Pedro Sánchez surprised on July 29 during his traditional balance of the political course by proposing a curious measure for energy saving: taking off his tie. The President of the Government explained that doing without this garment could help reduce the use of air conditioning: “And before finishing, I would like you to see that I am not wearing a tie; This means that we can all also save from the energy point of view and I have asked the ministers, all public officials and the private sector, if they have not already done so, not to wear a tie when it is not necessary, because in this way we will also be facing the energy saving that is so necessary in our country”.
Criticism has not been long in coming: from the Popular Party they have not only rejected the measure, but have also criticized the incongruity of the president when traveling by helicopter to the Torrejón de Ardoz base (Madrid) to take the plane with which he was going to start a tour of the Balkans: “The journey began at 2:02 p.m. (50 minutes after finishing his public speech) and has saved the Prime Minister just 10 minutes compared to the same transfer made by road. Therefore, he had plenty of time to travel by car spending about five liters of diesel and not the around 180 kilos of kerosene burned in the Air Force Super Puma ”, said the text released by PP sources. Santiago Abascal, leader of VOX, tweeted a few minutes after Sánchez’s intervention: “It’s not that he doesn’t have a tie. It is that there is no shame in trying to hide the inflation that ruins the Spanish with stupid debates”. On social networks, the controversy has opened on two fronts: on the one hand, those who, in opposition to Sánchez’s suggestion, propose wearing a tie as a form of protest even on the beach. On the other, those like the one pointed out by the user @vonlichtenkraut in a fairly widespread opinion among the female sector: “I have friends who have to go to work with a cardigan in summer because there are gentlemen with a suit and tie who need to have the air at 18 ° “.
📽 Pedro Sánchez: “I am not wearing a tie and I have asked all the ministers, the public and private sectors not to use it when it is not necessary because that way we will also be facing energy savings that is so necessary” pic.twitter.com/cwM9qrX9vq
— Chain SER (@La_SER) July 29, 2022
Doing without a tie is no longer a disruptive gesture as it is a garment that is becoming more and more obsolete every day. As pointed out by the Argentine journalist and writer Martín Caparrós in an article published in this same medium titled, precisely, Bye-bye tie!: “Symbol of class belonging and power since the beginning of the 20th century, the once inevitable piece of cloth is losing presence.” The tie, which used to be used by the person who wore it to mark belonging to a certain social sector or, rather, to stand out from the rest (of the worker, the farmer, the unemployed or the woman) gradually lost that function, to become a mere ornament: “They would know that the conduct of certain leaders of the then United States, France, Spain, Italy was decisive,” Caparrós wrote, “if until then it was unthinkable that they would appear at any official ceremony without the piece, in those years the unthinkable began to happen and created a school, so much so that, shortly after, the tie was a vintage gesture that very few jokers affected”.
For Patrycia Centeno, journalist, expert in the study of non-verbal language as a tool for political and corporate communication and author of the essay Politics and fashion: the image of power (Editorial Península, 2012), the debate is not, as Abascal mentions, stupid, but it is insufficient: “The measure is useless: the fact that a man removes his tie does not lead to greater energy savings. This gesture would have to be accompanied by other clothing gestures and it would have been better to try to educate on a theme that is basic, which is that there are seasonal fabrics”. Centeno alludes to the loss of stylistic knowledge that our grandparents and great-grandparents did know, such as the knowledge of certain organic and natural fabrics, such as linen, fine cotton or silk, to survive hotter seasons and cool off. Garments and fabrics that, as the journalist points out, are ideal for maintaining body temperature while preventing the outside temperature from penetrating. In Spain, no public institution requires by law or regulation any public representative to wear a tie, as Centeno well recalls: “It is a tacit agreement because a Western diplomatic uniform has existed for two centuries and the changes in this uniform have been negligible.” In the end, whoever holds power does not need to change it.
In 2005, the Japanese government set an example by doing without traditional clothing in the summer, seeking energy savings with a view to complying with the Kyoto Protocol. At the time it was shocking for a conservative society accustomed to the dark suit and tie for business. From their Executive they trusted that lighter clothing during the humid and sticky Japanese summer would avoid the excessive use of air conditioning units in buildings, both in the public administration and in the private sector. The first to set an example with the new measure was the then chief executive, Junichiro Koizumi, who appeared dressed in white pants and a wide blue long-sleeved shirt, with the tails out and exclaiming “How comfortable it is to dress without a tie !”, as soon as he arrived at his office. “This gesture went far beyond the tie,” explains Centeno, “it was a matter of education about clothing: the tie was removed, the heavy jacket was removed, the clothes they wore were made of very fine cotton, and they also began to wear much larger garments for air to circulate”.
The tie should therefore be only the beginning of a long process that could lead to a male stylistic revolution, as has happened with women’s clothing. That masculine suit imposed two centuries ago by the bourgeoisie has hardly changed, while women have been making clothing revolutions at the same time as making social revolutions, often even appropriating the male wardrobe by adding elements such as pants or suits. Men, on the other hand, have not made any revolution and, if it has, it is only to be found on the margins. “Men should also take steps in that direction. If we think about it, a skirt is the right garment for summer… but no man would dare to wear it, much less to Congress, why? Because all that feminizing masculine attire entails is going down a hierarchical step, while when we masculinize ourselves through a suit, we go up that step”, points out Patrycia Centeno, who recalls that, precisely, the study of the skirt places her as a masculine and virile garment, which has its origins in the Roman Empire, “but, of course, we have associated a certain gender to certain garments, when the garments are born without gender”. Going back to the tie, the journalist points out that Pedro Sánchez could have proposed wearing a fan, but no man in Congress would think of fanning himself, because it is an accessory with a strong gender component.
Can the strict rules of men’s clothing be broken? Is it possible to get rid of the suit? Only if this symbol of power is replaced by another, such as a gray sweatshirt. In this context, the suit has begun a downward path if we look at how the owners of the great fortunes of the technological world dress, who have imposed the sweatshirt and informality on the corseted suit in an apparent lack of interest in fashion, and also as a way of differentiating himself from the usual white-collar workers who once made their fortunes on Wall Street. “In Silicon Valley not giving importance to how you dress is a merit, a sign that you have more important things to do than worry about what you wear,” explains sociologist Carrie Yodanis in her essay Get dressed (Publishing Alliance, 2021), in which he analyzes the guidelines that determine how and why we dress in one way or another. “However, the ability to pretend you don’t care about your image is the exclusive privilege of those people whose social position is high enough to pretend they don’t care,” he adds.
In political communication, clothing does matter. Or the gesture, going back to the tie. But some gestures can be transformative. In addition to the case of Japan, since 2010, in Cuba the official diplomatic suit is the guayabera, a cotton or linen shirt for informal use that has four front pockets decorated with tucks and long skirts that are worn loose over the pants and that, Despite having a peasant origin, it has become the transversal uniform worn by both leaders and celebrities. “In the world it is going to get hotter every day”, says Patrycia Centeno, “and it is natural to go for garments that allow us to resist the onslaught of the weather”. Perhaps, in the end, a revolution in clothing does not come from awareness, but from a matter of necessity.