Manolo for the Men Fashion and Lifestyle Advice for Men

June 12, 2008

The Bowing Out of the Necktie

Filed under: Etiquette,Men's Fashion,Ties — Izzy @ 11:57 am

man cutting necktie

Recently, The Wall Street Journal published a (to Izzy) depressing story on the state of the world of accessories:

After 60 years, the Men’s Dress Furnishings Association, the trade group that represents American tie makers, is expected to shut down Thursday.

Association members now number just 25, down from 120 during the 1980s power-tie era. U.S. tie companies have been consolidating. Others have closed because of overseas competition as the U.S. market share for American-made ties has fallen to about 40%, from 75% in 1995.

Members have lost interest. But the biggest reason for the group’s demise: Men aren’t wearing ties.

According to a recent Gallup Poll, the number of men who wore ties every day to work last year dropped to a record low of 6%, down from 10% in 2002. U.S. sales have plummeted to $677.7 million in the 12 months ending March 31, from their peak of $1.3 billion in 1995, according to market researcher NPD Group. Although sales are expected to get a bump around Father’s Day, June 15, the future of neckties is very much in doubt.

But perhaps the saddest part the article was its mention of makers, and even popularizers, of neckties not wearing them themselves:

Scott Sternberg, 33, who founded the Band of Outsiders tie label in 2004, has quickly developed a following of young hipsters who buy his skinny ties, sold at stores including Jeffrey, Barneys New York and Ron Herman.

He says younger men find wearing ties more interesting today when they are “outside of obligation.” While he himself wears a tie on “whims and special occasions,” Mr. Sternberg admits that he doesn’t wear one to the office on a regular basis. “Ties get in the way,” he says.

To Izzy, this sartorial hypocrisy is good evidence that for Sternberg and his ilk wearing a tie is merely a matter of fleeting fashion, not enduring style.

Although the article doesn’t mention them as possible explanations for the demise of the tie, Izzy suspects that two major factors are the unfortunate decline of formality in all aspects of social life (whether in manners, rhetoric, etc.) as well as the widespread opposition to anything that smack of inhibition or self-restraint.




  1. I can’t do a more elaborate explanation right now, but on the CBC Radio show “As It Happens” on Wednesday the former executive director of the now-defunct Men’s Dress Furnishing Association explained that that WSJ story missed the point and contained errors of fact. The association was disbanded only because corporate consolidation on the part of both manufacturers and retailers rendered it unnecessary, and tie sales remain stronger than the article suggests. The piece notes the percentage of men who wear a tie *every day* is at an all time low, but that’s not a particularly meaningful number — my guess would be that the number of men who wear a tie to work *at least half the time* or *at least once a week* is more or less unchanged.

    And PS: he all-too-bemoaned “decline of formality” has its upside, too..

    Anyway, listen here:

    (It’s item #10.)

    Comment by grrg — June 13, 2008 @ 1:36 am

  2. Izzy – I’ve got two words for you: Business Casual. That whole movement(which was foited on the business world by Levi Strauss’ Dockers Division in the 1990s) has degraded work clothing. I work with men who are of an age where they have never ever worn a suit or sportcoat/pants to work since they started working. They think that business clothing is khaki pants and a knit golf shirt. No wonder the tie is fading…men don’t wear shirts and ties or coats and ties any more.

    Comment by Toby Wollin — June 14, 2008 @ 5:06 pm

  3. I do know men who still wear suits to work – men who aren’t even lawyers or bankers! And these men wear ties with their suits. And their ties are wonderful – rich, heavy silk, modern and elegant.

    I think men do themselves a disservice when they disdain the wearing of suits – in addition to being appropriate for a person in a position of responsibility and authority, the suit, IMO, is a garment that is far more attractive to the opposite sex than “Dockers” ever will be.*

    *The Kilt, in its many versions, will give the Suit a run for its money – 17th Century kilt all the way up to and through the Utili-Kilt. The Suit, however, is less likely to make its wearer feel a trifle self-conscious.

    Comment by La BellaDonna — June 25, 2008 @ 1:17 pm

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