Necktie mild torment next to high heels

Thursday, December 17, 1998

Don't you wonder what really was behind last week's revolt in the Netherlands? What could have caused 73-year-old Prince Claus to publicly renounce the innocent necktie in such spectacular fashion?

“A snake around my neck,” he snarled, throwing his navy blue necktie at the feet of his wife, Queen Beatrix. And what, I would like to know, was she wearing on the royal feet? This was not reported, although the incident has otherwise been fully explored.

Cultural revolution?

People in Holland are calling it “Claustrophilia.”

The Daily Telegraph of London reports that it was a “reaction against stuffiness.”

Uh-oh. Can Casual Fridays at the Castle be far behind? The king in Dockers and the queen wearing a denim tiara?

Why do men hate ties so fiercely? I thought learning to tie one was a rite of passage, a symbol of guy-ness. A nice tie can disguise the fact that a man is wearing the same suit for two days in a row. Ties are slimming.

“For me, a necktie is like a dog's leash,” said a Canadian businessman. “Both symbolize a limit on freedom.”

Well, at least it's not a fad. The world's men have had 300 years to think it over.

Beginning with the cravat, the name given by the French in the reign of Louis XIV to the neck scarf worn by Croatian soldiers, the term came to be applied to a kind of neckerchief worn by a man. When it traveled across the channel to England, of course, it lost all its color.

But it was there that the Windsor knot was invented by the Duke of Windsor after he married Her Skinniness and had no real job to speak of. Historians report that he changed clothes as many as five times a day and had his ties lined for extra plumpness.

Prize for uselessness

He was said to have decreed that “a handsome dimple always distinguishes a properly tied tie.” On the other hand, his countryman, Bond James Bond, said that a Windsor knot was “often the mark of a cad.”

A man from Delft said after the public demonstration by Prince Claus that “no piece of clothing combines so little function with so much potential to show bad taste.”

“They're a device of torture,” a Londoner said.

What a bunch of weenies.

A little rag knotted around your neck is nothing. These men should try to catch a bus wearing three-inch heels. Ask Queen Beatrix how her feet feel after an hour or so in the receiving line.

Women's shoes with high heels or even slightly elevated heels are as obligatory and as stupid and useless as ties. They're not even colorful. And they're expensive. On top of everything else, they're not good for you. Especially if the toes are pointed, which they so often are.

The American Orthopaedic Foot and Ankle Society estimates that up to 90 percent of their patients are women, half of whom have problems caused by their shoes. High heels are also bad for your back, throwing the spine out of whack.

And naturally these shoes cannot be worn without pantyhose, which are the work of the devil. Particularly torturous are those labeled “slightly irregular,” which might mean that the feet are pointed in opposite directions. Somewhere on the “slightly irregular” garment is a rogue patch of synthetic thread that will become a tourniquet as soon as you cross your legs.

Pantyhose aren't warm and won't absorb foot odor. They're uncomfortable, costly, fragile, worthless. In short, they are the perfect accomplice for women's shoes.

Thank your lucky stars, Prince Claus. Take another look at that snake lying next to your wife's feet. And be grateful you don't have to walk a mile in her shoes.

Laura Pulfer's column appears Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays. E-mail her at, call 768-8393 or fax at 768-8340. She can be heard Mondays on WVXU radio and on NPR's Morning Edition. Her new book, I Beg to Differ, a collection of her most popular radio commentaries and newspaper columns, is available at (800) 852-9332.