Last week, when the presidents and prime ministers of the United States, Italy, Japan, France, Germany, the United Kingdom and the European Union met in Bavaria, Germany, to take a “family photo” at the annual G7 summit, there was one glaring omission: ties.
The casual looks of the world’s most powerful political leaders – a stark contrast to years past when everyone wore a tie – sparked a global discussion. Headline: “World leaders slammed for ‘sloppy’ appearance as they forgo ties at G7 summit.” An online reviewer tweeted that the group resembled “the dads and uncles at the end of a marriage who had 35 Heinekens and who accost the photographer while their wives shout at them that their taxi is outside”.
Ties weren’t entirely absent from the top. Some politicians had worn them earlier, and the rally also took place at the weekend, when sartorial expectations are more relaxed. But the explicit choice to forgo the tie in this year’s photo shoot served as a signal of the waning presence of the once-ubiquitous male accessory. “The tie is dead” declared menswear blogger Derek Guy on Twitter.
Indeed, even years before the pandemic, men’s wardrobes were experiencing massive casualization, pushing companies like JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs to adopt a more flexible dress code for their employees in 2016 and 2019, respectively. Covid-19 reinforced this trend, and alongside declining sales of bespoke suits and men’s formal wear, sales of ties began to slump. Tie sales fell nearly 6% in 2019, according to Kantar market analysis, and in 2020 fell 42%, according to a data report from Management One.
But as menswear sales rebound, brands have conflicting views on where they stand on ties. Some distance themselves from the accessory while others see it as a strong comeback of the tie.
Experts agree that while the tie isn’t as prevalent in the corporate workplace as it once was, it’s still important in formal wear. Many buyers also wear ties to the office as a form of self-expression, not because they have to.
And while casual wardrobes are here to stay in many workplaces, there are still professionals who want and need ties. Personal stylist Lauren Rothman, who works with many politicians, TV presenters and restaurant groups in the Washington DC area, said she offers a variety of styling advice. She said she tells news anchors to keep wearing ties, for example, because she thinks viewers aren’t ready for such causal appearances while recommending to some restaurant groups that managers switch to ties instead. jackets.
A world with fewer ties
For some shoppers ditching ties, the accessory has “reverberations of stuffiness, conservatism and being buttoned up,” said James Harris, co-host of the menswear podcast Throwing Fits. As employees return to the office, many shoppers prefer to buy nice jeans and invest in less formal menswear options.
For another type of fashion enthusiast who might have owned dozens of colorful ties a few years ago, the choice to experiment with jewelry or bolder shoe choices seems more exciting now, Harris added, especially given the evolution of style rules around masculinity.
“I think we’re exploring how you can express your personal style without subscribing to pre-established rules from 10 years ago,” Harris said. “Guys aren’t buying ties like they’re buying sneakers right now.”
Brands are responding in kind: Zegna has reduced its tie assortment, focusing instead on more casual categories, like knitwear and sports coats, Ermenegildo Zegna Group President and CEO Gildo Zegna told BoF.
“The tie isn’t 100% dead, but it’s surely no longer popular and is increasingly being replaced by other items,” Zegna said. “There’s a trend that men want to wear a suit in a different way, with… a silk shirt or a polo shirt, or a fancy slipper. For the draw, I don’t see a good future.
Ditching the tie has also become more popular in politics, said Rothman, who noted that politicians like Andrew Yang and Pete Buttigieg often adopted a no-tie look early in their campaigns for image reasons. Rothman said the G7 leaders likely dropped their ties because of the overarching messages they sent to global audiences.
“They’re trying to signal that with the world being more laid back, they’re closer to everyday people and have a better relationship with them,” Rothman said.
How Ties Will Survive
Fashion brands that are seeing a surge in tie sales say shoppers buying the accessory for work wardrobes are doing so out of style choice, not because of a mandatory dress code. For customers like these, brands could find success with floral patterns and bright colors, which sell well at Bonobos, said fashion director George McCracken.
“The way guys wear ties has changed,” McCracken said. “It’s less about using it in a uniform than making it a fun accessory.”
At Bonobos, the category is seeing double-digit growth this year, McCracken said, and the brand expects tie sales to reach pre-pandemic levels soon. Neiman Marcus is stocking up on ties after attending menswear presentations in Milan last month, where brands like Brioni, Thom Ford, Prada and Brunello Cucinelli all launched strong masculine looks with ties, says Bruce Pask, director of menswear at Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus.
“We’re seeing brands that have mastered this luxurious, casual elegance have a significant presence of ties in their collection,” he said. “These are cultural indicators.”
And as more weddings and formal events that were canceled during the pandemic resume, Pask thinks the ties will continue to generate interest. The accessory may no longer be an everyday item, but he said shoppers still want ties for special occasions and are willing to spend more on those who feel special.
“We are seeing an increase [tie sales] in events that are black tie [or] white tie driven by a desire to celebrate,” Pask said.