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Are ties still relevant?

JEREMY LOADMAN
Last updated 07:00 23/07/2014
David Gandy
Getty Images

TIES THAT BIND: David Gandy proves just how on-trend a tie can be.

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A statement of sartorial individuality or corporate conformity? Whatever your individual take, it's a fact is that fewer and fewer men are wearing ties to work.

That's not to say the tie's hold as a sartorial staple is under threat. If anything, its rapid retirement from office duties is being celebrated - not by your average 9-to-5 worker, but by fashionable young men determined to return it to its dandyish roots.

"Any styling that I'm seeing globally incorporates the tie," says Godwin Hili, founder and creative director of Melbourne-based men's label Godwin Charli.

"Definitely the sartorial man is styling all aspects of his look. If he's not wearing a tie he's at least got a pocket 'chief in his top pocket."

And if young sartorialists are toasting the increased absence of novelty and downright offensive ties from the workplace, they should spare a thought for those who stereotypically have no style whatsoever: tech geeks.

The geek rebellion

Nat Thomas, the chief operating officer of job-listing website Adzuna Australia, believes it is no coincidence that the demise of more formal workwear styles parallels the rise of rich young tech entrepreneurs, many of whom have famously shrugged fashion tradition in favour of a more casual dress ethic.

"When online business first emerged 10-15 years ago, they were often run by people younger than typical business leaders, and in some cases actually by students," Thomas says. "If you think of Larry Page and Sergey Brin from Google, they were still at university; Mark Zuckerberg, obviously [from] Facebook, he was still at university when he started that business.

"Overall, certainly, a less formal business etiquette developed [in this time] and I think that encompassed what people wear to work on a daily basis."

Thomas himself has not worn a tie in close to 15 years of working in online business, and can't remember anyone else wearing one, either.

"I've worked at companies such as eBay and Gumtree. Obviously they're quite large international companies, [however] even the senior execs of those businesses typically would not wear a tie [or] jacket," Thomas says.

A dubious past

While the casualisation of the office is redefining how ties are worn and perceived, it's probable that long before the first tech genius rocked up to work in an ironic t-shirt, the tie was struggling to hold its own. But, to be fair, it wasn't all the garment's own doing.

Yes, throughout the '70s and '80s ties were uniformly awful - but what wasn't? Perhaps the tie's real problem could be that too few men know how to match them with a shirt, and too many wear them well past their use-by date.

Today, though, the beauty of a hand-woven tie shines through, and many men still still choose to embrace the tie as a signifier of respectability.

Still a luxury item

"I see it as symbolic of being a professional and representing professionalism," says James Gerrard, who heads his own boutique financial planning business. "And personally, when I dress that way, I feel like I have to act that way - you dress professionally, you act professionally." 

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With the tie being such an entrenched part of the professional image in conservative-minded industries such as banking, finance and law, it's hard to imagine it disappearing from the office completely. However, in the short term, tie sales will almost certainly be driven by men seeking the fully-tailored look.

"I guess more savvy fashion guys are embracing them because you can wear them as part of smart casual attire," says Godwin Hili. "The Kiwi guy may not have embraced it completely just yet, but it's definitely being flirted with."

Murray Crane, owner of Crane Brothers, agrees ties remain a very buoyant category in menswear.

"I know that tie sales are a big part of most menswear luxury categories ... we still sell a hell of a lot of them," he says.

"Brands like Drakes of London, Fumagalli ... they're not cheap, but we have guys that come in every couple of weeks and buy one. It's seen as being a bit of a luxury product."

- Sydney Morning Herald

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