Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Death of the Necktie

Hold onto the eulogy - ties are not going to die anytime soon. There is still a great demand for neckties and in the last two years the necktie has seen a resurgence in men's fashion - Jeffrey Hunter

On June 14th 2008 USA Today did a story about the necktie and whether or not ties were headed to oblivion. The acceptance of casual dress has caused the necktie industry to take a severe blow - at somewhere around 20% from the peak in sales of ties in the beginning of the 70's when 200 million to 250 million ties were sold each year. With the market shrinking and the recession taking a toll on consumer spending many manufacturers have shut the doors or at the very least cut back on operations. Unique and specialty ties have been discontinued from 2000 and over the last five years or so some necktie icons like Tabasco, Endangered Species, Looney Tunes, and much of the Ralph Marlin line of novelty ties have seen their end. However men still wear ties and there is a niche market now for special novelty neckties, especially on-line.

Here are segments of the USA Today piece if you missed it: 


The necktie, knot what it used to be, still hangs on

.......Predictions of the necktie's demise have been circulating for years. In the mid-1990s, designer Gianni Versace offered his vision of male fashion in a coffee-table book titled "Men Without Ties," a sure sign of where things were headed. A bronzed Adonis dashed across its cover dressed in nothing but a few ties, lashed loosely around his waist.


The burgeoning popularity of casual Fridays turned khakis and open collar-shirts into suitable wear for workplaces previously better suited to suits. The dot-com boom filled thousands of instant offices with laid-back twentysomethings who saw no point in lashing something tight around their necks.

But rumors of the tie's death are roughly equivalent to the longtime predictions that the computer would soon turn society paperless. There's a lot of truth to the prognostication, but somehow it hasn't quite turned out that way.

Clearly, the tie business is nothing like the old days. In the early 1970s, when sales peaked, manufacturers sold between 200 million and 250 million ties a year in the U.S. Today annual sales have dropped to about 50 million, according to Lee Terrill, president of the neckwear division of Phillips-Van Heusen Corp., the nation's largest tie maker.

A Gallup poll last year found just 6% of men wearing neckties to work each day, down from 10% in 2002. More than two-thirds of the men surveyed said they never wear a tie to work, up from 59% five years earlier.  But the necktie still has its defenders and devotees, men who invest the kind of affection in their ties that a golf shirt will probably never know.

"A lot of people call me the Tie Guy," says Bob Smith, the outgoing provost and vice chancellor of academic affairs at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, Ark.  Smith has a collection of more than 400 ties in his closets. They are vital accessories in a job requiring him to deliver many speeches and presentations — more than 700 in the past eight years. Every Smith speech is punctuated with a tie themed to the subject.  A tie with a giraffe on it for a speech about the qualities that make a good supervisor, one who is able to raise his head above the fracas to see the landscape clearly. Another featuring a painting by Charles Rennie Mackintosh of a rose inside a teardrop that he saves for delivering eulogies.

"When I walk into a room, they'll look at my necktie, they'll actually pick it up when I walk in, and say 'Oh, what are you going to talk about today? and I'll say, 'Oh, wait and see.' It actually creates a sense of mystery," Smith says.  Smith's collection, though, pales compared to the more than 1,000 ties owned by Richard Arutunian, a retired Southern California neckwear manufacturer.   Arutunian rejects this talk that the tie has come undone. A tie is singularly irreplaceable, he says, uniquely capable of sending a message about its wearer to women and to his fellow men.  "To me it tells more about the person than even the shoe does," says Arutunian, who long served as official tie historian for the neckwear industry association's predecessor. "Is he trying to impress me? Is he wearing a tie because he has to wear that tie? How is he tying that knot?"

Wearing cloth around the neck stretches back a long way. Some trace the modern tie to the early 1600s when Croatian fighters looped fabric around their necks before battle, captivating the public's imagination. 

Hard to believe, but for most of history men were the peacocks of the fashion world, and that included draping their necks in all sorts of status symbols, from waterfall cloths to cravats, says Paula Baxter, who curated an exhibit that closed last year at the New York Public Library on the rakish history of men's wear.  "Even the Puritans. They would wear lace collars," she says.

The era of the male dandy ended in the late 19th century, when the uniformity of the tailored suit took over. In the early 1920s, neckwear makers began cutting cloth on the bias — diagonally, at an angle to the weave — and the modern tie was born. It found a welcome home on the necks of the expanding ranks of white-collar workers.  By the 1960s, 600 companies made ties in the U.S., mostly smaller, regional manufacturers. They banded together in a professional association that lobbied on their behalf.

Those days are long past.

"The number you have dialed is not in service at this time," a recording greeted callers to the New York offices of the Dress Furnishings Association this week. "Please check the area code and number and dial your call again."  Don't bother.

Today there are only about two dozen companies making ties in the U.S., and the business is dominated by huge firms. Many of the ties American men wear are made overseas. It didn't seem to make any sense to keep running an association built for an industry so fundamentally different from what it used to be, says Terrill, the neckwear business executive and a member of the association's board.  "We didn't think anybody would notice," he says, of the decision to close.  Instead, the association's closure has been greeted as confirmation that the tie is done. 
The suggestion alarms Terrill, who says that sales have steadied and ties are poised to make a modest comeback. 

There are still a few islands of tie-wearers. Lawyers and folks in finance and insurance work in offices where suits and tie remain the badges of professionalism.  "When you wear a tie it still says ... you're dressed for the occasion," says Amy Klaris, a retail strategist at consulting firm Kurt Salmon Associates.  Today, with the economy softening, men need to market themselves and a big part of that is the way they dress. That will send the pendulum swinging, albeit subtly, back to the suit and tie, Terrill says.

In the past 10 or 15 years, as dress codes loosened, men who'd always worn ties "were making a statement. I'm not going to wear a tie because I don't have to wear a tie," Terrill says. "But now so many people don't wear a tie, that it's a statement to wear one."

read the entire story USA TODAY

check out Nice Tie Store's necktie collection

A few related posts

Men In Ties

I Love Ties