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Balancing act: The legacy of casual Fridays: Tie or no tie?

Published: Sunday, Nov. 18 2007 12:15 a.m. MST

Shortly after I came to the Deseret News in 1998, I did a business story on the "casualization" of America.

In that article, an expert on image management talked about the then-recent trend toward "casual Fridays" and dressing down in the workplace. She saw problems with the movement, feeling that relaxed dress could lead to relaxed work standards, morals and productivity.

I thought she made a lot of sense at the time, and frankly, I still do.

But I admit that I have succumbed to the attraction of wearing more casual attire — specifically, not wearing a necktie.

I hate ties.

To be fair, I think some of my tie phobia is genetic. My Grandpa Kratz despised the things. One of my favorite pictures of him is from my wedding day. It was taken minutes after the ceremony, and in it, he's looking at the camera with this cool smile on his face. Why was he smiling? I think it's because he already had removed his tie.

My dad is no tie fan, either. So it's no wonder they passed the trait on to me.

However, when I was a business reporter, I figured I needed to wear a tie to look "professional." So I noosed myself up every day.

Then, as the casual trend picked up steam, I stopped wearing a tie on Friday.

Eventually, I decided what was good for Friday would be good for Thursday, and I stopped wearing a tie on that day, too. Within the last year or so, I've stopped wearing them on Wednesdays and, sometimes, on Mondays.

Which is why I was interested in a silly survey that popped into my e-mail in box recently.

This national survey of more than 600 Americans was conducted in early October by HCD Research, based in Flemington, N.J., through its mediacurves.com Web site. It sought to discover how people view men who don't wear ties.

According to a press release, survey participants were divided randomly into two groups.

"Members of each group were asked to view one of two separate photos of a faceless male figure sporting a white shirt and tie, and a photo of a white shirt with an opened collar," the release said. "Then, based only on the photo, they were asked questions about what kind of man he might be."

According to the release, survey respondents said they thought the necktie wearer was more likely to be "a manager, a little older, and with some more people thinking he was in a high-income bracket."

"The no-tie, dressed-down man gave the impression to more people that he was a bachelor and was trying to act younger," the release said. "This was in contrast to the dressed-up man, who participants viewed as smarter and even a leader."

And that's not all. Men viewed the dressed-up person as more dependable, while women saw the dressed-down man as likely to be more fun.

"The message is clear," the release said. "First, it depends who sees you. If you want to work in an office and talk to men, wear a tie. If you want to talk to women and want a friend or even a date, open the collar."

I guess that makes me an aberration. As a man who has been happily married for 16 years, I clearly am not trying to land a date. (I think it would take far more than an open collar to help me in that respect, anyway, but I digress.)

At the same time, I am a manager and "a little older," meaning I should be a tie-wearer, according to the survey.

Hmmm.

Maybe it's the "high-income bracket" thing that saves me on this one.

Either way, I have no intention of wearing a tie more often, unless someone forces me. And I'd be interested in your views on this topic. Now that office "casualization" is well established, do you think the trend has gone too far? Has it had a negative impact on the workplace? Has it affected you, personally?

Let me know. Or, if you have a financial question, I want to hear that, too. Send both to gkratz@desnews.com or to the Deseret Morning News, P.O. Box 1257, Salt Lake City, UT 84110.


E-mail: gkratz@desnews.com

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