Fit to be… ok I couldn’t finish it. But you get the point.

 

The problem with picking a strong lead image for an article is that since a picture is worth a thousand words one has to start in the middle of the piece to avoid repeating one’s self.   Since not everybody is a visual learner, here:  the death of the necktie has been predicted almost as much as the end of the world, and with very similar accuracy.

My predecessor made a very strong argument for the death of the tie, even before Covid, and then Covid came and seemed to say, “You’re right so let us hurry this along, shall we?”  But this prediction, and the same predictions that came decades before miss a critical factor.  The tie, more than any other piece of men’s wear, is less clothing and more symbol.  To eradicate a symbol, you have to eradicate the call for its message.  That call still rings.

The author this morning, home alone, with not a meeting in sight all day, putting the finishing touches on this piece. In a tie. That was a gifted in a pay-it-forward thing we did over at the FB group, which we should do here. The idea is you take a tie that you are done with, and send it to another member. who does the same to another member, and so forth. This tie is vintage from Chipp.

To distill the meaning of the symbol in the case of the necktie, one must simply ask why it is being worn.  There are two situations where a tie is worn.  The first and less forthcoming is when you have to – work, uniform, ceremony, etc.  The explanation for that particular occurrence contributes to the larger story:  we like to belong to one another and we like to be lifted up, and if we can do both that the same time – that’s winner winner chicken dinner.  The other situation, perhaps with a more outspoken endowment for the meaning of the symbol, is when we don’t have to wear one.  Yet we do.  What is being communicated there?  Let’s play Family Feud.

Respect for ______.

Self/a task at hand/another person/an event/an occupation/work ethic/other clothing/an institution.

This meaning, the larger form one, came into being at about the same time when civilization had advanced enough to afford us the time and luxury to explore such statements.  If you want to catch up on how the tie happened, here, from Bows-N-Ties.com, is another visual aid:

Courtesy Bows-N-Ties.com

Why it stops in the 1970’s is the purview of the creator of the image, but it does give you enough perspective to get the point.  The necktie has been around a while, and will continue to be so because its symbolic meaning hasn’t changed all that much.

The Croatian Necktie

So why the call for the death of the necktie?  We as wearers thereof seem to predict the death of the necktie like we just finished The Secret and have an open collar on our vision board.  What are we thinking there?  The answer is simple, the symbol of not wearing a necktie.   When ties constituted a higher percentage or wearers, non-wearers sought to communicate how ahead of the curve they were.  The open collar at work was meant to project, oddly enough, exactly what the necktie at work started out projecting:  Look at how seriously I am taking this.  Then the open collar, or no collar, went on to be a small sermon on work/life balance.  And on how forward thinking the non-wearer is now that we have the internet.

The Global Reboot is a theory growing in popularity to explain our times.  And George Will has a new book out.  I say this because I saw George Will on Bill Maher, and while their politics are at opposite ends of the spectrum most of the time, I could see the respect with which Maher treated Mr. Will, who was of course in a white OCBD and a striped tie.  This respect was born out of a history of thought, out of the presentation of civil discourse in disclosing this history of thought, all of which was reflected in an Ivy outfit.  Even the other guest panelist who’s politics as well were on the other side of the teeter totter, talked about how George Will’s columns are required reading in some of the classes she teaches.

The cycle of the tie obituary is, at the end of it, simple to explain.  It is an adolescent reaction to the ego which says that we know better than those who came before us.  And then at some point, the tie resurges a la Mr. Colman of the New York Times, as we reach that sartorial moment where we leap from our parents knowing nothing to our parents having been right about a lot of things.

Mr. George Will

12 Comments on "Fit to be… ok I couldn’t finish it. But you get the point."

  1. This is a superb piece.
    A+.

    “The tie, more than any other piece of men’s wear, is less clothing and more symbol. To eradicate a symbol, you have to eradicate the call for its message…”

    Correct and thought provoking.

  2. Strong Burkean vibes here, intended or not.

    “It is an adolescent reaction to the ego which says that we know better than those who came before us…”

    When I’m asked about why I wear a tie, I usually reply, “Because my father, a successful businessman, Air Force officer, proud alum of a southern military institute, and gentleman, wore one.”

    More often than not there isn’t a follow up to that. They simply nod (up and down) in the affirmative, as though they understand. Typically the only people in a room who refuse to respect the keeping of a tradition based on honor and/or dignity are jerks. It’s a useful way of separating the wheat from the chaff.

  3. Great article, John.

    It’s interesting that the date of the NYT article sited at the top of the post coincides with the beginnings of the “neo-prep” revival of the mid-2000s. I suspect the same confluence of events that spurred the article to be written were likely – or largely – the same that brought us this very blog, along with a cornucopia of others: Maxminimus, The Trad, An Affordable Wardrobe, Unabashedly Prep, and even Wasp 101 (I’m sure many a longtime reader here remembers these and others).

    I’ll reiterate how pleased I am that this blog remains just about the sole survivor of the #menswear blog heyday incubated in the headiness of that mid-2000s revival period. Here’s to many more years ahead for both the necktie and Ivy-Style.com.

  4. I’ve been drawn to dressing ivy-ish for a long time, and it’s been part of my life in various tangential ways going back to childhood. I own a number of ties that I quite like on their own, and I like having them in my closet, knowing they’re there.
    That said, for most of the last 20 years or so, I found myself resistant to wearing ties. I’d never worn a suit for work, and the tie-with-sport coat thing always seemed too visually busy to me. If I’m not wearing a suit, I thought, why wear a tie?
    My views have evolved. Ironically, I think it’s been the paired senses of danger and isolation that have pervaded the last few years, 18 months of which have kept almost all of us from events or workplaces that might conceivably call for wearing a tie. I’ve used some of this time, as many of us have, to think about life and its attendant priorities, and to reflect on the choices I’ve made thus far. I’d like to think I’m emerging from it all with a fortified imperative to live and express and dress in the ways that I really want to. On that front, some of it comes easily and naturally, and some of it is proving to be a real challenge, like retraining myself out of old habits that don’t serve me or anyone else.
    I’m still not gonna wear a tie every day, or even most days. But I sure am going to pull my ties out from the back of my closet, dust them off, and find every excuse to wear them more often.
    Thanks for this post …and for the reminder that you don’t always need an excuse.

  5. Neckties and civil discourse. We need more of both in 2021.

    Kind Regards,

    Heinz-Ulrich

  6. I’ve over a hundred ties in my closet-eight of them identical blue/gold repps. I did not buy them to not wear them. To hell with what society thinks.

    Will

  7. The necktie, like most means of expressing oneself personally and/or creatively, is, for many men, superfluous. But isn’t it true that a lot of what makes life interesting and enjoyable falls under the category of superfluous?

    As a practical matter, it suggests a person expects to be taken seriously — and treated with dignity.

  8. Charlottesville | September 20, 2021 at 3:22 pm |

    Apropos of jeans rather than ties, but I think applicable to both, a recent Wall Street Journal interview with George Will contained the following exchange:

    WSJ: You own one pair of jeans?

    Will: Yes, and I’ve worn them only once.

    WSJ: A political thing?

    Will: Sort of. In many ways, our culture has become infantilized as parents try to look and act like kids.

    Like Sacksuit, I have many ties, probably a couple of hundred, acquired over decades, and I enjoy wearing them, whether I am in the office, working from home or out at a restaurant with my wife. The same goes for suits, sport coats, dress shoes, fedoras, Chesterfield topcoats, etc. I like adult clothes, and enjoy a bit of formality. Also, I already have the stuff, so I might as well wear it. Other people seem to appreciate it, or at least I tend to get compliments pretty regularly.

  9. I sort through a lot of ties to find one with stripes, solids, or a foulard pattern in sober colors. I think it’s connected with Will’s infantile comment via Charlottesville.

    And doesn’t Mr. Will look good in the photo above?

    Love the article and love the comments.

  10. michael powell | September 20, 2021 at 3:39 pm |

    I started wearing a (required) tie every day, in my all boys Catholic high school. That was in the early 60s. To this day, I do not wear a “dress” shirt without a tie. OCBDs are the Swiss Army knife of shirts, and can be worn with or without a tie. I’ve started buying ties again recently. 3 inch wide silk knit ties (Lands End ties off Ebay). Solid colors; look terrific on a blue button down.

  11. I have a neighbor who, retired and looking forward to his 73rd year, still wears a jacket and tie 4-5 times a week: Sunday (worship), a weekly club dinner, and “trips into town to run errands and go to my book club at the bookstore.”

    He’ll be eulogized and remembered as a man of great elegance.

  12. S.E., after describing your jacket-and-tie-wearing neighbor, you stated that he will “be eulogized and remembered as a man of great elegance.”

    Not any time soon, I hope.

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