￼a thing, like a reflector, returns the light it has received from it
Keith Hamilton Basso
I am imagining the tie as a reflector, and what kind of light it casts on those who wear it, and those who see it. Shifting shapes and sizes over the last three and half centuries, the necktie remains one of the last remnants of formal fashion wear for men. Whether met with enthusiasm or resentment, the tie appears as a commonly recognized artifact in modern day industrialized society. I see the necktie as a prop for performance. It separates the internal identity of wearer from an external, performed personality. It is assumed, agreed upon that while the wearer has the necktie on, a serious act is to take place. The tie is found in school uniforms, ceremonial formalwear, and the dress code for accountable professionals in finance, politics and law.
The necktie can only operate symbolically under agreed upon cultural codes. Without complying to this known convention, it is merely a simple, colorful piece of cloth. The necktie’s potential resides in perception of the meaning and the ritual that activates that belief. Today’s dominant cannon of necktie placement is standard and ubiquitous: under the collar, around the neck, bisecting the torso and pointing vertically down. The expression is finished with a knot placed over the vulnerable flesh of the throat and collarbones, potentially restricting the breath.
For me, the combination using soft material to execute gestures of segmenting, binding and restricting implies both violence and pleasure. Is the tie a catalyst for aggression? Impenetrability? Does it transform raw fear into a sense of empowerment? Does it signify a force beyond the impracticality that wealth affords? I imagine how it must feel to experience both such restraint and standardization, agreeing to systematically undergo the procedure of not only putting the tie on, but committing to nearly choking for the duration of an important, accountable event. I imagine this asphyxiation is both terrifying and exciting.
I imagine breathing again and transitioning from the exterior appearance once the tie is removed. The roles of both object and wearer begin to shift. Detached from the body, this silky rag becomes functionally barren, unthreatening, tucked away into darkness until the next ceremonial act.