Legal history shows attorney Tom Cherryhomes could be irascible, stubborn and rebellious enough to take a disagreement about appropriate neckwear to a higher court.

On a summer day 30 years ago, Cherryhomes appeared before District Judge James Shuler of Carlsbad. A bit of Shuler’s necktie peeked out from his sober black robe.

Cherryhomes was jacketless. He wore a short-sleeved shirt, open at the collar, and a baby-blue bandanna.

The judge looked at Cherryhomes and saw a multitude of sartorial sins.

Shuler said he had discussed with Cherryhomes the written rule for how male lawyers in New Mexico’s 5th Judicial District were to dress in court. It called for “sport or suit coats, slacks and ties.”

Cherryhomes said he couldn’t wear a jacket because of an injury to his arm. As for a necktie, he said, he was in compliance with the district’s dress code. Cherryhomes called his bandanna a tie, Old West in style.

Shuler didn’t like the bandanna or Cherryhomes’ argument. The judge held Cherryhomes in contempt of court for failing to wear a necktie and fined him $50.

Cherryhomes’ confrontation with the judge is one of many documented objections to neckwear, though most have occurred outside courtrooms.

Many claim the necktie saved Father’s Day from extinction. Or maybe it’s the other way around.

Jokes about Dad receiving an ugly tie for Father’s Day have been around for almost a century. That’s an extraordinary statistic considering that Father’s Day didn’t become a national holiday until 1972.

Ties used to be a safe choice as Father’s Day gifts, especially in metropolitan areas.

Men slipping away from the office would arrive at baseball parks in white shirts and conservative ties. Those bygone times were more formal, and big-league games often were played during daytime business hours.

Business attire even extended to the teams themselves. Many baseball managers ordered their players to wear a coat and tie when they were in public.

Ted Williams, the wondrous hitter of the Boston Red Sox, hated neckties. Everyone expected a showdown when Joe McCarthy, who wanted his players adorned in ties, took over as the Sox manager in 1948.

McCarthy threw everyone a curve by arriving for a team breakfast in a casual shirt and without a tie.

“The day I can’t get along with a .400 hitter I should quit,” McCarthy said.

Many in the West spoofed the button-down style that included neckwear.

Two Trail Dust Steak Houses in suburban Denver cut off the ties of any customer naive enough to wear one. Trail Dust’s sign carried an image of giant scissors slicing through a striped tie.

The steaks probably weren’t as good as the gimmick. Trail Dust’s Denver-area locations closed more than a decade ago.

Pinnacle Peak, a steakhouse in Tucson, Ariz., still prohibits neckwear as part of what it calls an authentic Old West atmosphere.

“Pinnacle Peak is for fun — no ties allowed,” the restaurant says in its pitch for customers.

In New Mexico, many people shared Cherryhomes’ position that ties can come in different forms and styles. Cautious politicians even came around to that way of thinking.

The New Mexico Legislature, always at work on matters of importance, voted in 2007 to make the bolo tie the state’s official tie.

But because the bolo tie can be worn with either a buttoned or loosened collar, stuffed shirts in the same Legislature resisted it.

Not until 2009 did the House of Representatives change its rules to allow members to wear bolo ties in the chamber.

The state judiciary was less forgiving of Cherryhomes and his bandanna.

After District Judge Shuler held Cherryhomes in contempt, the lawyer appealed the ruling. Cherryhomes hired Gary C. Mitchell, one of New Mexico’s top defense attorneys, to argue that a bandanna was just as much a tie as any piece of cloth produced by Ralph Lauren or Tommy Hilfiger.

Cherryhomes said he had a First Amendment right to wear the tie of his choice. It wasn’t his problem if the judge had different tastes.

Few were surprised when the maverick lawyer lost again.

A three-member panel of the state Court of Appeals sided with Judge Shuler.

“The record supports a conclusion that the real issue is not the bandanna, but the court’s authority to interpret the local rule,” Judge Pamela Minzer wrote for the Court of Appeals.

After all that, I wonder what disrupted the justice system more, the bandanna or the appeal?

Ringside Seat is an opinion column about people, politics and news. Contact Milan Simonich at msimonich@sfnewmexican or 505-986-3080.

(1) comment


[beam]Wearing neckties (and suits) are little more than dog collars to keep people obedient to the 'corporate military industrial complex' proceeding to take itself way to seriously.....Though each their own when it comes to wearing ones chosen costume....

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