculous that of all the pressing issues that this president has to deal with that a dress code is the topic of discussion. What about the ethics of the office; no one raised an eyebrow about that in the last administration?

  • I always find this topic amusing as well as ever present. So much fuss over a useless piece of decorative cloth!

    I went into a job in the entertainment industry about a year ago, after 8 years in an environmental non-profit, after years in government and politics. Ties were de rigeur in government and politics, but rarely seen in environmental organizations or show business (however, those two fields have their own dress codes, such as expensive hiking boots or fleece vests for environmentalists, and very expensive European duds—sans tie—for entertainment).

    Some days I feel like I should just throw out all my ties. Then I go to a meeting with bankers or government types and ties are ubiquitous again. It’s an interesting contrast.

    BTW, a recent poll taken of Fortune 500 CEO’s reported that the vast majority of them believed that the traditional business suit for men would be pretty much history within a generation. We shall see.

  • Matt 22:21, Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s, Give to God what is God’s. If your boss wants you to wear a tie… wear a tie.It is not worth raging against nor is it a topic you can win. If you don’t like it, find another boss.

  • What always crops up in our culture is that comment, “It’s his/your/their/etc. choice.” That term “choice” is usually constructed as a “free choice,” no less. I submit that those “free choices” are part of our society’s ridding itself of a darned guilty conscience. It’s not a CHOICE when one works at Walmart; it’s a matter of compulsion by economic necessity. I am always reminded of that devastating scene in “Monster” when Aileen Wuornos, played by Ms. Thereon, goes to an attorney’s office, wanting to make the CHOICE of working there. Does anyone see the problem here? The capitalist system is full of economic compulsion with each philosophically under-educated hollering about those “free choices.” They do NOT exist.

  •  I am a union president in a white-collar job; but my boss (a snappy dresser) is intelligent, and does not force me to spend my meager income on suits and ties (surely among the ugliest tribal costumes on the planet) instead of on my family.

    News flash: ties are ugly, and suits uglier. If you can’t afford tailored clothing, they can also be painfully uncomfortable. I also oppose the oppressive expectation that women wear perverse torture devices on their legs and feet for the sexual titillation of a few Neandertal males.

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