As America struggled to recover from a global pandemic, a shattered economy and record unemployment, the headlines were in despair: “THE Cursed Ties.” Men were “cutting back on their clothing bills” to the chagrin of retailers, the Associated Press reported. Those who continued to wear ties switched from colorful, expensive silk to ordinary, cheap cotton. The year was 1921, and reports of the tie’s death were premature to say the least.
A century later, as Americans begin to emerge from yet another financially devastating pandemic, another wave of headlines predicts the tie’s imminent demise. Last fall, the Financial Time asked himself: “Is this the end of the tie?” More recently, The Wall Street Journal asked, “Will the links be relevant again?” For over a year, many men who once felt required to wear ties have shown up on Zoom every day wearing polo shirts or even T-shirts. Now that they’ve tasted the freedom of the tie and seen their coworkers, clients, and bosses do the same, how can they ever go back to working with their necks cluttered?
After this pandemic, far fewer men will have to do it. The fashion arc has always leaned towards informality (and androgyny – since the late 1800s women have sometimes worn ties as well). But a major disruption, like a war, recession, or a global pandemic, can accelerate this natural change. Ties as an everyday accessory have certainly taken a hit, which is unlikely to fully recover. The deeper functions that ties have long provided, such as social signaling and self-expression, will be absorbed by other clothing. But ties will continue to be worn on more formal occasions, and as quirky accessories for people who are intentionally old-fashioned or fanciful. In other words, ties are the new bow ties.
Apparel spending declined overall during our collective work from home experience, but clothing from cabin-friendly brands such as Brooks Brothers, J. Crew and Banana Republic were particularly hard hit. With around 25% of us now wearing a different size than before COVID, whether larger or smaller, we will eventually have to buy new clothes, but they might not be the same things as we were buying before. While many employers are now more open to flexible hours or to pets in the office, they are also relaxing workplace dress codes to allow leggings, hoodies, t-shirts and sneakers. Men who assemble wardrobes for these newly informal workplaces will likely leave behind stiff-necked dress shirts and ties traditionally worn with them, just as some women may ditch tights, skirts, and high heels. Even though events are constantly reshaping people’s preferences for what to wear, some fashion habits are surprisingly resistant to change. Ties have so far avoided the fate of gaiters, bowler hats and pocket watches. To persist for hundreds of years, a garment must meet powerful practical, social, or emotional needs of which individuals may be only faintly aware. Although decorative and somewhat redundant now, the tie was very functional at first. Its ancestor, the tie, became fashionable in Europe in the 17th century. Considered a military style introduced to France by Croatian mercenaries, it kept the collars of men’s shirts closed while protecting the neck from the cold.
But from the start, the tie has also been an important emblem of group identity and individual tastes, sending subtle signals about the wealth, social affiliations, culture and intellect of the wearer. The soldiers tied the ends of their united ties with knots or threaded them through buttonholes; courtiers decorated them with lace. As men’s suits became more subdued and more uniform in the 19th century, their ties became more complex and individualistic. The effect of the elaborately knotted ties of Jane Austen-era fashion influencer Beau Brummell was such that “the dandies had gone dumb with envy and the washerwomen had miscarried,” according to comedian contemporary.
Throughout its history, the tie has often represented the personality of its wearer. Balzac wrote in 1830 that “of all aspects of an outfit, the tie is the only one that really belongs to man; it is the sole custodian of his individuality. When the 10th Earl of Chesterfield died in 1933, his New York Times The obituary noted his good taste for ties, which “have won the triumph of being shiny without being loud or vulgar.” The famous Duke of Windsor had a knot named after him. A tie can indicate loyalty to a prestigious school, club, sports team or military regiment. Beyond these flattering associations, the tie was a sign of maturity and respectability; she could make out the management of the workers.
A tie is never just a tie. When in 1930 playwright Noël Coward told a young fashion photographer, Cecil Beaton, that an “unfortunate tie puts someone in danger,” he was not hyperbolic but warned him against homophobia. At key times, however, well-chosen ties could help a man become a star. When Elvis Presley made his television debut in 1956, the largely unknown 21-year-old wore a dark jacket and shirt with a surprisingly light tie chosen by Bernard Lansky, the owner of a clothing store for men in Memphis. “If Elvis had worn a white button-down Oxford cloth shirt, he would still be driving a truck,” Lansky’s son once said. 1960s fashion designer Mary Quant summed up the psychological importance of the tie as “something between a comfort blanket and a public penis.”
As the 60s wore on, American men dressed up, embracing Nehru and Mao tieless jackets. European designers such as Pierre Cardin, Guy Laroche and Nino Cerruti have promoted turtlenecks and collarless styles. They also sold tie alternatives: loose-knotted silk scarves and lavallières, many of which were printed in bold intended to complement an equally eye-catching shirt. Once again, the end of the tie was near. “Ties are doomed to fail”, the New York Daily News proclaimed in 1967.
Ties (and socks) took another hit when Miami vice debuted in 1984, only to rebound in the late ’80s when Wall Street and A hard worker glorified the financial sector and introduced the “bond of power”. According to the Men’s Dress Furnishings Association, a trade group of tie manufacturers, tie sales in the United States peaked at $ 1.3 billion per year in 1995, before falling sharply. “Casual Fridays” introduced a relaxed philosophy to the American workplace. In 2008, the Men’s Dress Furnishings Association closed due to low membership. The following year, according to market research firm NPD, sales of U.S. ties had plummeted to $ 418 million, or just about $ 300 million in 1995 dollars.
The tech industry’s culture of youthful egalitarianism demanded hoodies and jeans rather than suits and ties. Wall Street began to draw inspiration from Silicon Valley, favoring “innovation and daring” over the “prudence and sober judgment” represented by the suit and tie, wrote Richard Thompson Ford in his recent book, Dress codes. In 2016, Wall Street giant JPMorgan Chase relaxed its famous rigid office dress code; Goldman Sachs followed suit, acknowledging the move was necessary to attract top tech talent. From 2015 to 2019, sales of men’s suits fell 8%, and tie sales fell with them.
Ties have slowly faded from the red carpets, a trend spearheaded by a new generation of Hollywood stars including Jared Leto, John Boyega, Donald Glover and Harry Styles. Presidential candidate Andrew Yang delved into his dot-com roots by showing up to the first Democratic debate of 2019 without a tie – a political step that kicked off not a but two Twitter accounts claiming to be the missing garment. Although most of the male characters in the Emmy-nominated film Bridgerton wearing starched ties appropriate to the setting of the 1813 Netflix show, escape star Regé-Jean Page wears open-necked shirts for a sexy effect. Today’s unrelated standards, in other words, are beginning to take hold even in period dramas. The monarchy could fall then. When Prince George, 7, showed up in the royal box at Wembley Stadium in London to watch Euro 2020 matches wearing a suit and tie, social media screamed scandal.
Indeed, the ties were receding long before COVID-19 turned business casual into business pajamas. “Let’s face it, the tie is dead”, the New York Post sung in 2016. And, in the summer of 2019, Philadelphia Magazine said: “The tie could finally be dead.” Meanwhile, alternatives to links have multiplied. Henleys and collarless “grandpa shirts” offered a compromise between overly casual T-shirts and overly formal dress shirts. The collared shirt – be it a tie-less button down or a polo shirt – has become the new standard of formality in many restaurants, schools and offices. Yet no one should confuse casual dress standards with the suspension of judgment on the class and social status of a worker. Underneath his famous work hoodies, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg wears drab t-shirts, but they’re custom made by Brunello Cucinelli and reportedly cost hundreds of dollars apiece.
Men’s fashion will always have a place for “prudence and sober judgment”, even if it may not necessarily be the workplace. Ties will continue to make appearances at weddings, graduations, funerals, trials and ceremonies, as well as anywhere where strict dress codes are still in effect, whether in country clubs or on the boats. cruise. Even Zuckerberg put on a tie to testify in the Senate in 2018.
But that age-old tie between ties and power is also quickly unraveling. One of Zuckerberg’s toughest questioners now holds the second highest post in the country. And she doesn’t wear a tie to work either.