“I’ve wanted to ask for a while… why do you wear a tie?”

Not an unusual question for me. My office dress code is perfectly fine with jeans and a T-Shirt; in fact, that’s the norm. Plaid flannel, beige shorts, “pumped up kicks”, all good. As far as I know, I’m the only one who shows up in a shirt and tie on a daily basis. Honestly, the fact that I can dress differently and not be an outsider is an ironic testament to the open-mindedness of the office culture.

But why do I do it?

The simple answer: I like it.

The longer answer… well that’s more complicated. Personally, the process of getting ready in the morning and “suiting up” (sans blazer during the warmer months) gets me in the mood for work every day. It is a ritual sacrifice to the gods of business in hopes they will bless me with fewer bug reports. But when I get those bug reports, you can bet I’m ready to take them on.

To me, the tie is a reminder that I am part of a larger whole. It is a reminder in looking professional that I should also act professional. When I’m having a bad day and drudging through complicated problems, it’s a reminder that whenever it sucks for me, it sucks for somebody else who is using my creations even worse. Every moment I haven’t fixed the problem, they are less productive. It’s a reminder that as much as it would be nice to pass the problem on to somebody and forget about it, it is my responsibility, as part of the bigger group, to make sure it gets solved and not endlessly passed around. The people who need it fixed are funding our paychecks and they can take their money elsewhere. It is a reminder that when I screw up and it could affect other members of the greater team, they have a right to know as soon as possible so they can have the best shot at solving whatever problems it may cause them.

If a problem becomes frustrating and I want to just throw up my hands, it is a reminder that getting angry doesn’t help the company. Holding grudges doesn’t solve the problems for the customer. It’s a reminder to stop taking it personally and just look for the path that leads to an answer, no matter how much patience or time that answer is going to take. As a professional, it is my responsibility to have answers, get answers or direct people to answers. We’re all in it together.

You don’t need a tie to be professional, and a lot of people are much more comfortable not wearing one. Mandatory dress codes enforcing ties or suits don’t lead to more professional employees.

I just like ties.

The tie is my talisman.