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[FOUNTAIN]Strangled by ties that bind

Mar 01,2003
Fashions in neckties seem to be simple. Ties become wider or narrower and the way of wearing them changes to a longer or shorter form. Nonetheless, neckties have the magical power to improve or lessen the impression the wearer makes, depending especially on their color.
The history of the necktie is not very long. A necktie is a cravate in French, and there is a history that goes along with the word. In 1635, during the Thirty Years War, 6,000 French soldiers paraded in Paris in support of Louis XIV. Among them, Croats wore a cloth around their neck, which became a fashion statement among kings and aristocrats. It was given the same name as the colloquial term for Croats, cravate. In 1660, when Charles II returned from exile in France to Britain, he wore a necktie and the fashion then spread to all of Europe. At that time, a necktie was very expensive, and Charles II bought one for 20 pounds, 12 shillings, the equivalent of five years of wages for a commoner at the time.
All the burial mound figures in the mausoleum of the first Qin emperor in China, who died in 210 B.C., wore a woven silk cloth around their necks. Orators in Rome wore a cloth called a fascalia to protect their vocal cords.
A necktie is a necessity for a salaryman. Around the world, they wear suits and ties. Although an increasing number of the younger generation at high-tech start-up firms have shed their ties, they will still remain a necessity for male office workers for a while. This morning, more than 600 million men went to work wearing ties of different colors.
Neckties almost symbolize work. A correspondent who worked at home started wearing a tie while he typed. People still talk about a politician who put on a tie every morning even though he was jobless for a time. It seemed to be part of an effort to maintain his self-image.
President Roh Moo-hyun, who was inaugurated on Tuesday, wore a neat jade-colored necktie. It seemed to be a signal that he would tackle his work as president after taking off a gaudy-looking traditional overcoat. I hope he will take care of the pile of imminent tasks with the alertness the tight knot on his tie symbolized.
And why these musings? They were triggered by a report that a Briton has filed a lawsuit saying that being forced to wear a tie is sex discrimination.


by Yoo Jae-sik

The writer is Berlin correspondent of the JoongAng Ilbo.


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