Monthly Archives

February 2021

The tangled history of the necktie

Māori MP Rawiri Waititi’s refusal to wear a necktie in the debating chamber of New Zealand Parliament a couple of weeks ago made global headlines. Powerfully describing the tie as a “colonial noose”, Mr Waititi argued that he should be permitted to wear a hei tiki – a greenstone pendant – instead as part of “Māori business attire”. Intense debate followed.

American and Australasian Photographic Company, Bank of New South Wales, Gulgong, 1870-1875. Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales, Home and Away 39876.

This strip of fabric worn around the neck and tied at the throat draws diverse – and often passionately conflicting – responses. Some people love them, but many loathe them. Some consider them a symbol of power, a signal of group allegiance or a central part of a uniform (and uniformity), but these might each be viewed in a positive or negative light.

I wrote about the history of neckties in Australia for The Conversation: The politics of the necktie — ‘colonial noose’, masculine marker or silk status symbol? I also enjoyed chatting about neckties with Sarah Macdonald on ABC Sydney Evenings and Sirine Demachkie on ABC Sydney Weekend Evenings.

Office Staff, 1911. State Library Victoria, H92.401/198.

There’s certainly much more to say about neckties than meets the eye.

Will you return to work in more casual clothes post lockdown?

I find the current predictions for more casual dress as we return to the office post lockdown fascinating, especially as we can trace historical parallels.  After WWI and WWII, periods of global crisis and turmoil with massive disruptions to “normal life”, there were calls for more casual clothing – just as there are now.

Sales of athleisure and activewear have boomed during the pandemic as we’ve embraced hoodies, tracksuits, leggings and slippers for working at home. Commentators and experts have suggested that both men and women might continue this styling by wearing more relaxed clothing including looser fit tailoring and lighter or stretch fabrics when lockdowns lift.

Laurie Shea, ‘Dress Reform’, 1947. Mitchell Library, State Library of New South Wales and Courtesy ACP Magazine Limited, ON 388/Box 009/Item 111.

I trace the similarities between now and the calls for men’s “dress reform” in the first half of the twentieth century in The Conversation. I’ve also enjoyed speaking about them on the radio, which you can listen to here:  

ABC Sydney, Breakfast with Robbie Buck and Wendy Harmer (28 January 2021 from 1:26:00 to 1:33:20)

ABC Darwin, Breakfast with Joelene Laverty (28 January 2021 from 46:00 to 53:17)    

ABC Perth, Breakfast with Russell Woolf (29 January 2021 from 1:17:00 to 1:22:50)

ABC Brisbane, Mornings with Cathie Schnitzerling (29 January 2021 from 1:24:00 to 1:29:05)

2GB, Nights with John Stanley and Paul B Kidd