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Thursday, October 09, 2003

The Ties That Bind

Red Herring has re-emerged from the ashes—this time as an online publication. The latest effort is being directed by new owner, the French Silicon Valley player, Alex Vieux.

To me the real story in this affair is not the re-emergence but Vieux’s directive that the male employees must wear ties. This is a dagger in the heart of the Valley’s vaunted culture. Unhappily, things are so desperate there these days that guys would wear horse collars if it meant having a job.

Somewhere, Steve MacLaughlin must be smiling. I recall a recent blog post of his expressing his distaste for the un-knotted casualness of today’s business attire. By the way, I just realized that I never acknowledged Steve for his excellent new blog, Strathlachlan—nor did I add it to my roll. Apologies, Steve, and corrections made.

My concern is that, if the new Red Herring does well, some entrepreneurs will conclude that the tie-wearing created a disciplined atmosphere that contributed to the turnaround, and they’ll be tempted to convert to Vieux’s old-fashioned approach. As long as jobs remain scarce, this looms as a threat.

Why you would have guys wear ties when they work in cubicles and don’t interface with the public is beyond me, even though I’m old enough to have lived through the days when everyone wore ties, not only to work, but to parties, for god’s sake. “Casual” meant wearing a sport coat instead of a suit.

I never cease to be amazed by an old photograph, taken when I was in my twenties. My roommates and I, plus a few other guys, invited our dates over to the apartment for cocktails and dancing to some of our favorite LP’s (remember them?). In the photo, all the guys were clad in ties! It’s just inconceivable, but there’s the evidence, staring me in the face.

So, do I wish Red Herring ill? No, I’m happy for these guys who now have a paycheck. If ties, god forbid, do make a comeback, I’ll be too old for it to make any difference anyway.

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