Dr Liz Gordon: A tie! A tie! My whole cultural identity for a necktie!

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The origins of the necktie are in Europe, where a string of encounters between cultures, some ending in the mandatory bloody massacre of one group or another, transferred the cravat into the heart of French culture and fashion.  As everyone knows French fashion is superior, this soon translated into the adoption of the cravat, including numerous silly ways to tie it.

Finally the necktie emerged from the mess of decorative modes of male dress (for it is clearly an item of decoration, not a means of keeping one’s head attached to the body), to become dominant is what is now known as business attire.

I was just four years old when I became forced to wear a tie as part of my school uniform, at the little private school called Hersham House on the corner of my street.  I owe a lot to that school for giving me what we euphemistically call ‘a good start in life’, and I suppose also for the ability to put up a neat tie.

For as long as I can remember, ties have been a symbol of social class. That is why they were compulsory, even for four year old girls, at my first school. Children are forever the walking billboards for their schools, and the site of tiny wee children with large ties adorning their frontage sent a clear message that Hersham House was a quality school, for the upper middle classes, please.

Ties send a remarkably large number of messages.  Mr Trump’s ties were extremely long, so as to avoid that embarrassing gap between the end of the tie and the top of the trousers, known as the loser gap (yes I made that up). To ensure he would never be caught out in such a fashion faux pas, Trump’s ties were metres long and could have been used to hoist the US flag on the top of the Congress.

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The point I wish to make is that the tie is a symbol of a particular kind of class system and a dress code that emerged in places very far away from here and in very different times.

It is not difficult to say that Māori beat the European settlers hands down in terms of sartorial elegance and decorative aplomb. The tie is both a symbol of pakeha western supremacy and also of the evident limitations of white male fashion power.  The ensemble of shirt, tie and suit has remained virtually unchanged for 100 years while women’s fashion has been revolutionised. So stale.

So Rawiri Waititi has been ejected from Parliament for failing to wear a failed symbol of human decoration and class-based male (and very occasionally, at English posh schools, female) attire.  Moreover, it appears the majority of members of Parliament voted to retain the hang-noose symbol of a time that is past and gone.  And then enforced it upon Māori.  All this, during a period when issues of decolonisation have come to the fore.

Imagine if it had been different.  Imagine if the Speaker had ruled that males may include a discreet decoration on the front of their shirts, which may represent a cultural or other symbolic form or might be simply for decoration. This kind of leadership would free the masses of middle class males, the inmates of many NZ boarding schools and others of the hated tie, and allow men to use their imagination or heritage to fashion a taonga for themselves.

But in this and so many other things, parliamentarians have failed to take an independent stance and have reverted to the default of past practice. But the standards that they seek to uphold are both largely imaginary and highly conformist.

Hey, folks, it is time to imagine new futures! Like in so many other areas, this has required Mr Waititi to put his own values on the line for what he believes in and to be punished for his views. I really did think we were beyond all that.  It is so embarrassing and distressing.  An urgent rethink is necessary.  Is the next culture war to be fought on that outdated symbol of male fashion decoration, the tie?  Let’s hope not.

And I laughed and laughed when Debbie Ngarewa-Packer, the other Māori Party MP, turned up to Parliament in a tie. Māori have always been really good, through gestures of defiance, at unpicking the stuffy protocols of pakeha society.  Oh how you have brought them down to size, with your neat little gesture! So clever.

Dr Liz Gordon is a researcher and a barrister, with interests in destroying neo-liberalism in all its forms and moving towards a socially just society.  She usually blogs on justice, social welfare and education topics.

47 COMMENTS

  1. I am so pleased there is no poverty now and no families are homeless and we can all get into a hospital when needed . I am assuming that is the case because we have time to argue if an elected male should wear a tie.

    • Trevor think about it, clearly you are not Maori and you don’t give a stuff about what Maori cultural values are. Why should any Maori have to wear a tie. What he was wearing was totally appropriate for his culture.

      • Well they can wear a grass shirts for all I care, it will make little difference to the tripe they talk in Parliament
        There are alot more pressing issues than having to wear a tie, like the cowboy hat though it goes well with the tiki. What a laugh

  2. There’s heaps of MPs in the house not wearing ties. They are called “women”.
    The rule is completely meaningless in this day and age.

  3. I don’t t think the tie in Parliament is really about imposing a cultural standard as simply ensuring some awareness of dress code is maintained ie ties act as a brake on other types of attire, keeping things fairly formal

    • Of course it is Pakeha invented parliament not Maori. There is nothing wrong with an open neck shirt. They can easily keep a reasonable standard of dress with out the anachronistic tie!

  4. So the Mexican/central american? MP was allowed to wear a bolo, a piece of cord with a decorative ornamental disc but the indigenous MP was not allowed to wear his hei tiki, a piece of cord with a decorative carved figure. Nice one again Mallard whom I suspect is just in this as a power play/pissing contest because Rawiri didn’t seek/beg permission from his white overlord to stand up for his cultural freedom.

  5. This is ridiculous. A tie victim? Really?

    If the objective was defiance then 100% success.

    If its a fuck you to white mans parliament, then again, bravo. But why be there?

    And why the Texan hat? Or the spectacles? Both surely signs of oppression, Texas is not known for its liberal ideals surely?

    I hate ties as much as the next Rawiri. Out of date and annoying much less pointless to wear. And in our equal rights world, why do men have to wear one but not women in parliament?

    But maybe Judith Collins thought the same at Waitangi, forbidden to speak because she is a woman. Maybe she should have thrown a hissy fit, claimed racism, colonisation and whatever else, gone home…on full pay.

    This is so pointless and sad and in fact makes the Maori Party MP’s very easy to play. They’ll storm out of parliament for any reason.

    Surely though there are far better ways of making your point rather than being belligerent. And far better ways of doing business with people you need to do business with to, apparently, serve the people you are supposed to represent than being a personality no one wants to deal with.

  6. “I really did think we were beyond all that”
    No, we really aren’t. And we still live by the myth that this is ‘lil ‘ole NuZull that punches above its weight. Sure there’s the occasional standout things we get admired for, and which make your ‘true blue Kiwi’ feel proud – often when overseas, but we’re not really making much progress.
    And sadly there are growing paternalistic and authoritarian attitudes in the senior ranks of the public service and, it seems that a once progressive Labour Party are just tickety boo with that.
    I’ve just been reading some briefings to incoming Ministers. I hadn’t quite realised how bad all the neoliberal business-oriented management-speak has become. I gave up. It’s depressing.
    But if you’re a tertiary student – I reckon do comms and marketing or something to do with PR and spin. It could end in at least a 10-15 career before the natives get restless enough to start stringing you up.

  7. This has all been rehashed ad infinitum. The bottom line is that where anyone enters any workplace where there is a dress code, part of the deal is to abide by that dress code – or consider seeking alternative employment.

    This applies to Parliament too, a fairly well- paid workplace, funded mainly by the less well- paid, duped into thinking that these politicians exist to represent their interests, and living in hope that some day they just might do that.

    God only knows what this chappie will accomplish by grandstanding about having to wear a tie to work.
    Will it make a difference to the life of a mum trying to buy one egg at a time, ur unable to find a piece of decent cardboard to put in the holey flapping soles of her child’s shoes ? No, it will not.

    Will it fund superglue from the $2.00 shop to try to stick those soles back on ? No, it will not.and if it does, the glue may not be compatible. Did you know that ?

    Will it provide fresh food for the old duck rummaging through the supermarket rubbish ? No, it will not

    Will it provide a cake of soap for a smelly student no longer able to swipe some because soap now comes in containers firmly attached to walls ? No, it will not.

    Or could it mean that the family don’t have to share one grimey facecloth which mum boils up every now and then to deslime it, weighing the cost of the power against the practical aesthetics, with family unaware that this is just another of the quiet jobs, carried out in the background, by the mother of the one facecloth family ?

    A packet of smokes, maybe, when wild weather wets the butts at the bus top ? No, it will not – but poor men shouldn’t be smoking when they can beat the missus and smash the kids for free.

    Currently, far too much of our European history and culture and heritage is being ridiculously labelled “colonialist “, and the tie is just another example.

    Do these people object to wearing shoes and brassieres to work too ?

    Do they balk at spending a couple of hundred dollars having their hair fashionably streaked, or disposing of a family’s monthly food budget on getting their nails done ? No, they don’t, they cherry- pick to suit themselves, and are a dangerous wast of time.

    This is book- burning territory, exemplified by the National Library in Wellington dumping books not published in New Zealand, with our rich heritage of wonderful European writing and literature being dumped in favour of what ? A proposed history curriculum likely to deliberately exclude the hard work and creativity which has helped to elevate us and to civilise us as people, because that is not what the power-wielders want, they want dumb.

    Scream “Colonialist “ and it works a treat, it really does. Query it, and be labelled racist, but jumping on the now trendy anti-white carousel may not be the most progressive or constructive path to the societal harmony which we not just need, but which we do owe to the future. Boring, eh ?

  8. Who cares if Rawiri Waititi isn’t wearing a tie when we have more important pressing issues to worry about, like people not having a home or somewhere decent to live and people drinking contaminated water. And we have border issues with Covid and too many being allowed in and our health/Nurses are under huge stress.

  9. Viva Liz. The tie a symbol of oppressive colonisation. But then they must do as we dictate we being pakeha. What a crock. As for Ardern saying their are more important things to work towards or whatever, what a joke, more important like poverty that the PM despite her hand wringing has done squat about.

    I remember the late Rod Donald applying to try and get MPs to have the option to wear or not to wear a jacket. Another silly thing that remained, in summer do you really need to wear a jacket in the debating chamber. More nonsense!

  10. And yet not one mention of his stupid fucking hat.
    You write @ Dr LG.
    “…women’s fashion…”
    “…even for four year old girls…”
    Surely, by using your narrative as a guide shouldn’t that be ‘female’s fashion’ and ‘four year old females’ ?
    Sure. I’m a male of my species which happens to be homo sapien but I’m also a ‘man’ more or less and thanks all the same.
    Animals who are homo sapien who are not male could confidently be referred to as ‘female’ for the purposes of zoological introspection?
    Is this Post, @ DR LG, a zoological examination of a male wearing an adornment commonly called a ‘neck tie’ ? What must you think of ‘males’ zoologically speaking wearing bone and feather through their noses as some do in, say, Papua New Nuignea? That’s quite the display of male-ness surely?
    While I agree entirely that evicting Mr Male Waititi from parliament for not wearing a neck tie was stupid and inflammatory but then it was the stupid and inflammatory trevor mallard who made the call. Yep. That’s irony.
    But that hat inside? I mean Oooo eeeee Someone should tell Mr Male Man Person Waititi that he’s taken the wrong door out of the Texas cowboy themed fancy dress party.
    “[Mr] Waititi to put his own values on the line.” He sure did.
    “Oh how you have brought them down to size, with your neat little gesture! So clever.”
    Really? Are you sure about that? When these times call for unity louder than judith collin’s laugh?
    When Maori and non Maori should be looking for ways to glue each other together against a common enemy?
    A fascist capitalist plague blights a dying planet and Waititi gets hissy about a fucking neck tie while wearing a stupid Texan hat inside and you think that’s clever?
    Jesus !?

    • Yep, that hat is as funny as a fart.
      Not half as bad as that pathetic retail politician Shane someone-or-other trying to look like a mafia Don while walking in the two worlds. I wonder which world he now thinks failed him and his traditionalist mate (Winnie, or Winston or something-or-other).
      However, despite the Texan hat, good on him if he feels comfortable wearing it – maybe even as a protest. Christ! I once wore flares or bloody bell bottom pants and now wonder what the fuck was I thinking.
      I never succumbed though to the tattoo token uniforms as I walked in the pakeha world. It wasn’t that it was down to looking pathetic on scrawny little calf muscles either.

      But check out some of the commenters on here. Thou shalt obey! Protest is futile! Boundaries must never be pushed!
      We’d still be living in the Dark Ages. Apartheid in South Efrica et al.

      Except I’d bet their judgements wouldn’t quite extend to NZSO musicians protesting the sombre black with loud hair colours; or virologists challenging our senses with bold pinks (I wonder if she’s a bloody pinko – could even be a bloody socialist – worse still a communist)

      Fuck some people must lead boring lives. I just hope they come looking for sympathy if I’m still around in a few years

  11. Representative Waititi was wearing a formal tie, it just wasn’t the typical fabric haberdashery that Trev was used to and Trev got scared. Waititi’s adornment is surely as culturally significant and historical as the neck tie. Could the rules be changed to allow politicians to wear hei tiki or other pendants in place of the neck tie? Labour could even go one step further than legislating for Maori wards and pass a law requiring male politicians to wear an amulet, with cultural significance to and with approval from Maori, while not in the Parliamentary Chamber i.e. out in public. Just to show that they understand where they are. Neck minute.

    • Nobody said he wasn’t allowed to wear the hei tiki. The tie is an agreed dress standard in the house. if he wants to change it – go through the proper processes. Oh – and inside, get rid of the hat. That would not be allowed in the wharenui either.
      The guys is grandstanding.

    • Penny. Yep. It’s a straight forward employment issue. Unfortunately, victim playing’s another global game now.

      Have a chat to anyone in a government workplace subjected to performances assessments which cover sticking to the dress code and they’ll fall about laughing.

      And cheers to Michelle for acknowledging our noble front line workers, subject to real stress as they go about their every day work, we owe them heaps.

  12. It’s about tradition. You know… The same as the tradition that forces people to have to stand in front of someone with a spear and be threatened before you can step onto a marae or the one that bans people from speaking based on their sex. If you want to play in the sandpit follow the rules.

      • Why is it you call it Pakeha. Its a set of rules and processes that makes it plain there is a standard to be maintained for EVERYONE. (just like a marae) If everyone could do and wear what they pleased it would be kaos.

        • Not really. Basically, the NZ Parliament derives from the Westminster system of government which dates back to the signing of the Magna Carta in 1215, which established the rights of barons to serve as consultants to the King, on governmental matters.

          There, particularly in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, representation expanded, and we tend to follow suit, so that rather than deliberately designed to oppress the tangata whenua, the N Z Parliamentary is broad based, including having e.g. Maori seats, people’s freedom of choice to select and elect candidates – though political parties may follow different processes in doing so – and unlike the UK , we do not have a second or upper house – and I think that we gave women the right to vote before they did.

      • What parliment did the Maori have before the pakeha arrived.
        Parliment was device in England and the rest of the World so the power was not entirely in the hands of the rich and powerful.
        I attempt to follow Maori protocol when I visit their homes or Maree . If I was asked to do something I did not like or agree with I would not go or participate he knew the rules he should abide by them or not take his pay cheque.
        He is happy to wear a hat in Parliment and to me that is the height of bad manners in our Pareha society

  13. I’m with Countryboy.

    I don’t care about the tie but the dumbass cowboy hat makes him look like a fool.
    And wearing it inside makes him look like a real fool.

  14. I remember Nandor Tanczos wearing his Rasta henp suit.
    He was genuinely quite classy unlike this guy.
    Waititi could be clever and design a koru shaped tie or whatever – but instead derails the house like a child disobeying the school hair length rules.
    James Shaw is cringing but Marama says it is another example of majoritarianism.
    And if that hat isn’t cultural appropriation…..

  15. We have to maintain traditions and links with Europe!
    Of course they must wear ties!
    And cravats and ruffles
    And powdered wigs.
    And knee breeches.
    And embroidered silk and satin waistcoats.
    And topboots with spurs.

    A dress code for parliament is far more relevant to the public than defeating the covid epidemic, ending child poverty and providing shelter for the homeless.
    (NOT)

  16. Tell me this isn’t just a branding exercise by the Maori Party.

    They got their name in the paper – slow hand clap. Now move on.

  17. Considering how hopeless parliament is; for most of them work seems to be nothing but donning their costume, squat there trying to look important, interspersed with bouts of babbling. All the while collecting a hefty pay cheque for the “effort”.

    Suppose the suit and tie ensemble is appropriate–the dresscode typical of the worst crooks.

  18. A little off subject . .
    I completely understand Maori taking pride in their culture / speaking Te Reo / sending their kids to kura kaupapa schools etc just as I understand anyone taking pride in their own unique culture.
    I also understand due to Maori being the first people to settle NZ why kids who are not Maori learn some Te Reo in schools however it seems (since Black lives Matter / George Floyd) that this has progressed into some kind of wider ‘cultural assimilation’ exercise which I do not agree with.
    Not everyone who isn’t Maori wants to pretend they are Maori . .

    • Example – One of my kids came home last night with a sheet from school (entirely in Maori) that had to be completed asking what is our river / mountain etc (which I have heard of before) but also wanting to know what iwi / hapu we belong to . . this was a sheet given to all the kids in the class which predominately Pakeha (as are we).
      I imagine we can nominate a mountain and river that is close etc (on the assumption made that this means the same to us as it does Maori) but a default question asking what iwi / hapu we belong to etc is just not relevant to our family at all.

      • Another example from homework that has come home with another of the kids from school – “Imagine it is 1840 and you are Maori or non-Maori” . . so Pakeha (and others) are now defined simply by their not being Maori?

        • So if you are non-Maori (a very vague and itself racist term as you might be Indian, Chinese, Iraqi, German or god forbid of BRITISH descent), you have to correctly say I DO NOT HAVE AN IWI/HAPU and I DO NOT HAVE A RIVER/MOUNTAIN. As a person of Anglo-Irish descent I could of course nominate the Thames or the Severn or the Avon or, the Shannon or the Liffey. But NOT APPLICABLE would be what they want I guess. This is the kind of us and them, anti-Pakeha propaganda that is already being pushed in schools

  19. Ive got a drawer full of the damned choakers from my time as a corporate Jesuit. They make really good tomato ties and occasionally dog leads.

  20. Now if in English parliament, a Scotsman or women, decided to wear the kilt…. would there be an objection?

    The Black Watch, the Cameron regiment and so on…. would they dare to shit on their exemplary services ?

    Now, … when so many Maori people have performed service to this nation in military services, why can they not wear what is customary? Why are we so childishly enslaved to archaic simping subservience to English norms of the 19th century?

    Fuck em.

    My ancestry is Norse Scottish. If we were to wear the kilt with pride, why cant those representatives of the Maori people?

    I say Fuck em to those who object.

    Vikings war song – Fehu by Wardruna
    https://youtu.be/Le4B9T12zbs?list=TLGG4HZsQ7F6D9oxNDAyMjAyMQ&t=4

    Stick it up your arse and grow up.

  21. So if you are non-Maori (a very vague and itself racist term as you might be Indian, Chinese, Iraqi, German or god forbid of BRITISH descent), you have to correctly say I DO NOT HAVE AN IWI/HAPU and I DO NOT HAVE A RIVER/MOUNTAIN. As a person of Anglo-Irish descent I could of course nominate the Thames or the Severn or the Avon or, the Shannon or the Liffey. But NOT APPLICABLE would be what they want I guess. This is the kind of us and them, anti-Pakeha propaganda that is already being pushed in schools

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