The un­spo­ken French rule that keeps Macron ‘tied’ up

The Times of India (New Delhi edition) - - TIMES GLOBAL -

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!”

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