Stick A Knot In It: The Tie Is Done

It's been on the way out in certain sartorially laid-back countries. Now the eternally elegant Italians may be ready to kill the *cravatta* too.

German Carnival tradition of Weiberfastnacht requires of women to cut off the ties of men
German Carnival tradition of Weiberfastnacht requires of women to cut off the ties of men
Vittorio Sabadin

When Tie Rack, the global chain of stores that sells — yes — ties recently announced it would shut all of its Great Britain stores by the end of this year, it occurred to us that something more than a struggling business was at play. Sure, there’s been competition from shopping malls. But something more basic is driving this company’s demise: Nobody wears ties anymore.

Tie Rack was founded in 1981 by South African businessman, Roy Bishko, who queued up every year at the Harrods’ sale in London to buy nice ties at good prices. Looking around him, he noted how many men were there for exactly the same thing, and so he thought that a shop selling only ties, at reasonable prices, would do well. By the end of the 1990s there were more than 400 Tie Rack stores around the world, in part thanks to a good marketing strategy. Tie Rack invented the “Glasnost” tie, with the U.S. and USSR flags intertwined around a dove. The senior George Bush wore it during the 1989 Malta Summit with Mikhail Gorbachev.

But over the past few years, business has steadily worsened for the company, despite the closure of rival Italian group Fingen. The reality, the chain’s managers admit, is that the tie’s time is simply up. Not even British Prime Minister David Cameron wears one when he goes to meet President Barack Obama, and on the streets of London, it’s difficult to spot someone sporting one.

We’ve become accustomed to fashion trends that die suddenly and then are resurrected just as quickly, but this time there doesn’t seem to be much hope. To know what young people think of ties, for example, just look at the children who are forced to wear them as part of their school uniforms. They sling them over their backs, tie them in funky ways, or even hide them inside their shirts.

The companies that all the kids know and want to work for someday are Google, Microsoft, Amazon and eBay, where employees work amid Ping-Pong tables and bean bags and have free rein over what they wear. Even the most traditional offices have adopted “casual Fridays” or a “business casual” dress code, where ties no longer have a place.

The tie’s auspicious history

If only fashion were rational. There are many good reasons to wear a tie, though few accessories are more uncomfortable. Men have been wearing them for 400 years — since the Croatian mercenaries of Louis XIV marched to Paris with their scarves knotted at the neck. The king and court immediately adopted the fashion, giving it the name Croat scarf, which eventually became cravat.

It was the British who made it the symbol of an elegant man. Almost all the knots have English names — from the simple Four-In-Hand to the St. Andrew to the illustrious, yet nearly impossible, Windsor.

In the 1920s, it was considered a casual accessory and was worn when playing golf, riding horses or climbing mountains. It was also used as a way of emphasizing membership in a club or the military.

Regimental striped ties, those that stripe from the left shoulder to the right hip, are worn casually the world over — but not in England, where they are still used to emphasize membership. It’s a badge taken so seriously that Brooks Brothers decided to imitate them but chose to stripe them in the opposite direction out of respect.

Over the centuries, the tie has become an effective way to size up someone upon a first meeting. Whether it’s worn too loose on the neck, too short, badly tied, mismatched, or the worst, dirty, the wearer invariably communicates something about himself.

Though the tie is probably the most useless item of clothing we wear, it will nevertheless be missed.

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Art installation "Greetings From Giza" by French artist and photographer JR faces the pyramids of Giza in Egypt

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 你好*

Welcome to Tuesday, where violence erupts after Sudan's military coup, Australia finally gets onboard with climate change goals, and Harrison Ford stars in Raiders of the Lost Credit Card. From Bogota, we also see what the capture of drug kingpin Otoniel means for Colombia, a country long stained by cocaine trafficking.

[*Nĭhǎo - Mandarin Chinese]


Saving the planet is really a question of dopamine

The elite of the ecologically minded are set to descend on Glasgow next week for the Cop 26 conference on climate change. But beyond debating policy prescriptions, French daily Les Echos explores the role our own brains have on making the right choices for the planet:

Almost every week, a new scientific study alerts us to the degradation of the environment. And yet, we continue not to change anything fundamental in our systems of production and habits of consumption. Are we all suffering from blindness, or poisoned by denial?

In his popular books Le Bug humain (The Human Bug) and Où est le sens? (Where is the Sense?), Sébastien Bohler, a journalist in neuroscience and psychology, provides a much more rational explanation: The mechanism responsible for our propensity to destroy our natural environment is in fact a small, very deep and very primitive structure of our brain called the striatum.

This regulator of human motivation seems to have been programmed to favor behaviors that ensure the survival of the species.

Since the dawn of humanity, gathering information about our environment, feeding ourselves, ensuring the transmission of our genes through sexual intercourse and asserting our social status have all been rewarded with a shot of dopamine, the "pleasure hormone."

Nothing has changed since then; except that, in our society of excess, there is no limit to the satisfaction of these needs. This leads to the overconsumption of food and addictions to everything from sex to social media — which together account for much of the world's destructive agricultural and energy practices.

No matter how much we realize that this is leading to our downfall, we can't help but relapse because we are prisoners of the dopamine pump in the striatum, which cannot be switched off.

According to Bohler, the only way out is to encourage the emergence of new values of sobriety, altruism and slowness. If adopted, these more sustainable notions could be recognized by the striatum as new sources of dopamine reward. But there's the challenge of promoting inspiring stories that infuse them with value.

Take the photo-collage exhibition "J'agis ici... et je m'y colle" ("I'm taking action here... and I'm sticking to it"), a collection of life-size portraits of residents committed to the energy transition, displayed on the walls of the French coastal city of La Rochelle.

Backed by the French National Center for Street Arts, photographer Martin Charpentier may be employing artistic techniques, but he's also tinkering with neuroscience in the process.

Stefano Lupieri / Les Echos


• Sudan in chaos following military coup: After Sudan's military seized power from the transitional government, defiant anti-coup protesters have returned to the streets of the capital city Khartoum, for a second consecutive day. At least seven people have been killed and 140 injured. Coup leader General Al-Burhan has announced a state of emergency across the country, while the military cut off access to the internet and closed roads, bridges, and Khartoum's airport. Washington condemned the coup and suspended aid, and the U.N. Security Council was expected to discuss Sudan behind closed doors later today.

• Egypt lifts state of emergency in force since 2017: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, announced the end of a four-year-old state of emergency, undoing powers that had given the government sweeping authority to quash protests, make arrests, search people's homes without warrants, and control everyday life in the most populous Arab country.

• Platforms take down Bolsonaro video linking vaccine and AIDS: Facebook, Instagram and YouTube have removed an anti-vaccine video from their respective platforms posted by Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Beyond blocking the video, in which Bolsonaro falsely linked the COVID-19 vaccine with developing AIDS, YouTube went further and suspended the far-right leader for a week.

• COVID update: The U.S. will launch a new travel system on November 8, imposing new vaccine requirements for most foreign national travellers and lifting severe travel restrictions over China, India and much of Europe. Meanwhile, authorities in northern China are reimposing lockdown, and other emergency measures as COVID-19 infections spread to 11 provinces.

• Australia pledges net zero emissions by 2050: As one of the world's largest emitters of greenhouse gases per capita and a major exporter of fossil fuels such as coal, Australia has finally committed to becoming carbon-neutral by 2050. This is a target already adopted by most nations heading to next week's COP26 international climate conference, but that Australia had so far refused to pledge.

• Japanese princess loses royal status over wedding: Japan's Princess Mako married her boyfriend Kei Komuro, giving up her royal status. Under Japanese law, female imperial family members lose their status upon marriage to a "commoner" although male members do not.

Raiders of the Lost Credit Card: A tourist returned the credit card of American actor Harrison Ford, who had lost it in Sicily while shooting scenes for the latest Indiana Jones movie.


"Out of control," titles German daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, reporting on the release of a series of articles by a consortium of 17 U.S. news outlets, called the "Facebook Papers," that reinforce whistleblower Frances Haugen's claims that the social media giant is prioritizing profits over the well being of its users and society.


$1.01 trillion

After striking a deal to sell 100,000 electric vehicles to car rental firm Hertz, Elon Musk's Tesla has joined Apple, Microsoft, Amazon and Google's Alphabet in the club of companies that have reached a $1 trillion valuation.


What the capture of a drug kingpin means for Colombia

While the capture of Otoniel, Colombia's most wanted drug trafficker, made global headlines, Bogotá daily El Espectador writes about the significance of the news for a country that has battled narcotrafficking for decades.

👮 The arrest of the Colombian mobster Dairo Antonio Úsuga David, a.k.a. "Otoniel," is a victory for Colombian intelligence, law-and-order forces and the broader fight against crime. Details of the eight-year-long pursuit of the head of the Gulf Clan, of the tireless and meticulous work, testify to the capabilities that the police and army have managed to develop in the fight against the narco-trafficking that has long been a stain on Colombia.

🇨🇴🇲🇽 Otoniel is responsible for a criminal organization with more than 3,800 members and influence on 12 departments and 128 districts in Colombia (though data from the Bogotá-based Peace and Reconciliation Foundation counts 211 districts). The Gulf Clan sends half the drugs going out of Colombia, and is the main exporter to Mexico. Its ties to the Mexican cartel chief Joaquín "el Chapo" Guzmán are well-documented — and Otoniel had aspired to fill the power vacuum left by Guzmán's capture.

⚖️ Some have observed that the ensuing power vacuum will engender more violence, which is true. But we are, in any case, far from eliminating drug trafficking in Colombia or cutting its tentacles across public life. That shows the limitations of the hard-line response to drugs, when we have seen it is not enough. Still, it is essential in any fight against crime for the state to show its operational capabilities. The message is clear: not even drug overlords are above the law in Colombia.

➡️


"I love Mako. I would like to spend my one life with the person I love."

— Kei Komuro said during a news conference after his wedding with Japan's Princess Mako, the niece of the current emperor and the sister of the likely future sovereign. The princess lost her royal status as a result of her marriage with Komuro, a "commoner."


An art installation "Greetings From Giza" by French artist and photographer JR faces the pyramids of Giza in Egypt, as part of the 2021 exhibition "'Forever Is Now," the first international art exhibition to take place there — Photo: Balkis Press/Abaca/ZUMA

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

Send all commoner and royal well wishes to Mako and Kei — and let us know what the news looks like from your corner of the world!

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