Re: The Origin of The Cravat (Was: Are Ties Phallocarps?)

Gerold Firl (
21 Nov 1995 18:29:21 -0800

In article <48qqju$> (Joel and Lynn GAzis-SAx) writes:

>In article <>,
> (Gerold Firl) wrote:

>>And second, consider the sword as fashion-statement; it may bridge the gap
>>between codpiece and necktie.

>Gerald is obviously jumping around here, desparately seeking facts to bolster
>his idea that the tie has phallic connotations. The bottom line is "Well, men
>*have to have* some way of expressing the fact that they have penises."

No. You still don't understand. I've already explained this twice, so I'm a
little reluctant to take the time to do it again, but I'll give it one more
go. If you're prepared to discuss the hypothesis, as it has been put
forward, then we can do that, but if you persist in diverting the
discussion into your own erroneous misinterpretation, you're on your own.

I will restate the hypothesis: at some point in the human evolutionary
past, penis size became a male status-determinant which functioned as a
conflict-resolution mechanism; big dick goes first, you might say. The
necktie activates this instinctive mechanism.

(Note: the previous paragraph is an example of a *hypothesis*. If you don't
know what that word means, look it up in the dictionary.)

Furthermore, I am not suggesting that neckties are used to "express the
fact that men have penises". IRM's (instinctive releasing mechanisms), to
use tinbergen's terminology, activate innate reactions without the
mediation of verbal/symbolic processing. The tie would activate a deference
reaction in the same way that the two large spots on the wings of a
butterfly might activate a fear-reaction which evolved to alert animals to
the presence of large binocular predators. The butterfly, in this example,
takes advantage of an instinctive sensitivity to having eyes trained upon
you, which is found in many species. The butterfly manipulates the
potential predator; a shrew, for example. The tie wearer manipulates this
hypothetical status-marker instinct in a similar way. But in neither case
is there the kind of superficial semiotic structure which you argue
against. It's all happening at a deeper, autonomic level.

>I would argue that if ties were phallocarps for all men (I am not writing off
>the possibility that some men, versed in a little vulgar psychoanalysis might
>not put on their ties thinking "What a big penis I have!") then the wearers of
>ties must be conscious of this fact and choose their ties accordingly. I
>don't think this way. And I suspect many other tie wearers share my

Ah. You're a tie wearer. I see. So perhaps it's not that you're unable to
comprehend the idea of human fashion manipulating unconscious instincts,
but rather you're unwilling to look beneath your usage of this petty
deception to acknowledge its' functional basis. OK.

>Given the trends of fashion, however, we find that ties get broader or
>narrower, longer or shorter, gaudier or plainer with little reference to
>anything else. I disagree with Gerald's claim that there is nothing Freudian
>about his claim.

It's more of a sociobiological hypothesis than a freudian claim, but freud
did write that he hoped that psychology would someday become sufficiently
advanced to become a branch of biology. There are times when a cigar is
just a cigar, but probably not in your case; read _civilization and its'
discontents_. There is more in heaven *and* in earth than is dreamed of in
your philosophy, horatio.

>I won't be surprised if he counterargues that the act of
>wearing a tie as a phallocarp does not have to be conscious, for example, that
>we can delude ourselves into thinking that it is nothing but a harmless piece
>of cloth when it is actually so much more. This is essentially Freudianism
>and the intention here is ultimately to create a theory that is always true
>regardless of the objections and tests which are put before it.

A harmless piece of cloth? Yank on it hard enough, and I think you'll find
that you're mistaken.

>I still note that there was a gap of at least fifty years between the
>disappearance of the codpiece and the appearance of the tie. I have
>demonstrated elsewhere that there are much stronger links between the codpiece
>and the ordinary pants pocket. (Actual historical evidence which takes into
>account all the functions of the codpiece, a fact which the psychoanalytic
>reductionists have overlooked.)

The codpiece had functional as well as symbolic/fashion purposes. As a
repository of jewels etc, it has more in common with the pocket, but as a
phallocarp its affinities lie with the sword and tie. The sword was an
essential item of fashion for the well-dressed gentleman from, when, the
16th through mid-19th century? You might argue that a man with a sword was
treated with deference because swords are sharp and pokie, rather than as a
result of an archaic dominance-marker from the dim recesses of our hominid
past. And you'd be at least partly right. But there are a number of curious
facts which, taken together, suggest that the phallocarp hypothesis is
worth further study. Sounds like a thesis to me.

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf