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Ties Undone: Time To Tighten Sartorial Standards Of The Modern Man?

More politicians and businessmen shed their neckties. And now the backlash


David Cameron and Gordon Brown show off the somber look

MILAN - So it's come to this. In these ever fluid times, the necktie has become the sartorial last stand for those who see a society unraveling in the disintegration of dress codes.

It is happening right now in Germany where a Christian Democrat member of Parliament, Jens Koeppen, wrote a letter to his colleagues requesting that all agree to wear a tie at work to bring back ‘the dignity" of the Bundestag. Anyone who declines would forfeit the right to speak up in Parliament. Andrej Hunk, a fellow MP, said he did not even own a tie, protesting against mandatory use of a "19th century fashion accessory."

The debate promises to be heated, seeing as we have indeed pushed the limits of what is acceptable style. Even here in Italy, our mix of casual wear can border on sloppy. "The Senate pages were so much more elegant in their blue suits," complained former Senator Mario D'Urso, who tried to make it obligatory to change into official outfits before entering Parliament as a sign of respect for the institution.

In Italy, at least, some rules still apply: A jacket without a tie is allowed in the Lower House while a jacket and tie is required in the Senate. And that holds for everyone, from politicians to journalists to cameramen. If you don't have a tie, one will be provided.

The struggle between the sartorial traditionalists and the progressives dates back some time now. In 2007 the general manager and artistic director of Milan's La Scala Theater Stephane Lissner had instructions stamped on the back of each ticket: men were requested to wear a dark suit to openings, and at least a jacket and tie to all other shows; For the women outfits fitting of the "decorum" of the famed concert hall were required (a rather loose requirement which proved problematic when an outrageous feather-like outfit appeared and the perpetrator was allowed to stay).

But the march of the ‘tie-less' has continued unabated. Take the example of Sergio Marchione — CEO of Fiat — who shocked the Chinese with his casual sweater (The Chinese meanwhile have become more formal than ever since adopting the Western look decades ago). Esquire magazine selected President Barack Obama among the years's most elegant men and showed him dressed in an immaculate dark suit but with his shirt open at the neck. Tony Blair, once divine looking in a red tie, has since taken it off, triggering an earthquake inside and outside the Labour Party. His successor, Gordon Brown, also gave up on the tie and lost support. David Cameron is now copying Blair, and like his predecessors, shorn the tie but he still can't shed that air of Oxford snobbishness.

Still, the traditionalists are holding strong. There is Nicolas Sarkozy, who in addition to his Italian wife likes to show off his Italian ties. He prefers those designed by Maurizio Marinella but when he got married to Signora Bruni he wore a Luca Roda, which can be worn by members of both the right and left like Junichiro Koizumi, the three-time prime minister of Japan. Joaquín Navarro Valls, the spokesman for two Popes, Italian Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti, businessman Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, shoe magnate Diego Della Valle: all tie men.

Support for the German dress-code stickler Koeppen can also be found in a "trend report" issued by Future Concept Lab in Milan. "It is called extra rules," the sociologist Paolo Ferrarini explains. "It is the spontaneous attachment to a system of rules, decided on at that moment, out of need. The ritual is important: it is the application of order to chaos, and respecting roles." But when Koeppen tries to actually impose this order around the necks of his colleagues, he may only add to the chaos.

Read the original article in Italian

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Paying tribute to the victims of the attack in Kongsberg

Terje Bendiksby/NTB Scanpix/ZUMA
Carl-Johan Karlsson

The bow-and-arrow murder of five people in the small Norwegian city of Kongsberg this week was particularly chilling for the primitive choice of weapon. And police are now saying the attack Wednesday night is likely to be labeled an act of terrorism.

Still, even though the suspect is a Danish-born convert to Islam, police are still determining the motive. Espen Andersen Bråthen, a 37-year-old Danish national, is previously known to the police, both for reports of radicalization, as well as erratic behavior unrelated to religion.

Indeed, it remains unclear whether religious beliefs were behind the killings. In an interview with Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, police attorney Ann Iren Svane Mathiassens said Bråthen has already confessed to the crimes, giving a detailed account of the events during a three-hour interrogation on Thursday, but motives are yet to be determined.

Investigated as terrorism 

Regardless, the murders are likely to be labeled an act of terror – mainly as the victims appear to have been randomly chosen, and were killed both in public places and inside their homes.

Mathiassens also said Bråthen will undergo a comprehensive forensic psychiatric examination, which is also a central aspect of the ongoing investigation, according to a police press conference on Friday afternoon. Bråthen will be held in custody for at least four weeks, two of which will be in isolation, and will according to a police spokesperson be moved to a psychiatric unit as soon as possible.

Witnesses have since described him as unstable and a loner.

Police received reports last year concerning potential radicalization. In 2017, Bråthen published two videos on Youtube, one in English and one in Norwegian, announcing that he's now a Muslim and describing himself as a "messenger." The year prior, he made several visits to the city's only mosque, where he said he'd received a message from above that he wished to share with the world.

Previous criminal history 

In 2012, he was convicted of aggravated theft and drug offenses, and in May last year, a restraining order was issued after Bråthen entered his parents house with a revolver, threatening to kill his father.

The mosque's chairman Oussama Tlili remembers Bråthen's first visit well, as it's rare to meet Scandinavian converts. Still, he didn't believe there was any danger and saw no reason to notify the police. Tlili's impression was rather that the man was unwell mentally, and needed help.

According to a former neighbor, Bråthen often acted erratically. During the two years she lived in the house next to him — only 50 meters from the grocery store where the attacks began — the man several times barked at her like a dog, threw trash in the streets to then pick it up, and spouted racist comments to her friend. Several other witnesses have since described him as unstable and a loner.

The man used a bow and arrow to carry the attack

Haykon Mosvold Larsen/NTB Scanpix/ZUMA

Police criticized

Norway, with one of the world's lowest crime rates, is still shaken from the attack — and also questioning what allowed the killer to hunt down and kill even after police were on the scene.

The first reports came around 6 p.m. on Wednesday that a man armed with bow and arrow was shooting inside a grocery store. Only minutes after, the police spotted the suspect; he fired several times against the patrol and then disappeared while reinforcements arrived.

The attack has also fueled a long-existing debate over whether Norwegian police should carry firearms

In the more than 30 minutes that followed before the arrest, four women and one man were killed by arrows and two other weapons — though police have yet to disclose the other arms, daily Aftenposten reports. The sleepy city's 27,000 inhabitants are left wondering how the man managed to evade a full 22 police patrols, and why reports of his radicalization weren't taken more seriously.

With five people killed and three more injured, Wednesday's killing spree is the worst attack in Norway since far-right extremist Anders Breivik massacred 77 people on the island of Utøya a decade ago.

Unarmed cops

As questions mount over the police response to the attack, with reports suggesting all five people died after law enforcement made first contact with the suspect, local police have said it's willing to submit the information needed to the Bureau of Investigation to start a probe into their conduct. Police confirmed they had fired warning shots in connection to the arrest which, under Norwegian law, often already provides a basis for an assessment.

Wednesday's bloodbath has also fueled a long-existing debate over whether Norwegian police should carry firearms — the small country being one of only 19 globally where law enforcement officers are typically unarmed, though may have access to guns and rifles in certain circumstances.

Magnus Ranstorp, a terrorism expert and professor at the Swedish Defence University, noted that police in similar neighboring countries like Sweden and Denmark carry firearms. "I struggle to understand why Norwegian police are not armed all the time," Ranstorp told Norwegian daily VG. "The lesson from Utøya is that the police must react quickly and directly respond to a perpetrator during a life-threatening incident."

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