While Tom Curry’s colleagues were discovering the joys of remote work in a wardrobe of sweats, the managing partner at a Toronto law firm donned a shirt and tie every weekday before logging on. Curry has seen the tie’s popularity as a men’s-wear accessory rise and fall over decades but remained steadfast in his loyalty to it during the pandemic’s lockdowns.
“I leaned on the necktie as part of an effort to maintain a semblance of routine and motivation,” he says. Curry likes the look and uniform that I wear in performing that role. A bit of formality helps.”
Curry, however, is a rare example of the modern white collar worker’s loyalty to the tie. Unlike birthday parties, live music and international travel, the perennial symbol of nine-to-five drudgery and stiff sartorial formality simply hasn’t been something most people missed during the past two years. As offices return to in-person work, pre-pandemic casual office dress codes continue, supported by fashion brands offering a wide variety of ways to dress up – with or, more likely, without a tie.
At Zegna, the Italian tailoring behemoth, ties were nowhere to be seen in a spring-summer collection of boxy, workwear-inspired pieces in a range of monochromatic pastels and earth tones. At J.Crew, the American retailer whose Ludlow suits and slim ties were a staple of the aughts, models now flaunt open-collared button-downs and colourful polo shirts beneath their suit jackets.
“The tie has gone from everyday necessity to something that’s more situational,” says Mike-Paul Neufville, the CEO and creative director of Toronto-based Mike-Paul Atelier. A full-service tailor and wardrobe consultant with his own line of ready-to-wear essentials, Neufville favours a more relaxed, versatile approach to suiting – usually sans-tie. “I like this new style where you’re wearing crewnecks and V-necks and polo shirts with tailoring – it’s dressed up, but still casual and fun,” he says. “Right now, I’m wearing one of our unlined Zero Weight Knit Suits and a cashmere sweater, and it looks professional but it’s also incredibly comfortable.”
The necktie’s demise has been predicted time and again throughout the last century, from the rise of turtlenecks and Nehru collars in the 1960s to the advent of casual Fridays in the 1990s. But, thanks to the pandemic shifting the rhythm of the workday and the rise of streetwear’s influence on men’s fashion, seldom have its prospects been as low as they are now. While the likes of Zegna and J.Crew still offer a small selection of ties, it is now one way among many to accessorize a suit. This season, Paris-based Y/Project styled their more fashion forward suits with silk scarves while Fendi opted for metal chains worn close to the collar.
Unlike the colourful striped repp ties – the diagonal-striped prep staple – popularized by J.Crew a decade ago, Mike Paul Atelier’s selection is a more subdued affair for 2022, with a medium width and a colour palette of versatile neutral tones. “It’s part of what we call ‘the holistic wardrobe,’” says Neufville, of his modern, minimalist approach to dressing. “Maybe you have two or three in your closet in a nice range of solid colours like black, grey, maroon – maybe hunter green. You can easily get by with having a very small rotation.”
At Harry Rosen, the go-to tie source for generations of Canadian businessmen, ties are down but by no means out. “We’re still seeing people buying ties every day,” says Ben Kriz, the retailer’s content and social media manager. “When the pandemic first hit, we were wondering if anyone was going to come back and want more of this kind of thing, but the answer is yes. People want to get out there and get dressed up again.”
While ties aren’t the hot accessory they were at the height of the Mad Men era – both Kriz and Neufville see much of today’s demand linked to weddings and other special events – the accessory hasn’t lost its cachet as a fashion statement. Quite the contrary. You may not need to wear a tie to work any more, but Kriz insists it still has a place in the stylish man’s closet. “The tie is one of the only things in a man’s wardrobe whose only function is beauty, and I’ve always liked it for that reason,” Kriz says. “In 2022, I think it’s a little bit rebellious.”
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