Fashion and Societal Viability

The necktie manufacturing trade association has closed its doors, because there are no longer enough necktie manufacturers to support it. While I doubt the demise of the association has caused much mourning outside the fashion industry… it does concern me, and not because I always wear a tie. I don’t, except to conventions and other appropriate business and social occasions. But it does concern me because of what it represents. The decline of the necktie might well be likened to the canary expiring in the social coal mine, so to speak.

Fashion is not just the presentation of one’s self through attire. It’s also a form of acknowledgment that there are duties to society which include appropriate clothing. Or put another way, wearing a tee-shirt to church or to a wedding or a tank-top to a restaurant, even McDonalds, is a form of disrespect to those in either place. It’s an attitude best described as “in your face, I’ll wear what I want.”

Interestingly enough, when Rudy Giuliani was mayor of New York City, he forced a crackdown on minor offenses, which initially was met with ridicule. But… the results of this type of policing in New York and elsewhere, not surprisingly to me, have shown that it also decreases other types of crime. That may well be because it reinforces societal expectations on behavior.

My late father-in-law was a trucker at a time when truckers were expected to wear uniforms of the company for which they drove [imagine that!], and frankly, in those days, truckers were a great deal more polite, both in person and in the way in which they handled their rigs. I can’t prove it, but I believe those uniforms reinforced their image and their sense of responsibility.

Dressing in an inappropriately sloppy fashion and just for one’s self when going out in public is another form of self-indulgence, the visual equivalent of bad manners. Bad manners lead to bad behavior. Bad behavior tends to undermine societies and social structures, because all successful and enduring societies are based on a degree of mutual respect between individuals within a society, and bad manners are a form of direct and personal disrespect.

Throughout human history, there have been periods where manners and standards of attire declined. Almost invariably, thereafter so did the society. So, if as a writer, you want to portray a collapsing society, just show one where personal sloppiness and bad manners are abundant, and you won’t be far wrong.

And that’s why I worry about the demise of the necktie and the necktie manufacturing trade association.