Tie wearing has been in decline. Last year the Daily Telegraph reported that just 18% of office staff in Britain regularly wear a tie as workplaces adopt more relaxed dress codes. In the past Jeremy Paxman has raised eyebrows (and created a stir) by presenting Newsnight tieless, having previously dismissed the garment as “an utterly useless part of the male wardrobe.”
Hostility to tie-wearing can perhaps be summed up by the following quote from an article from Esquire about the decline of tie-wearing:
“It’s stupid. It makes no sense. What does it do? It’s just a decoration, an affectation. If I see a colleague wearing a tie, I usually ask if they’re going to a funeral or a job interview, or if they’ve been indicted.”
On this matter I’m with the Creative Director of Savile Row tailor E Tautz:
“Simply taking off the tie and unbuttoning the shirt can look seriously drab. A tie breaks up an expanse of shirt, provides a little colour, provides balance.”
A tie completes the suit. Without it the suit wearer has the option of closing his top button or keeping it open. The latter still feels like a less formal look, just as you would leave a button or two undone when wearing a smart shirt and trousers or a less formal shirt like a polo shirt. The other option, doing up the top button, just doesn’t look right. You expect something to fill the gap in the collar and to cut through that expanse of shirt.
Moreover colour and contrast are crucial here. You get a group of fellows in suits together and they can look seriously dull in a sea of black, grey and navy blue. Without the opportunities to use colour in our formal attire as women have done for centuries, us gents should make use of the more limited opportunities afforded to us by ties, pocket squares and socks to brighten up and improve our suits. Ties, being the most conspicuous, are the best way to accomplish this. Ties are the first thing someone notices about a suit, particularly if it’s a strong, bold tie that provides contrast against the shirt and jacket.
We can get into a debate about what is ‘necessary’ and what is merely an ‘accessory’ when it comes to formal dress as the tie may be placed in the latter category. But what really is ‘necessary’? Some might say that in the present day the suit is largely redundant.
The tie, in my view, is still a fundamental part of the male wardrobe. A neatly knotted tie formalises and completes a suit by filling that otherwise odd gap between the collar and the lapels. A tie enables you to add colour and contrast. Long live the tie.