The unspoken French rule that keeps Macron ‘tied’ up
Paris: That tie. He just won't take it off, even when picking his way in sweltering heat through the rubble left by Hurricane Irma on the French Caribbean island of St Martin. President Emmanuel Macron has shaken French politics to its core but dares not breach the dress code for a French chief of state. The tie, preferably dark, is de rigueur.
King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands also flew to St Martin. He was in a khaki-colour shirt, sleeves rolled to the elbows. And, no necktie. “He’s a real king. He doesn’t need to post signs to show his stature,” said Jamil Dakhlia, a Sorbonne University sociologist specialising in political communications.
The 1789 French Revolution ended the monarchy. The presidency remains powerful but there is “a need to show with symbols one’s legitimacy. So, you must keep the tie on,” Dakhlia explained.
The Dutch king also is not a 39-year-old ex-investment banker looking to upset the political system with his upstart party and planning to undo France’s nearly sacrosanct labour laws — all while sliding in popularity.
Conscious of his baggage, Macron donned a tie while campaigning and has kept it on ever since, even during events in which sartorial elegance might be understandably cast aside.
There he was in April, before his May win, in a coat and tie trying to talk down angry factory workers outside their Whirlpool plant. Two months later, as president, he was playing tennis sans vest but with a tie from a wheelchair alongside disabled athletes to promote Paris’ bid to host the 2024 Olympics.
The Western necktie is considered to have its origins with 17th-century Croatian mercenaries who came to France’s aid, wearing colourful neck bands, during the Thirty Years War between European powers. The band evolved and spread.
Macron may have taken a clue from his unpopular predecessor, Francois Hollande, who had endless bad tie days. But even as a rookie president, Hollande knew the French dress code. He was the only world leader at a 2012 G-8 summit, just after his win, to show up wearing a necktie. “Francois, we said you could take off the tie,” the host, ex-President Obama, joked. Hollande refused, saying it’s “for my press!”
BOUND BY TRADITION