18 July 2021

Pondering the fate of the necktie

Excerpts from an article in The Atlantic by a fashion historian/curator/journalist:
As America struggled to recover from a global pandemic, a shattered economy, and record unemployment levels, headlines despaired: “neckties doomed.” Men were “slashing their clothing bills” to retailers’ chagrin, the Associated Press reported. Those who continued to wear ties were downgrading from colorful, expensive silk to plain, 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 another financially devastating pandemic, another rash of headlines is predicting the tie’s imminent demise... For more than a year, many men who once felt bound to wear ties have shown up on Zoom each day wearing polos or even T-shirts. Now that they have tasted freedom from the necktie—and have seen their colleagues, clients, and bosses doing the same—how can they ever go back to working with their necks encumbered?...

The deeper functions that ties have long provided—such as social signaling and personal expression—will be absorbed by other garments. But ties will continue to be worn on the most formal occasions, and as quirky accoutrements for the self-consciously old-fashioned or whimsical. In other words, neckties are the new bow ties...

... from the beginning, the necktie has also been an important emblem of both group identity and individual taste, sending subtle signals about the wearer’s wealth, social affiliations, culture, and intellect... A tie might indicate loyalty to a prestigious school, club, sports team, or military regiment. Beyond these flattering associations, a tie was a marker of maturity and respectability; it set management apart from manual laborers... The 1960s fashion designer Mary Quant neatly summed up the tie’s psychological import as “something between a comfort blanket and a public penis.”..
Lots more at the link about the historic ups and downs of this fashion item.

The thing about neckties is that they accumulate.  One acquires them to pair with new clothing, as birthday and Christmas gifts, to celebrate/remember an occasion or special travel, as an inheritance from a relative - and they never wear out, are seldom lost, and you never outgrow them.  

I have mixed feelings about mine.  Social norms mandated that I wear them for about 30 years in my career, but I don't think I've worn one since retirement.  I donated about half of them to a nephew, others to Goodwill.  But several dozen remain hanging on the wall of a closet as tangible reminders of important people, places, and events in my life.


  1. They can't go away too soon. Horrible things.

  2. I agree with Pearse. I loathe neckties. They serve no practical purpose and scratch my throat. Down with ties!

  3. Good riddance!
    I've managed to avoid wearing them for most of my life and I've got no intention of starting now. I never saw the purpose of them except when needing to adhere to someone else's idea of how I should dress.

  4. I've always hated to wear one not because of the tie itself but because buttoning the shirt chocked me. I tried every device out there to relieve the problem and nothing worked. Now that I'm older and my neck has shrunk, I don't need to wear a tie.

  5. http://gammill.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/tie-quilt-high-res-1024x1024.jpg

    1. Excellent. When I mailed a box of old ties to my nephew, the lot included quite a large number of my father's 1940s-era silk ties, so I told my nephew if he chose not to wear them he should find a local quilting society to donate the ties to.

  6. At the beginning of the COVID pandemic, our hospital infection control staff stated very clearly that we were not to wear neckties. They are another way to potentially collect and spread virus particles or bacteria. I haven't worn one since, and I used to wear them 3 days per week or more. My father wore them every day at his pharmacy, and since his retirement has shipped a number of them to me. I find it hard to part with his old ties-- I recall him coming home from work as a kid, giving him a big hug in his shirt and tie. I recall him teaching me to tie one as a teenager. Not sure what I'll do with the ties I still have -- but I'm sure glad I don't have to wear them now!


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