Barack Obama is no Richard Nixon.
Besides being different in their politics — although some folks might argue otherwise —their styles are entirely different.
Nixon would relax at the Western White House in San Clemente. When he went for a walk on the beach he made sure the White House photographer caught him on film strolling in the sand wearing a buttoned down suit.
Obama is a bit more relaxed. He’s even been photographed at high level summits with world leaders wearing suits without a tie.
Say what you want about Obama’s politics but the man has common sense style.
Although he definitely wears ties more often than not Obama is on to something: Why ties?
I know. I know. They are part of dressing up.
But unlike shoes, socks, slacks, and shirts what practical purpose do ties serve? They can be traced back to the Victorian Era where the seemingly credible reason why ties were created was that they were being fashionable by hiding unsightly buttons.
I confess. I haven’t worn a necktie for 23 years. Since 1990 I have worn a bow tie four times with tuxes but not a tie.
Part of it has to do with the small detail of my being as proficient at tying a Windsor knot as I am at performing brain surgery. But it has more to do with the fact they are about as comfortable as wearing a wool suit on the Fourth of July in Death Valley.
That may sound weird coming from a guy who at least once a week has someone ask why he always buttons the collar button on his shirts.
A tie is superfluous. Some say a tie is a finishing touch, a fashion statement.
What set me down squarely on the superfluous side after wearing a suit complete with tie to work until I turned 30 had everything to do with comfort and double standards than anything else.
I felt I was suffocating wearing a tie. It didn’t help that there was about 155 more pounds of me or the fact that when I was a photographer I could always expect once a month for some kid to yank on my tie when I leaned down to get their name after taking a photo. In doing so they also kept wrecking tie pins — I wasn’t into tie clips.
I also got razzed non-stop about my knots that looked like they were tied backwards. I could chalk it up to a tendency to want to be left handed and having people show me repeatedly how to tie a knot as if I’m right handed. I never could get it.
I finally got tired of the ridicule and switched to clip-on ties. That prompted remarks about how I was faking it. More often than not it came from guys who were wearing ties but had them loosened significantly. So if a tie is for looks, why wear one at all if it isn’t cinched all the way?
None of it made sense to me.
It isn’t as if you’re wearing your hat into a restaurant or someone’s house and not bothering to remove it. In some quarters that is actually still considered impolite. My grandmother who ran a working ranch would always note that real cowboys — and gentleman — always removed their hat when they entered a home or a restaurant. If was more due to the fact working cowboys and working farmers got a lot of dirt on their hats when they toiled. It was also a carryover from the Victorian era as well.
If we consider such traditions as removing one’s hat in a restaurant or home quaint or men opening doors for women archaic how come the tie still survives?
The tie definitely has seen its heyday. Market research from the NPD Group indicates tie sales in the United States peaked at $1.3 billion in 1995. By 2009 — the last year the firm has statistics — tie sales had slipped to $677.7 million.
My anti-tie stance doesn’t mean I favor “dressing down” when the situation calls for a certain standard.
Business causal suffices in a lot of situations that aren’t black tie affairs.
Impressions still matter. If you doubt that, see how judges react to potential jurors who show up for panel selection as if they are going to spend a week lounging on the beach.
And to be honest, there are times that it feels “more right” when the President of the United States is talking and he’s wearing a suit with a tie than if he wasn’t. But even so not having a tie doesn’t diminish the office or the man.
That’s the real point. If ties made the man then people who come from a different political cloth would at least cut their opponents some slack in the respect department.
What makes the man — or woman — isn’t a tie or some other superfluous piece of clothing but how they present themselves.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or 209-249-3519.