Belonging to a group involves many things, any one of which would have equal claim to being the 'true' meaning behind a necktie - exclusivity, arrogance, identity, safety, belonging, etc. etc. But even if you wanted to single out 'responsibility' and declare that to be the overriding character train that is symbolised by the old regimental tie - and I think that is a long bow to draw - you are still left with only a small subset of neckties to which you could reasonably apply that symbolism. And again, I think singling out 'responsibility' as as the single most important trait there is really a stretch.
And let's face it wearing the old school tie is not about responsibility or not disgracing the alma mater, it's about sending the right signals at a job interview.
But let's forget about 'identity' ties for a moment. They are only niche anyway. You are still left with the overwhelming numbers of neckties that are unaffiliated, bought and worn simply because the wearer liked the colour, or it matched his eyes or his wife bought it for him for Father's Day or which some overpaid style guru convinced him was a 'power' tie.
Let's consider the power tie for a moment. Responsibility? Hmmmm. No. The guy who wears a 'power tie' is exactly the sort of corporate head kicker who, at the AGM where he's gaily announcing an eighty trillion pound profit, will announce in the very next breath that the company is slashing eighty thousands jobs to clear the way for greater profits next year.
Oh, so you say his responsibility is to the shareholders? Well, that's a neat, socially soothing salve and used often - although not in a necktie context - to justify this sort of callous behaviour, but I think everybody knows differently - even the participants themselves. We all know the power-tie behind the blood-letting is getting himself a whopping bonus for doing just that and within a year or so will be undoubtedly be doing a similar job at another corporation, and earning himself another tidy bonus. He's a mercenary. If he fails, he still generally gets a whopping bonus. It'll be in his contract. Fine print. He doesn't care. He doesn't have to. Just make the numbers.
So what about the eighty thousand souls left out of a job by this corporate head-kicker? Many of them will be necktie wearers, helpless middle-management types for whom the tie is more literally a noose, a symbol of corporate bondage that has led to nothing but the scrap heap. I'm sorry but where are we seeing responsibility in any of this? If a necktie is a badge of responsibility it is about as authoritative as a plastic sheriff's badge plucked out of a Coco Pops cereal box.
As for informality and presumptions of power - did you ever see the photo that was taken in the White House situation room the night Osama bin Laden got clipped by the Navy Seals? It's very interesting. In a room full of people in uniforms and suits, President Obama stands out because he is swearing a jumper, and is sitting in a fairly low-down, modest position. Yet no one looking at that photo has any doubt about who is in charge there. And who is responsible. No necktie required.
And yes, the query about the stilettos does require an answer - the parallel is exact. Both are said to be symbols of authority within the corporate kingdom. And while it might be PC to declare stilettos and heels in general to be symbols of submission, I do not think many of the wearers themselves would agree, at least not in the lofty worlds of finance, law and politics. Here I find myself thinking, for example, of Samantha Powers, the former US Ambassador to the United Nations. A vigorous, strong willed and outspoken woman who knew her own mind, she was also known for wearing killer stilettos. I don't think she wore them as a sign of submission in a male dominated world. And being something like 5'10" already she didn't need the height.