Why We Miss Ties, and Why We Hope They Will Come Back

In the ever-evolving world of fashion, a stark reality looms: tie sales have plummeted, with recent statistics revealing a notable decline. Once a wardrobe essential, ties have lost their grip on modern trends. But ties are beautiful. They look cool. How did it come to this?

The Decline: A Casual Revolution

Picture this: a world where suits and ties no longer dominate boardrooms and social gatherings. Recent statistics indicate a significant drop in tie sales. In the mid-1990s, necktie sales peaked at $1.3 billion, but by 2009, they had fallen to $418 million. The pandemic further decreased these numbers. In comparison, in the 1980s, Americans spent more than $1 billion each year on roughly 100 million ties.

The decline is no surprise, reflecting a workplace shift towards a supposedly more “relaxed” style, leaving ties to languish in the closet. When first office “summer casual Fridays” were introduced in the 1990s, employers actively discouraged tie-wearing; when that aggresively laid-back style expanded in most workplaces to fulltime, official disapproval of tie-wearing tagged along. But a new style that demanded conformity, that imposed a no-tie rule, regardless of what an employee might prefer, was not more “casual” than before. It was just a new dress code, and a shabbier one.

“I arrived at work, on my first day, in 2012,” says one man, “wearing a tie. The manager of the company saw me in the elevator and told me that ties weren’t required. I smiled and explained that my daughter had given it to me for good luck. I laughed and asked lightly if he’d mind if I wore it for one day. He said, ‘Listen, I’ve worked very fucking hard to create a relaxed atmosphere in this office. Take off the fucking tie.’ I took off the tie.”

Still, despite the decline in tie sales and the weirdly draconian casual dress code, the tie remains a timeless and iconic piece in the mosaic of fashion. It’s more than a mere accessory; it’s a symbol of elegance, a medium for self-expression, and a nod to the nostalgia of eras gone by. Despite the casual revolution, ties hold a certain charm, from their transformative power to individualistic statements, that transcends the ebb and flow of fashion whims.

So let’s not toss this classic accessory into the dustbin of history just yet; they have a story to tell, and it’s one worth listening to.

Elegance Personified

Ties aren’t just pieces of fabric; they’re ambassadors of elegance. They add a touch of panache that elevates any outfit above the mundane. The knot and style of a tie can speak volumes about an individual’s personality and create a unique narrative that goes beyond the conventional bounds of fashion.

Every Man’s Best Friend

Have you ever met a man who didn’t look good in a tie — or at least better than without a tie?

Neither have we.

Face it, a tie looks better on a middle-aged man than a collared shirt unbuttoned to reveal a faded yellowish undershirt with tufts of graying chest hair sticking out! And in simpler days, it was a simple rule for a younger, newer employee to remember.

Ties have a magical ability to transform appearances, enhance facial features, boost posture and exude confidence. It’s a universal truth – every man looks better in a tie.

Every Woman’s Best Friend

Ties also look great on women — a tailored blazer paired with a perfectly knotted tie screams sophistication and nonchalant coolness. The allure of ties on women lies in their ability to effortlessly straddle the line between androgyny and femininity. A tailored tie with a flowing dress creates an ensemble that’s as eclectic as it is chic, breaking glass ceilings in style.

A dizzying array of tie styles and patterns are available to women, from classic silk ties of timeless elegance to vibrant prints that demand attention. And there is no rule that says that a woman cannot wear a man’s tie just as well as a man.

Ties as Individual Statements

Imagine a physicist confidently donning a tie adorned with subtle motifs inspired by iconic equations that have shaped the foundations of physics. The tie might feature the elegant beauty of Albert Einstein’s field equations, capturing the essence of general relativity with their mathematical sophistication. It could showcase the intricate details of Schrödinger’s wave equation, embodying the principles of quantum mechanics with their profound significance. These equations, rendered with precision and artistic flair, transform the tie into more than a mere accessory; it becomes a wearable homage to the intellectual legacy of scientific discovery.

A geneticist’s tie adorned with intricate DNA helices, chromosomes, or other genetic patterns ceases to be a mere fashion statement.

If you love art, your tie can be your favorite painting, if you love music, it can be the musical notation of your favorite symphony.

A tie with this kind of personal statement meshes perfectly and stylishly, and subtly, with any business suit, the way no other article of clothing can. It’s a personalized declaration, an extension of one’s identity and a window into individuality.

Take away the right to wear a tie and all you’re left with is stale conformity.

Ties from their Birth Through the 1920s and 1940s, and Beyond

Contrary to popular belief, ties weren’t invented to keep necks warm. Travel back to the 17th century, where Croatian mercenaries flaunted a unique neckwear style that caught the eye of French soldiers. The French adopted this fashion, coining the term “cravat.” While the primary function shifted over time, the tie’s origin story adds to its timeless allure.

In the 1920s and 1940s, no self-respecting man would leave the house without a tie. Think of iconic figures like Humphrey Bogart — his timeless fashion sense incomplete without that signature tie and classic hat. The photographs from this era capture a flair that still resonates with the romantic allure of a bygone time. Men of that era didn’t just wear ties to work, they wore ties wherever they went, whenever they wanted to. Why can’t that come back? The next time you go to a party, or go out to dinner with friends, why couldn’t you wear a tie?

The 1970s brought a new wave of tie styles. Skinny ties became the epitome of cool, reflecting the rebellious spirit of the era. The sleek design became a symbol of youth culture, breaking away from the broader styles of the previous decades.

From 19th-century ascots to the bold patterns of 1980s power ties, ties have morphed through the ages. Bow ties, cravats, knit ties, and bolo ties showcase the ever-adapting nature of this enduring accessory.

Is There Hope?

The trend of young people wearing ties has been gaining popularity for several years. The fall 2022 runways featured models wearing tuxedo-like outfits with ties, as well as plaid coats with the neck accessory. Designers like Ralph Lauren and Louis Vuitton included an array of menswear-inspired, three-piece looks accessorized with ties. Ties have been spotted on the streets of Milan, Paris, and London. They are being paired with traditional suits or layered underneath sweaters and atop button-downs. Celebrities like Zendaya have been seen wearing ties, which can influence fashion trends. Ties can sometimes give off grade-school energy, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

Celebrate each person who feels empowered, confident or simply joyous wearing a tie. What we wear should reflect who we are, every thread woven with care, each strand a narrative of individuality and personal expression. No one should discourage this; no one should prohibit this. Our clothing reflects our inner selves, a narrator of our unique stories. A tie isn’t just an accessory; it can be a declaration of our journey.


Montage from photos by Kalyee Srithnam and InsynctMedia / Pexels.

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