When’s the last time you wore a tie? Was it yesterday? Are you wearing one now? Somehow I doubt it. After all, why should you, sitting there in your home office or spare bedroom, or sitting room?
Of course there was a time, if you’re a male reader, that you would have worn one every day to work. But ties are rapidly disappearing. Where once half-Windsors wider than 747s straddled the necks of pontificating ex-footballers on Match of the Day, open shirts now rule the roost. When you see a politician out and about on the television, his tie is gone, his sleeves are rolled up – like a vet about to perform a highly intimate procedure – and he’s even jacket-less. In fact it’s almost reached the stage where a politician only wears a tie when he’s about to deliver some seriously bad news.
And it’s gone further: should you be fortunate enough to be hoping to move house, even estate agents have stopped wearing ties. That’s right, gents, ties are disappearing from view faster than you can do one up. Not that you have, recently.
In the land of the Zoom economy, who can sit with any sincerity in their spare bedroom, study or garden shed, wearing a suit and tie? It feels false precisely because it is false – because everyone knows that you’ve only put the choker on for the meeting.
Yet hop in a time machine to pre-Covid and the collective delusion of tie-wearing was clinging on. In the office at least, a quaint sartorial formality (Fridays notwithstanding) endured. But increasingly those days look like the land that time forgot.
Like other trends, Covid has only hastened what was already well under way. Tie Rack – remember them? – once had 450 branches worldwide. Not anymore. Back in 2017, the then Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, made what might turn out to be his most influential ruling, when he decreed that men would no longer need to wear ties on the floor of the house. I’m not sure it’s done anything to improve the quality of debate. Before Bercow made his fateful ruling, JP Morgan and PwC also declared that a suit and tie were no longer de rigueur.
But don’t forget that it wasn’t so long ago that a man might wear a tie on a date. Don’t laugh if you’re under 30, just watch When Harry Met Sally – or an episode or two of Friends – and you’ll see I’m telling the truth. Oh yes, back in the Cretaceous period, you might really wear a tie to help you impress a woman romantically. Of course, there was time when men won Wimbledon while wearing ties, and went ‘over the top’ in them, too.
In the Sixties, Sean Connery’s James Bond dispatched villains and performed love scenes – all while wearing his tie. Daniel Craig, tie slide notwithstanding, is cut from different cloth. And that’s because times have changed: now the most formal most of us get when we’re off duty is smart casual – the ‘full Clarkson’ of a jacket, shirt, jeans and brogues.
Smart casual has now colonised the world of work, too. Although, in many cases it’s not even smart...just look at Silicon Valley. So, as a result, while most of us have quite a few ties knocking about, they have become the fish knives of a man’s wardrobe – neglected, unloved and ever so slightly embarrassing. Wear a tie now, and people will likely think that you’re off to appear in court for a driving offence. Or something worse. Or if you’re in a hotel, or a bar or a posh shop, they might think you work there.
Like all change it’s happened very slowly, but then it’s over before you know it: you hear the ambulance or police car approaching for a lot longer and far more intensely than the sound of them receding. That’s the Doppler effect, and it’s just clicked its fingers on ties, too. All of a sudden they look ridiculously old fashioned – because they are old fashioned. They have gone from being sartorial essentials to sartorial fossils in the blink of an eye. They have gone the way of bowler hats, which still travelled into the City deep into the second half of the 20th century, only to finally meet their Waterloo in the long hot summer of 1976.
That ties have survived this long since being popularised by Croatian mercenaries in the Thirty Years War is rather astonishing. Personally, I am grateful that they have endured – just as I am grateful to have a worn a separate collar and collar studs (to great effect, if I may say so). But be under no illusions. Ties are history. Yes, they will survive for weddings and funerals, and perhaps christenings, but for everything else, it’s curtains. They are simply too formal. The myth is exploded. Clothes maketh the man, and these days, we’re all on first name terms.