Related tags 21st century

Why, oh why, do we men still have to wear black ties? asks Tony Jennings A few weeks ago I found myself watching the annual awards ceremony of...

Why, oh why,

do we men

still have to wear black

ties? asks

Tony Jennings

A few weeks ago I found myself watching the annual awards ceremony of the Royal Institute of British Architects on the box. Normally all television has a soporific effect on me but on this occasion I was transfixed. You may say anybody who gets an adrenaline-rush from watching another profession's annual prize-giving fully deserves type of derision reserved for train spotters or bird-watchers. And in a moment of self-reflection I did have to ask myself what I found so engaging about this event. Then I realised what it was: there were no DJs or black ties in sight.

By getting rid of this antiquated uniform the architects were staging a sartorial demonstration that theirs was a confident, up-beat profession that not only belonged to the 21st century but was capable of shaping it, too. After all, you can't take on that role while dressing like a 19th-century relic.

Strangely enough, that's exactly what our profession does when it celebrates its Feast Days - the MA Awards being one of the greatest in the calendar. Ours is an industry deeply concerned with ways of presenting our products that ensure they stand out from the crowd - whether we're talking about the label on a drink, the style of a glass or the total design of a bar - and what does the male half of the equation do on the big day?

It gets togged up in the same silly uniform!

I have tried to figure out the reason behind this phenomenon.

Is it the reflection of a professional inferiority complex that spurs us on to dress up like Edwardian toffs? Does this blast from the past suggest unease about the present and a vote of no confidence in the future?

Putting to one side the exploration of our industry's dark emotional undertow, it's also clear that the black-tie tyranny is discriminatory and a potent enemy of diversity.

It's a discriminatory practice because it only applies to half the participants - men. In this age of gender equality, why aren't all the women told to wear black cocktail dresses?

And it's an enemy of diversity because it labels every male in the same way, yet we are in a business that caters for all sorts of people. Surely each person should be allowed to reflect their individual dress preferences on these great occasions?

You can't tell me that every male member of our industry is comfortable participating in what should be a celebratory event looking like an extra in a Gosford Park-type movie.

Considering all the other problems our industry faces at the moment you may be muttering as you read this about the compulsion to rearrange deckchairs, but I do think the black-tie issue is a serious one.

The very persistence of this old-fashioned style is indicative of a backward- looking mindset and an intransigent unwillingness to move into the 21st century and address its challenges.

I would like to see the result of a poll on the issue but am not optimistic of a reforming outcome - after all, ours is an industry that loves ties, and that probably includes black ones.

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