What is the purpose of a necktie? Perhaps in days of yore it held together the collar of a shirt or was a shrunken ruff which whilst revealing the chicken skin or dewlaps, distracted the onlooker. In the modern world it represents a sign of conformity – is there greater sign of being ‘the establishment’ than sporting the ‘old school tie’? In a world where the poor feel increasingly disenfranchised and the gap between them and the rich is greater than ever before, is it appropriate that solicitors adopt a visual cue that they align themselves with the vested interests rather than seeking justice for all? In a society where access to legal redress for private disputes has been treated as an ‘unaffordable’ expense and the court system seen as a service for those who can pay rather than an integral part of civil society, the role of solicitors may be somewhat supportive of the law, but that should not imply satisfaction with the status quo.
It is helpful for those who wish to exercise control to have a barometer of conformity that has little or no practical usefulness – so a necktie fits that profile. A person can think themselves a ‘rebel’ by choosing a ‘loud’ tie or one they consider subversive, but by adorning themselves with a tie that has not innate usefulness, they are signing up to their place on the conformist register.
Lawyers are ‘conformist’ in that they uphold the law, but thinking back to schooldays, finding a way to wear their tie so as to obey the rules whilst challenging the spirit of those rules might be considered the early efforts of potential lawyers. If some clients like the appearance of a necktie, so be it and if that is particularly important, they are sure to find a lawyer who either likes neckties or feels obliged to conform.
However in a digital age where sometimes we do not ever physically meet our clients, I make no apology for my everyday workwear. I recognise that eschewing a necktie would be seen as disrespectful, so I wear a tie at court for that reason. Although that part of our dress-code is externally imposed, dressing smartly shows respect for the position of the judge and can make the advocate feel that they are ‘in the zone’ to fulfil that role to the best of their ability.
On my ‘man-cave’/office door there is a sign which says ‘I am up and I am dressed: what more do you want?’