Is it mandatory that every man who works downtown own and frequently wear a yellow "power tie"?

In fewer than 20 seconds during one afternoon rush hour, nine men, all wearing this all-too-popular tie, emerged from a crowded subway car onto the platform at Metro Center. That was, by far, the greatest concentration of this favorite fashion accessory we had seen all summer. This final flurry ran that day's total up to 57; the day before our count had reached a modest 46.

Startled by the sheer numbers of this type of tie, a friend who had been out of the country for some time described its ubiquitousness as being "almost like a disease." She was correct in her diagnosis. The power tie has proliferated in the District, becoming as unavoidable and persistent as the flu in January. Over the last few summers, the yellow silk tie, uniformly speckled with small blue-and-white diamonds or paisley designs, has saturated every office, every subway and bus, every sidewalk from Dupont Circle to Capitol Hill.

This is not to say that the commonness of the power tie merits the concern that a flu bug should. Nor is it to say that this tie is a yellow badge of poor taste -- in all fairness, it is a fresh, summery complement to just about any suit. Nor do tie fashions generally merit a facetious letter to the editor.

Our gripe is that the power tie has become a cliche', but, unlike most cliche's, it has failed to fade into obsolescence. Most fashions are flashes in the pan -- they become popular for a short while, usually for less than a year, but then are relegated to the ranks of the common and the unimaginative. The power tie, however, has lingered in chic status for at least four years, and now everyone owns one.

Common sense and a natural desire to see something new have ushered other fashion phenomena (except blue jeans and underwear) to their rightful places in the fashion graveyard. When will that same verdict be handed down on the power tie?

NICK TURNER

MELISSA TURNER

Washington