So as I put on my necktie this morning (Sept. 13), I reflected how I was showing my age by wearing an Adam Smith necktie that the Heritage Foundation made into a sort of tribal badge for Reaganites in the 1980s.

Then I realized again that the sheer habit of wearing a tie during the workweek at all (I do so Monday through Thursday) makes me a dinosaur from the 1980s anyway. Just a week before, I saw a longtime friendly acquaintance, an always-dapper lawyer, at a lunch bar in Mobile, Ala., and told him we might be the only people in all of downtown, except for attorneys actually in court that day, who were wearing ties.

My lunch-counter companion rolled his eyes. “People in professions should look professional,” he said. “I never know who I run into who might turn into a client. And besides,” – and then he laughed – “I don’t want somebody to think I’m just a document ‘runner’ for some firm rather than a lead attorney.”

Still, he and I stood out like sore thumbs. And this is in a Deep South coastal city where genteel old habits die hard. Yet aside from we two prematurely obsolete throwbacks, there wasn’t a tie in sight, either at the lunch place or in the six-block walk back to my office.

Granted, ever since at least the counter-culture 1960s, the necktie regime has been challenged. By early this century, only 6% of American men were wearing them as a daily routine, while the most recent pre-COVID poll I found showed that 67% of men never wear them to work. And this was before the pandemic sent almost everyone away from offices, instead working from home in shorts and flip-flops.

Then again, Bloomberg News reported in May that at least in some trendy circles, neckties are making a comeback, especially in social settings. It said necktie sales, while still nowhere near the numbers in past decades, have increased for two years straight.

Maybe, then, the Adam Smith logo on my own tie is appropriate. Smith, of course, is considered the great theorist of capitalist economics, In the end, the market economy will provide the ties that bind fashion and profit together. Wear neckties and get the business, or wear the ties and get the girls. Or just be like me and wear them out of sheer habit. Sometimes obsolescence wears well.

— the end —

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