Loosening One's Tie
April 15, 2005 6:18 PM   Subscribe

Why do Briscoe, Logan, Sipowicz et. al loosen their ties and unbutton their collars when they talk to perps or walk the street? I can understand wanting to be comfortable working late or going out to the bar, but why would they do that while on the job? Doesn't it defeat the purpose of wearing a tie altogether? More to the point, do people do this in real life or just on TV?
posted by Saucy Intruder to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total)
I always attributed it to people being uncomfortable in ties and dress shirts to begin with. My husband puts a shirt and tie on to teach, and that lasts about an hour. Then the tie either comes off or is loosened, and the sleeves go up.

I would imagine actors use this as a way to communicate character information/development/fleshing out that we would not otherwise see.(i.e.- Sipowicz is really just an at-home, blue collar guy not used to all this tie crap).
posted by oflinkey at 6:28 PM on April 15, 2005

I imagine it's to prove that they're rebels at heart, not goddam suits, and they don't really need no stinkin' ties. I've noticed in recent years that in NYC at least, ties tend to go to high salaried professionals or to low salaried service people who wear uniforms. Old fashioned office workers seem to have gone business casual in a big way.

I fall into that latter category, by the way, and I do wear a tie, but I am alone in this and considered amusingly eccentric for it. I consider my workmates not up to standards, and wish to instill in my darling daughter the notions that a) work is a serious business and b) that the world is ugly enough without people deliberately making it uglier by dressing down. (The only co-worker who gets it is, interestingly, an Italian, who understands the need for aesthetic and worthwhileness of bella figura)
posted by IndigoJones at 6:36 PM on April 15, 2005

Also, interrogation rooms with overhead lighting get hot; add tension to that, and it's downright steamy.
posted by headspace at 6:37 PM on April 15, 2005

Another consideration, at least for Sipowicz, is his extra poundage. That's the reason I wear a loose tie.
posted by yclipse at 6:46 PM on April 15, 2005

Perhaps it's meant to reflect that they work long hours, and the longer you wear business attire, the more irksome it becomes.
posted by orange swan at 6:53 PM on April 15, 2005

INdigo Jones: Thanks. Now can you get everyone into wearing fedoras again, too?
posted by Miko at 7:14 PM on April 15, 2005

Maybe they do it in the show for intimidatory reasons "getting down to business" "cracking skulls" etc. No hiding behind formality or professionalism.
I'd loosen mine on the way home from work when it was hot - airconditioned offices aren't so bad.
posted by peacay at 7:32 PM on April 15, 2005

More to the point, do people do this in real life or just on TV?

This line is a complete blur by now... I loved how The Sopranos addressed this, portraying certain characters as attempting to live up to the pop culture stereotypes...
posted by mdn at 8:56 PM on April 15, 2005

It's image, of course; a fully-buttoned shirt projects a certain image, and a loosened tie projects another; ideally, that of someone who's equally at home bullshitting in corporate America and getting down to business doing "real work." I don't think it defeats the purpose of wearing a tie at all; it's a similar thing to Steve Jobs with his jeans and turtleneck, albeit to a lesser degree. It says: "I'm serious, successful, and professional, but I'm not some yuppie loser, I work hard for my money, and furthermore, I'm good enough that I don't have to give a fuck what you or my boss think of me." Presumably some people just prefer the aesthetic of a loosened tie as well.

I often loosen my tie first thing in the morning because I have a disproportionate neck, and shirts that fit my torso without ballooning egregiously are too tight in the collar.
posted by IshmaelGraves at 8:57 PM on April 15, 2005

People do this in real life. Many of my colleagues and I do it regularly. In court, the tie is required, and when we think we're done for the day, but still at the office, we loosen. This is in case we have to go back to court, as it can be quickly put back.

Personally, I loosen it because my neck skin is sensitive, and the less I chafe my shirt against it, the less it is irritated. It's also more relaxed, and when it is hot, cooler. Taking the tie off before returning home means having to carry it around somehow.
posted by birdsquared at 9:58 PM on April 15, 2005

A tight tie can be grabbed and used against you in a fight. In a fight, a buttoned collar means a lost button when your opponent tugs your shirt or collar.

Unbuttoning the collar and loosening tie makes the cop ready for a fight, and as or more importantly, signals that the cop is ready to fight.

On the street, it serves to warn off would-be badasses; in an interrogation situation it serves to intimidate the person questioned -- a cop who is ready to do you violence is more likely to think he can do you violence and get away with it.
posted by orthogonality at 10:05 PM on April 15, 2005

You obviously do not spend much time in a tie. That and it makes it look like they are getting down to business on TV.
posted by caddis at 12:47 AM on April 16, 2005

It's a cop cliche. It's a way of suggesting they're about to get physically violent and that they're extra tough. They roll up their sleeves as if they're about to do some dirty work. You see this in a lot of cop shows and old detective novels.
posted by nixerman at 6:26 AM on April 16, 2005

INdigo Jones: Thanks. Now can you get everyone into wearing fedoras again, too?

Clearly not, as I can't even get them to wear ties.

Or was that supposed to be a dig?

(BTW, I'm also failing at bringing back slang of the nineteen twenties. "Solid Jackson!", however, seems to confuse people these days, alas.)
posted by IndigoJones at 9:32 AM on April 16, 2005

I do it in real life, after 'quitting time'. It serves as a signal that I'm staying later than I'd like to be, and it's more comfortable. Also I think it looks sort of manly and sexy, but that's probably because I saw it on TV.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:16 AM on April 18, 2005

IndigoJones, I wish you godspeed should you take up a campaign to get fedoras back. I feel sorry for your daughter though. "Remember kid, work is a serious business and you need to look good while you do it." Sounds like a recipe for a Martha Stewart crossed with an early stress induced heart attack.

To the question at hand. I assume it's a question of social interaction. Some detective squads require sports jacket and tie at minimum. This makes interacting with white collar workers easier. It, however, costs you some respect when you're dealing with blue collar workers. You loosen your tie and it clearly communicates that though you may have to wear a tie it doesn't mean you're a white collar. You unbutton the shirt because quite frankly, collared shirts suck.
posted by cm at 2:18 PM on April 18, 2005

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