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Ties that bind: Longtime tradition takes a fashion hit

June 14, 2009

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Weaver’s department store, 901 Mass., still sees brisk business in tie sales, often from recent Kansas University graduates with job interviews on their schedule.

Weaver’s department store, 901 Mass., still sees brisk business in tie sales, often from recent Kansas University graduates with job interviews on their schedule.

Most of the neckties in Brad Finkeldei’s closet are getting pretty lonely.

He has about 50, but he’s only worn about 10 of them in the past year.

“I try to wear a tie only when I have to,” he says. “Of course, as a lawyer, I wear one when I go to court.”

So that might be a couple of times a week. And then, occasionally when he’s in a deposition with, as he puts it, “someone I’m trying to impress.”

Finkeldei, an attorney with Stevens and Brand in Lawrence, is in the majority these days. A Gallup poll in 2007 found that only 6 percent of men wore a necktie every day, down from 10 percent in 2002. An additional 7 percent responded that they wore a tie “most days” or “half the time.”

Another sign of the necktie noose came last year, when the Men’s Dress Furnishings Association, the trade group that represented American necktie manufacturers for six decades, closed up shop.

And the country’s highest-profile man, President Barack Obama, has shocked some by wearing a sport coat and dress shirt — sans the necktie accessory — in the Oval Office.

So you might want to rethink that default Father’s Day present. The tie, it seems, is not in fashion.

“I think it’s all expectations,” Finkeldei says. “Frankly, our clients aren’t wearing ties. It used to be the clients were wearing ties. Now, most of the engineers are not wearing ties, and the bankers are not wearing ties.”

Those who stick to the old guard say it’s simply a matter of looking formal.

“I would rather wear a tie than not wear a tie,” says Don Johnston, executive vice president of the northeast Kansas region for Intrust Bank. “My personal preference is that businessmen wear ties.”

Johnston has more than 100 ties. But he admits he’s in the minority these days.

Kent Dobbins, an optometrist with Drs. Pohl, Dobbins and Letourneau, 831 Vt., also wears a tie daily — mostly to stand out.

“If I wore anything else, they’d probably think I was cleaning the floor,” Dobbins says.

But he doesn’t pretend to be a connoisseur. He has only 15 ties.

“I’m not a GQ person,” he says.

And, for the record, Dobbins is not about to pass judgment on others to don’t choose to wear ties.

“It doesn’t make you any smarter,” he says.

Weaver’s department store, 901 Mass., still sells a variety of ties to men of different ages, says Ken Spencer, a salesman in the men’s department.

“We get a lot of KU graduates (going in) for interviews,” Spencer says. “Naturally, they’re going to wear a tie.”

He says he’s seeing an increase in “conversational ties,” ones that sport patterns such as palm trees or dolphins. And he sees “some of the young hipsters” wearing skinny ties, which are back in style.

Finkeldei, meanwhile, doesn’t fret too much about the style of his ties. He even has help from his daughters when it comes to his wardrobe.

“My youngest daughter, Cheney, bought me a pink tie for Valentine’s Day,” he says. “She likes to pick that one out.”

Tie tips

Hot patterns: Paisleys, dots, stripes and checks.

Hot styles: Wide ties are popular with everything from suits to jeans and jackets. Skinny ties are in for a more modern look. “It all depends on the person wearing it,” says tie designer Christian Michael Shuster.

Uses: Not just for suits. “I have seen some ladies using ties as belts or as an accent wrapped around the waist over a dress,” Shuster says. Also popular for men, Fakeri says, is the tie-and-handkerchief combo.

Length: Ties should always hit at the buckle — never shorter, never longer. Short guys can always tuck the smaller end of the tie in their shirts, military-style. Tall guys should opt for extra-long ties.

Seasonal styles: During spring and summer months, pick lighter colors. In the fall and winter, go deeper.

Buying your tie: Make sure the tie hangs properly and lies flat. Low-quality ties will not.

Knot so simple: When it comes to knots, size matters. “Standard-size ties will typically call for a larger, more symmetrical knot, while skinny ties will call for a smaller knot to keep the look long and sleek,” Shuster says.

— McClatchy Newspapers

Comments

George_Braziller 4 years, 10 months ago

texburgh - I know how to buy a shirt and what size I wear. Problem is that I'm six feet tall and weigh a whopping 132 pounds, have broad shoulders, long arms, a 29 inch waist and my neck is a stick like the rest of my body. To buy a shirt that fits my neck makes it look like I'm wearing a sack.

No ties for me because I end up looking like Jethro Bodine.

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jehovah_bob 4 years, 10 months ago

I go for a nice keyboard tie and a Swatch.

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xfactor 4 years, 10 months ago

“It doesn’t make you any smarter,” he says.

But it certainly distinguishes you from the sort of person who cleans floors. A man or your character should not be exposed to such disgrace. (sarcasm added)

Let's not forget the importance of a fine, flashy timepiece on your wrist and the brand of dress shoes you adorn. Speaking on a cell phone in public should enhance your aura of importance as well (although it should be Blackberry, Iphone or Palm Pre).

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texburgh 4 years, 10 months ago

For all the references to the Marquis de Sade and wearing a noose, I have a suggestion: Buy dress shirts with a looser collar! If you're shirts are 15 1/2, try 16. The noose feeling comes from the shirt collar, not the tie.

I don't wear a tie every day, but I do wear one often for work and find that, if your clothes fit, the tie is not uncomfortable at all.

Casual is fine, but let's not get carried away.

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Kam_Fong_as_Chin_Ho 4 years, 10 months ago

Americans dress sloppier with each passing year. Take a look at a photo from the 1950s of people sitting in the crowd at a baseball game; men with hats, ties and jackets looking sharp. Go to a baseball game today and you see a bunch of slobs with sideways ball caps and baggy jeans. Not too long ago, people would get dressed up to travel by plane. On flights these days however, you routinely get seated next to a hillbilly in sweatpants and flip-flops. So yeah, let's get rid of neckties and every other trace of decent attire. Soon we'll all be wearing wife-beater shirts and cutoff jean shorts to the office.

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Graczyk 4 years, 10 months ago

I like ties. Okay, not when I had to wear one everyday. But they are an excellent way to add color and personality to a suit.

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George_Braziller 4 years, 10 months ago

What part of wearing a tie makes or breaks making a good first impression? If all someone has to offer is wearing a tie in an attempt to impress then it will be figured out pretty quickly.

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Flap Doodle 4 years, 10 months ago

The pleather tie is going to be the in thing this fall.

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swunruh 4 years, 10 months ago

My dad used to say, "be glad you get to wear a tie to work. You could be digging ditches for a living." (nothing wrong with digging ditches) I wear a tie every day because you never know who might be around the corner and you only have one chance to make a good first impression.

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Newell_Post 4 years, 10 months ago

.... the only item of apparel actually more pointless than pantyhose.....

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bennyoates 4 years, 10 months ago

I like dressing up and wearing ties for my job. And I think we've gone too far to the other extreme as far as casual appearance. OK, neckties are out right now, but just wait long enough and they'll be back one day, and with good reason.

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George_Braziller 4 years, 10 months ago

I think that neckties were an invention of the Marquis de Sade. Over the last 25 years I've worn on on the average of once a year and even then it was only for a funeral or wedding of a family member.

My paternal grandfather wore a bolo tie every single day of the week. Bolo's are actually comfortable because you don't have to risk strangulation to make them look right. And no, you don't have to dress like a cowboy to wear one. I have three of his and some modern "artsy" ones I wear with a raw silk jacket.

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bronze 4 years, 10 months ago

so the 'Oxford tie' in only about 109 years old now. how boring....time for change

time to drop the business tie in the new millennium!

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bronze 4 years, 10 months ago

time to get rid of the 'business tie' altogether.

archaic and unnecessary...

The cravat or necktie, now cut narrower in the centre where it went around the neck, then widening out, was tied in various ways. In the sailor's reef knot, from around 1870, the central knot had vertical borders at the sides with the ends flowing loosely; though very popular during the 1890s, it was rivalled by the four-in-hand (also known as a Derby) in which the knot presented a free edge above and below; this was worn informally under the turn-down shirt collar and was also adopted by women to wear with masculine-styled blouses. Also worn by both men and women in the 1890s was the Oxford tie, a narrow straight necktie of uniform width. The octagon, from the 1860s, and the Ascot, from 1876, were scarf-like: the former was a made-up tie with the front arranged with four tabs above a tie pin, fastening at the back with a hook and eyelet hole; the latter, though similar in appearance, was usually self-tied, and might be puffed out at the centre front and called a puffed Ascot. A broad necktie tied in a bow was worn during the 1850s and a small neat bow was particularly favoured during the 1890s, either tied by hand or ready-made; and the small white cambric bow tie was to become more or less obligatory for formal evening wear, although black might be seen until the end of the century.

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