Monday, January 30, 2012

Neckties and Rock and Roll

Mick Jagger in a recent photo
wearing a narrow "cool guy" necktie
Rock and roll musicians wearing ties are not a common fashion trend for sure, however it was not always the case.

A visitor to this blog asked me for my opinion on this matter so with his permission I have decided to post his question and my anwser.  A follow up post in the next day or so will be my theory on why rock and rollers don't wear neckties. 

Check out this related post The Peacock Effect for Sake of Originality about the music industry and neckties.  This article actually gives ties a bit of slack as those narrow neckties are a favorite of cool guy musicians. 

Ties and musicians or to be on point - no ties and musicians; what comes to mind is the Beatles and their influence on a generation that in just a decade caused a great shift in culture, which had quite an effect on what fashion meant to youth.  Of course most notably - the advent of a loss for barbers.  The Beatles did wear neckties in the beginning of "Beatle Mania," you can see for youself in the photo below.

Jeffrey, I just spent a few minutes on your blog looking for something to answer this:  "When did the necktie stop being used routinely by music groups?" (and thus lead the way to informality, in general, in the general public of the USA)

This was a question I asked myself after I was sent a sixties pic of Peter and Gordon... of course they were wearing neckties.

I have a pic of men wearing black trousers, vests, suit jackets, and black bowler hats from 1906, with the enormous fish they caught near Catalina. In August! Today I would be in shorts and tee shirt and a wide brim white hat.

Elvis wearing a necktie
Clearly things have changed.

Do you have a sense of when musicians like the Beatles and Stones and others stopped wearing them?

The Beach Boys wore them, up to a point too.

I'm a sixty year old and grew up with LA radio music, beginning in about 1957, and living in the Pacific Palisades. My dad stopped wearing a hat about when I was born, and I always figured that was a So Cal thing. But this is really not about hats, or suits, it's about the tie...

Thanks for any insights; perhaps this would be a good topic for your blog. -Corey, Tracy CA


I am going to post your email message if you do not mind in a forum of sort’s format.

I have often wondered about this as well. I have memories of images on TV and in magazines and newspapers of the Beatles wearing ties. I was 8 years old when Ed Sullivan had them on his show. I'll never forget that introduction. In the latter half of 60's a change was occurring in society which was certainly the cause of the un-popular Vietnam War and the free love movement. I guess a hippie wearing a necktie would send a soft message and absolutely yield conformity to authority that was not within the main objective of becoming free of what we now know as corporate corruption. By comparison, I do not see many "Occupiers" in suits and ties - that would send a mixed message I guess.

The Beatles and Ed Sullivan wearing neckties 1965
I did a post about a year ago that illustrates the necktie and the musician issue. It may have something to do with the thought that musicians are artists and supper creative, while the managers and businessmen “the suits" are not creative at least in the artistic sense. They are seriously managing difficult and complex financial matters, and being respectful of the dynamic of big business is all too important. An artist probably has no concept of that abstract world and wearing the attire that is customary within that institution just was not going fit in the “groovy universe” that musicians had to exist in. Certainly not while most of the people who were adoring them were in jeans and T shirts with beads hanging around their necks - not ties.

Jimmy Hendrix wearing a tie
There has been a major change in what is considered an acceptable dress for men over the last two decades that has casualized society into a ( if I dare say it ) a sloppy state. I recall that about 15 years ago I read in a newspaper that it was OK if a woman wore clothing that revealed the straps to her bra. The fashion world deemed that it was OK for exposing something that was meant to be un-seen. None-the-less, women have always taken much more care of their appearance then men spending fortunes in time and money to have a look that affords the attention that they desire. For the most part men also desire to be as attractive as possible; however it wasn’t long ago that men took greater care in their attire. I guess men have become much more relaxed abandoning suits and neckties - what is now considered too conservative. Up until the last two decades of the past century every man had a few suits and many ties. Now most men have not even one suit and cannot tie a tie to save their life let alone wear one. - Jeffrey


I have looked at the album covers of the Beach Boys and within at least one site aside from Wikipedia. An early photo shows them wearing ties. Album covers from the earliest do not show them in the standard dress attire with ties, although they might be called yuppies for what they wore: Pendletons on one, which were expensive then as now, and others with open collared button downs, and others with crew neck sweaters, etc. You might enjoy the trips on Memory Lane, I suggest you simply go to Wiki and do the discography.

My Pacific Palisades upbringing was surely upper middle class, and we wore ties to dances until the late sixties. Long Hair Rebellion at Pali High was actually LA Times news in 1966.

It seems to me the album cover of Sgt. Pepper (1967?) influenced change and maybe one could make the case for the shift away from ties at about the same time. Beatles were very influential on modes of casual dress and I was part of the group that adopted those changes.

I spent my career in technical efforts in chemistry and did not wear a tie but perhaps a dozen times in 30 yrs. The managers of the efforts did wear ties thru the 90's, and my experience was that by the 2000's only the upper-class, or senior management, felt ties were necessary on a daily basis. I fielded a tie for interviews, presentations to management, and for banquets. My work was not "business" per se.

Thanks again for your reply and expansions.

I still wear a tie at times... and I tie my own... but my 30-something kids don't. 
I will always think that a fine shirt and even finer tie makes a fine appearance.

Thanks, Corey

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