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.