Californians aren’t exactly known for their stuffy workplace attire. Even so, Mayor R. Rex Parris of Lancaster wants to forbid all city employers from requiring workers to don the enemy of the casual wardrobe: neckties.
At a council meeting this week, Parris asked the city attorney to look into whether such a policy is feasible.
The seemingly random proposal is a matter of public health, Parris said. Last week, the mayor came across a new study published in the journal Neuroradiology that suggests wearing neckties may lower blood flow to the brain, potentially curbing creativity and analytical thinking. The study contends that restricting circulation by such an amount — 7.5 percent on average, according to the research — could have fatal implications for someone with high blood pressure.
“I spend a lot of hours every week on an elliptical or a bike just to increase blood flow to my brain,” Parris said, “and it turns out every morning when I put on a tie I’m diminishing it.”
The proposal comes at a tenuous time for the tie.
The late Steve Jobs’ iconic uniform of black turtleneck and bluejeans — sans tie, of course — inspired many a think piece, and a generation of techies followed suit (good luck spotting a tie on the Facebook campus). In 2015, the New York City Commission on Human Rights released guidance on gender identity and gender expression protections, which clarified that employers who enforce policies that require men to wear ties or women to wear skirts could be violating the law.
J.P. Morgan introduced a business casual clothing policy in 2016. The next year, even the notoriously formal British Parliament dropped ties from its male dress code.
But the question of ties as a safety hazard has rarely entered the discussion.
Parris likened the tie requirement to demanding women wear heels to work, characterizing it as an issue of compelled gender presentation.
“I don’t think it’s appropriate in America today to make anyone do something that is now known to be detrimental to your health,” Parris said. “Especially if it’s based on gender.”
Parris said he wasn’t sure how many Lancaster employers require neckties, but said city department heads customarily wear them to work.
Because the policy would involve issuing infractions to offending employers, Parris has asked the city’s Criminal Justice Commission to look into whether such a rule is practical.
Parris, a well-known litigator, said he “could buy a car” with the amount of money he’s spent on ties. And he has not stopped wearing them yet. That’s because most courts require attorneys to wear “business attire” in the courtroom, and for most judges, that means wearing a tie.
Steven Derryberry, managing partner of the Lancaster law firm Kestler Derryberry, said he would welcome the anti-necktie rule. He doesn’t require ties in his office, though his attorneys are asked to wear them for court appearances.
“As hot and warm as it is in the Antelope Valley after Memorial Day, it’s too uncomfortable to wear ties anyway,” Derryberry said.