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The tie-pology.

Editor's Note on 'The Tie-pology'

'Many a true word is spoken in jest'. The following, 'a-tie-pical' piece, which is published together with extracts from the correspondence which attended its acceptance, illustrates that this maxim applies to the study of organizations as much as it does to other areas of human understanding.

John Child


Despite some earlier attempts at a scientific analysis of fashion and dress in general and organizational dress in particular,(1) most knowledgeable observers would agree that the field of Organizational Dress Research (ODR) took off after the publication of my seminal paper on 'Suitable Research: On the Development of a Positive Theory of the Business Suit' in 1985. In my research I have been able to:

* elaborate an economic theory of the business suit, showing both the moral hazard and the adverse selection involved in wearing either no suit or the wrong one for the occasion (as determined by the principal's utility function);

* show how organizational dress economizes on information and transaction costs. Essentially, parties wearing the same suit are locked into a relationship characterized by a high degree of asset specificity (which, in this particular form, I have called closet specificity);

* operationalize the concept of a 'vested interest' by comparing the incidence of three-piece suits versus two-piece suits.

Increasingly, others have also contributed to this line of research. Their work has not only focused on the meaning and impact of Organizational Dress (Rafaeli and Pratt 1993), but also on its antecedents and consequences. In particular, the consequences of particular dress 'styles' on e.g. hiring decisions (Forsythe 1990), communication (Joseph 1986), organizational decline (Whetten, forthcoming) and CEO turnover (Hambrick, forthcoming) have been documented. Needless to say, the results of this work have been eagerly incorporated into the vast array of popular guides on this subject, such as Dress for Success (Molloy 1975), Dress for Duress (Plys 1990) and Dressing for Recession (Lowengard 1992). The existence of such a vast popular literature can be taken as an indication of the perceived relevance of our research domain to the general public.

An interesting phenomenon, however, has been the culturally contingent nature of the responses to this work (Hofstede, forthcoming). As one can determine from the references provided so far, most ODR work has been performed in the United States. As most readers know, this is also where my seminal paper originated. Since then, however, I have moved back to Europe. In Europe, I have met with much more reserved reactions to my research. Generally, European researchers have raised objections to both the 'narrow focus' of my studies and to the 'positivist' methods employed. A typical reaction was received from David Hickson, then Editor-in-Chief of Organization Studies:

'You will recognize, I am sure, that the results of sound research are determined by the range of variables included, and that in turn these depend on the concepts employed. May I urge you to widen your concept of the suit? If it is too narrow it will lead to spurious findings . . . Where would a suit be without a tie? Indeed, can there be a concept of suit without the interlinked concept of tie? The one implies the other. The concept of suit should operationally include the tie, thereby opening up a series of hitherto neglected variables such as length, width, darkness, spottiness, stripyness, frayedness, coffee-stainedness, and so on. As dependent variables these could be very revealing, and require a fresh development of theoretical explanation covering personality, manual skills in tying, dexterity in avoiding dangling in coffee, memory in not forgetting to affix in the early morning etc. . . . Positivism needs imaginative conceptualization and you should not hesitate to follow the fashion.' (David Hickson, personal communication, 4 July 1988)

As you will understand, such a reaction from an authority like David Hickson left me in a somewhat confused state-of-mind, which I can now recognize as 'culture shock'. At the time I consulted some eider colleagues who subtly pointed toward 'the existence of European research traditions', 'the ambivalent nature of positive research' and 'different publication and promotion criteria between the United States and Europe'. It did not take long for me to digest the significance of particularly the latter remarks, so I rushed off the following reply:

'Dear David,

I was absolutely delighted with your letter of July 4 with your suggestions to broaden my research on the business suit. What a fabulous idea to include the tie! Having already operationalized the concept of a "vested interest", I can now proceed to explore the significance of "ties"! . . . May I suggest, however, that your concept of the tie is unnecessarily narrow? Your suggested variables (length, width, stripyness, coffee-stainedness, etc.) are of course important, but by no means exhaustive. They pertain only to the surface characteristics of this garment. Please do not forget the symbolic nature of the tie! Through phenomenological or ethnomethodological (or any other logical) research methods it should be possible to capture the symbolic nature of ties as well. Then we would be able to identify yet other groups of ties, such as "family ties", "social ties" or even "class ties"!' (personal communication, 15 July 1988)

In this paper, the results of a five-year research program based on these conjectures and focused on the nature and significance of 'organizational ties' will be presented.

Research Approach

A great advantage of the European research environment is that one can be much more eclectic in the research methods one employs than in the United States, where one is forced into the 'normal science straightjacket' (Daft and Lewin 1990). Hence, I have attempted to exploit the opportunities this presents to the fullest. The overall research approach can be roughly divided into two stages, data collection and analysis.

In the data collection phase, an exploratory design enabled the use of, inter alia, the following methods:

* participant observation in whatever organization I happened to be (mostly my own department);

* 'key informant' interviews with any people I happened to know (relatives and friends);

* comparative case studies of the few organizations that allowed me in (my own department, my brother's pub and the Tie Rack franchise organization);

* archival and desk research (no ties were found in these places).

Needless to say, utilizing multiple-data-collection techniques requires careful recording as well as elaborate codification skills. I must confess that I repeatedly ran aground with this task. Hence, the results of the data-collection phase will be written up in the vein of the 'grounded theory' approach (Glaser and Strauss 1967).

In the data analysis phase, however, much more rigorous methods were employed in order to avoid the spurious results that Hickson had warned about:

* since the object of our research is a multie-dimensional construct, only multie-variate techniques were used;

* all ties were subjected to a principal-components analysis with varimax rotation (although this was quite unpleasant for most subjects involved in the analysis);

* the matching of the tie with the other garments was established by applying the 'goodness-of-fit' test.

Through the eclectic triangulation of these research methods, robust results have been obtained. These are reported in the following section.


Table 1 shows the factor pattern resulting from the principal components analysis with varimax rotation. Using the conventional cut-off of .40, three factors can be identified:

Conspicuousness: factor denotes features which attract the attention, comprising: wide shapes, bright colours, silk, comic figures, bow ties.

Homogeneity: factor refers to within-group homogeneities, including: stripes, weapons, dots.

Variation: factor indicating individual-level variety of ties over time: old, second-hand, too short, standard colours, synthetic, used intensively.

The internal consistency of these factors was confirmed by Cronbach Alphas beyond the normal .60 level (and using beta blockers). Although Equal Opportunity laws, strictly interpreted, forbid any tests of discriminant validity, we have strong indications that our factors would pass such tests as well. All in all, we found strong support for the validity and reliability of our three dimensions.
Table 1

Rotated Factor Patterns

                          Factor 1              Factor 2           Factor 3

Variables             Conspicuousness         Homogeneity         Variation


- Old                       -.33                  .25                 .43
- Second hand               -.28                  .01                 .42


- Width                      .40                 -.07                 .16
- Length                     .01                 -.03                -.40


- Bright                     .43                 -.16                 .09
- Varied                     .23                 -.01                -.44


- Silk                       .49                  .03                -.12
- Synthetic                 -.14                 -.16                 .49


- Stripes                   -.05                  .40                -.01
- Weapons                   -.01                  .40                -.00
- Dots                       .13                  .40                 .03
- Comic figures              .40                 -.22                -.13


- Bow                        .41                 -.09                 .07


- Intensive                 -.08                  .31                 .40

Table 2 presents the results of a hierarchical cluster analysis (on the basis of Ward's minimal variance method), performed on the preliminary sample obtained so far (n = 163). The analysis clearly shows the existence of four distinct groups, which have been designated as follows:


The group of people who wear ties because they have to. Members of this group score well below average on conspicuousness and individual variation. However, within-group homogenei-tie is high. Over-represented in this group are bookkeepers and members of my department.


The group of people who wish to express their identi-tie and creativi-tie. Conspicuousness and variation are as high as one would expect. Within-group homogenei-tie is not as low as they themselves would expect. Over-represented in this group are artistic professions, hairdressers and Italian immigrants.(2)

LOYAL-TIES: n = 23

The group of people who wear ties which signify their affiliation or allegiance with certain social groups. Probably composed of two subgroups: the weapon- and stripe-wearing 'authori-ties' and the logo- and emblem-wearing 'socie-ties'. The 'high(-scoring) societies' partially overlap with the 'authori-ties'.


Restgroup. No distinct features. Perhaps comprised of Granovetter's (1973) 'weak ties'. Average scores on all dimensions indicate that this group refuses to be either tied up or tied down. Secondary analysis reveals that this group may be decomposed into Tie-pe A and Tie-pe B personali-ties.
Table 2

Cluster Analysis

Clusters             Conspicuousness      Homogeneity      Variation

NECESSI-TIES              -.69                .82             -.72
FRIVOLI-TIES              1.06               -.14              .98
LOYAL-TIES                -.22                .59             -.34
UNCERTAIN-TIES             .01               -.02              .00


I believe these first results are most encouraging. They invite further empirical elaboration as well as theoretical explanation, a challenge which will certainly be met in the rapidly expanding ODR field. However, in submitting my manuscript to this eminent journal, I have received some reviewers' comments which I am now forced to address in this discussion paragraph.

Reviewer A attacked me on the grounds that the paper was 'empiricist' and 'devoid of theoretical foundations'. For this reviewer, it was disappointing that my work was not informed by the writings of Foucault and Derrida, postmodernism and gender research. I was asked to consider the male bias in my research topic and design and to reflect on the significance of men wearing 'ties'. I was told that the 'tie' is essentially a social construction. As such, the appropriate approach was to start with the 'deconstruction' of the tie. In response, I am happy to report that a deconstructionist research program has been started by one of my. Ph.D. students. In her working papers she makes an interesting distinction between her private experiments, which are successful but rather costly, and her social experiments which appear to run into much resistance. I hope reviewer A is willing to await her further publications and, in the meantime, allow the continuation of this discourse. After all, was it not Foucault himself who argued for a discourse which:

'. . . applies itself to everyday life which categorizes the individual, marks him by his own individuality, attaches him to his own identity, imposes a law of truth on him which he must recognize and which others have to recognize in him?' (Foucault 1982; quoted in Knights 1992)

If that is not enough, perhaps reviewer A can reflect on Derrida's famous question: 'Where is the history of silence?'

Reviewer B, on the other hand, questions the methodology of the paper. This reviewer states that my research fails to produce 'interesting results' since the methodology can only reproduce the assumptions that went in. As such, my work would represent 'the tie-ranny of stereo-tie-pes'. I strongly disagree with this statement: the first results of a research programme should, I believe, always accord to common sense. I would be really worried if my results would be counter-intuitive. As the research progresses, 'deeper' (= less commonsensical) explanations will and should develop. The reviewer is further worried by the potential sample selection bias by which the only people investigated were those wearing ties. It is argued that wearing a tie depends on social stratification. Tie-wearers generally belong to the wealthier strata of tax paying, law-abiding citizens. Therefore, my results should not be characterized as a tie-pology but as a tax-onomy. This latter point is well taken: I am grateful for this clarification of a notoriously difficult distinction.


This paper has demonstrated the potential fruitfulness of Organizational Dress Research in general, and empirical analyses of organizational ties in particular.

As is customary, I would like to call for further research into aspects I could not explain myself:

Empirical work, addressing, in particular, those outliers (out-tiers?) we had to remove in this study in order to obtain anything like comprehensible results.

Theoretical work, exploring the symbolic meaning of the tie as an expression of both a 'bond', and an 'equality'. For instance, why is it that only in competitive sports do we observe the phenomenon of a 'tie break'?

Comparative studies explaining why, in the Anglo-Saxon world, we observe one-tier boards, while on the Continent two-tier boards are customary.

Field research to identify the epitome of our ODR-domain: the tie-coon.

We are entie-tled to more work along these fascinating lines. Therefore, I proudly announce the foundation of TIE: the Tie-pological Institute of Europe, provisionally located in Tie-rol, Austria (with an Asian affiliate in Tie-land). Write to me if you would like to join!


* Many thanks to Katerina Tepla for re-awakening my interest in ODR and for making many valuable suggestions; to Ad van Iterson for his comments; and to David Hickson for his permission to quote from our private correspondence.

1. See Schreuder (1985) for references. In addition, Becker et al. (1961), Layer (1982) and Lurie (1981) could have been mentioned.

2. The latter may be due to slight sample-selection bias caused by the location of an Italian restaurant quite close to my university.


Becker, H., B. Geer, E. Hughes, and A. Strauss 1961 Boys in white: Student culture in medical school. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Daft, Richard L., and Arie Y. Lewin 1990 'Can organization science begin to break out of the normal science straightjacket?' Organization Science 1/1: 1-11.

Forsythe, S. M. 1990 'Effect of applicant's clothing on decision to hire'. Journal of Applied Social Psychology 20: 1579-1595.

Foucault, M. 1982 'Afterword: The subject and the power' in Michel Foucault: beyond structuralism and hermeneutics. H. F. Dreyfus and P. Rainbow (eds.), 208-226. Brighton: Harvester Press.

Glaser, B., and A. Strauss 1967 The discovery of grounded theory: strategies for qualitative research. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson.

Granovetter, Mark 1973 'The strength of weak ties'. American Journal of Sociology 6: 1360-1380.

Joseph, N. 1986 Uniforms and nonuniforms: communication through clothing. New York: Greenwood Press.

Knights, David 1992 'Changing spaces: the disruptive impact of a new epistemological location for the study of management'. Academy of Management Review 17/3: 514-536.

Laver, J. 1982 Costume and fashion: a concise history. London: Thames and Hudson.

Lowengard, Mary 1992 'Dressing for recession'. Institutional Investor 26/3: 176.

Lurie, A. 1981 The language of clothes. New York: Random House.

Molloy, J. 1975 Dress for success. New York: Warner Books.

Plys, C. 1990 'Dress for duress'. Spy (July): 62-70.

Rafaeli, Anat, and Michael G. Pratt 1993 'Tailored meanings: on the meaning and impact of organizational dress'. Academy of Management Review 18/1: 32-55.

Schreuder, Hein 1985 'Suitable research: on the development of a positive theory of the business suit'. Accounting, organizations and society 10/1: 105-108.

Extracts from the Correspondence

Hein Schreuder Graaf van Waldeckstraat 35 6212 AN Maastricht The Netherlands

The Editor-in-Chief of Organization Studies Professor John Child The Judge Institute of Management Studies University of Cambridge Fitzwilliam House, 32 Trumpington Street Cambridge CB2 1QY, United Kingdom

Re: manuscript "The Tie-pology"

Dear John,

Several years ago I published a piece called "Suitable Research: On the Development of a Positive Theory of the Business Suit" in AOS. It was an attempt at some humour in the methodological debate on the pros and cons of "positive research". I had just written an immensely dry piece about that subject myself and probably felt the need to compensate for it. Be that as it may, "Suitable Research" to my surprise became the publication about which I received by far the most reactions from all sorts of people.

One of those people was David Hickson. You will find quotes from our personal correspondence in the enclosed manuscript. For several years I forgot about David's letter, until a Ph.D.-student in Rotterdam inquired about "Suitable Research" and I looked into my file again. I found David's letter and felt the urge to write a sequel to my earlier piece. The result you find enclosed under the title "The Tie-pology".

Dr Hein Schreuder Graaf van Waldeckstraat 35. 6212 AN Maastricht The Netherlands

Re: The Tie-pology

Thank you for submitting your paper on organizational tie-pology to Organization Studies. As one who has paronomasial tendencies (!) as well, I have been asked by John Child to acknowledge your work in appropriate fashion, and have therefore composed a little dit-tie which I hope you will like .......

As mentioned in my poem, it would be really good if, when you send your biographical summary, you could include some mention of your own personal tie-pology. Just as Howard Schwartz gave details of the car he drives, so we think readers would be interested to know where the tie you favour comes from - Tie Rack/chari-tie shop/knit-tied by granny/the lace from an old boot, etc - and something of its colour and condition.

We look forward to hearing from you. In the meantime, and on behalf of John as Edi-tier-in-Chief, many thanks for giving OS the opportuni-tie of publishing your work.

All best wishes

Sally Heavens Editorial Assistant

A Dit-tie

In talking practicali-ties And looking at reali-ties It seems to be The key to power dressing is The Tie.

We see your work addresses now This issue's topicali-tie And think it great! So state, we're pleased to publish it En-tier.

In following our 'one more check' Please don't forget your details. And maybe print A hint of whereabouts your own tie Retails.

Hein Schreuder Graaf van Waldeckstraat 35 6212 AN Maastricht The Netherlands

ORGANIZATION STUDIES Ms Sally Heavens University of Cambridge The Judge Institute of Management Studies

Good (Sally) Heavens!

Never before has a manuscript of mine been accepted for publication so readily and so wholeheartedly!

Never before have I been sent a dit-tie instead of "suggestions for revision" by the editorial comit-tie......

Thanks for the special attention you gave to acknowledging acceptance of my paper. I would like to suggest to John that you are awarded the honorific title of "Edittierial Assistant"

All the best

Hein Schreuder
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Title Annotation:organizational dress
Author:Schreuder, Hein
Publication:Organization Studies
Date:Sep 22, 1994
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