When I was 23, a fish broke my line while my boyfriend and I were fishing. I am sure it was a world record-sized rainbow since I didn’t get to reel it in. In a bold show of immaturity, I threw down my pole and said, “I’m done. I’ll meet you at the truck.” My boyfriend said, “Hold on, let’s look at your line first.” He knelt on one knee, and instead of looking at my line, he proposed marriage — a proper Montana proposal.
While we prepared for our pending nuptials, I was in charge of picking out his wedding wear. At the time, I was convinced everything had to be perfect because it was the most important day of our lives. I was surprised that a formal wear shop had tuxedos without ties. And because I like a sharp-dressed Montana man, I picked a suit with a vest, a collarless button-up shirt, and no tie. On the big day, my betrothed looked like a million bucks, even without a tie.
It seems some legislators are convinced that a tie is required for male legislators to be deemed professionally dressed. Ties are so crucial to Rep. Derek Skees that he chose to stop working for his constituents in a committee meeting and walked out because of his offense that a legislator did not wear a tie. While I agree ties look nice, ties are probably last on the list of what makes Montana men look professional. A sport coat over a crisp button-up shirt is professional wear. The tie is an add-on that does nothing, similar to a fancy handkerchief in the front pocket. That accouterment never made any sense to me (especially if it’s supposed to be used to blow your nose). The current language for the legislator dress code seems sufficient: “dress in professional, business attire as is befitting the honor of the positions that we hold in office.”
What does a tie signify? Statesmanship? Certainly not. The ability to tie a knot? Maybe. But what does tying a knot have to do with legislating? Does a tie signify respect and professionalism, or does clean, professional dress get the job done? After years of meaningless requirements, society has advanced the ball to where we look beyond the accouterments of workwear to the actual work being performed. Ridding the workplace of unnecessary hierarchies and formalities has been occurring over the last 30 years. Coincidently, employee productivity increased. I’d wager to guess Montanans prefer a Legislature that values productivity over subsidizing the tie-manufacturing industry. Our Legislature should reflect a Montana that values substance over form. An archaic fix to a policy that isn’t broken is the work of Washington D.C. politicians, not Montana statesmen and women.
Tammi Fisher is an attorney and former mayor of Kalispell.
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