The Current

Time to loosen up? Meet the mayor trying to ban mandatory neckties in the office

Citing health concerns and gender discrimination, a U.S. mayor is trying to free workers from having to wear neckties at the office.

Neckties limit blood flow to the brain, study suggests

R. Rex Parris wants to see mandatory necktie policies become a thing of the past. He said he has enough of the expensive accessories in his closet 'to buy a car.' (Submitted by R Rex Parris)

Read Story Transcript

Strict dress codes at work need to be loosened up on health grounds, according to a California mayor who is trying to free workers from having to wear neckties at the office. 

"I do think that employers for certain jobs have a right to tell the employee what to wear," said R. Rex Parris, who has proposed a bylaw that would ban mandatory necktie policies in workplaces in Lancaster, Calif.

"I just don't think they have a right to tell them to wear something that could be harming their health."

Parris, who is also a lawyer, points to a study recently published in the scientific journal Neuroradiology, in which thirty volunteers underwent MRI scans. Half were wearing neckties, the other half were not. The results suggested wearing a necktie limits blood flow to the brain.​

"I spend an enormous amount of time doing aerobic exercising to increase the blood flow to my brain," Parris told The Current's guest host Megan Williams. 

"And then to find that I put on a tie and diminish it by, on average, 7.5 per cent — that's a little distressing to me."

Neckties are worn to denote dignity or professionalism, but Parris argues they also collect bacteria and could have health implications. (Chaloner Woods/Getty Images)

Proposal not an outright ban

At his own law firm, Parris has told his male staff members they no longer need to wear ties, and now wants to liberate necks citywide. It's not just about blood flow, he told Williams.

"You've got this thing hanging from your neck that collects viruses and bacteria, and you almost never send it to the cleaners," he said, because silk ties "don't come back the way you sent them."

  • An alternative to the necktie? Watch the CBC's Paul Karchut learn how to tie a cravat:

How to tie a cravat

5 years ago
Duration 2:59
Watch as CBC's Paul Karchut gets all classy for Christmas party season with help from cravat creator Claudius du Plooy.

He's not proposing an outright ban, however, and says people should be free to choose.

"I think that if you want to wear a tie, you should be allowed to," he said.

An antiquated custom

Parris  appreciates that his proposals could hurt menswear stores.

He pays about $350 US per necktie, saying "I've got enough ties up in my closet to buy a car."

If neckties fall out of fashion, there's "nothing to replace it with," he said. "It's not like fashion is moving on."

Parris, sans necktie, at an event in 2009. (Nichola Groom/REUTERS)

But outside those fears for profits, he's had support from as far away as Korea. He's confident his bylaw will pass, and could even go national. 

"People recognize it's just an antiquated custom that has no social utility," he said. "Does a tie symbolize anything other than this is more of a formal event you're attending?"

Listen to the full conversation near the top of this page. 


This segment was produced by The Current's Richard Raycraft. 

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