Why Did Men Stop Wearing Ties (Long Neckties)?

The necktie has gone from a nearly mandatory accessory to an often-overlooked article. Of course, this change is all the more dramatic because of the position that was once held by the necktie. Today, we’ll try to get to the bottom of why men stopped wearing neckties or, at least, men in general since around here, we definitely haven’t stopped.

Ties in (Recent) History

We’ve already covered the history of the tie in other posts, most notably with our article on the history and evolution of neckwear, and we’ve also talked extensively about the necktie’s cousin – the bow tie – in another post. With the origins of the necktie previously covered, then, we’ll give you the bumper sticker version.

It was originally associated with Croatian mercenaries in the 17th Century; evolved from a Croat into a cravat, and by the 20th Century, into the tie, as we know it today. It’s an article that’s almost synonymous with classic menswear and as ubiquitous as the suit, dress shirt, or leather shoes.

Two-Tone Knit Tie in Black and Magenta Pink Changeant Silk from Fort Belvedere
Two-Tone Knit Tie in Black and Magenta Pink Changeant Silk from Fort Belvedere

The tie weaved itself into the very fabric of corporate, social, and even romantic life. It was so ingrained with notions of masculine dress that it became the go-to gift for Father’s Day or for any hard-to-shop-for man. And returning to its martial roots, it even became part of some military dress uniforms.

Factors Contributing to the Decline of Neckties:

So, how could ties, having enjoyed such a central position for almost 400 years, declined so rapidly in just a matter of decades? Well, we’ve identified six contributing factors that we’ll share with you today; that should answer this question.

Raphael favors wearing ties regularly. [Pictured: Wool Challis Tie in Sunflower Yellow with Green, Blue and Red Pattern from Fort Belvedere]
Raphael favors wearing ties regularly. [Pictured: Wool Challis Tie in Sunflower Yellow with Green, Blue and Red Pattern from Fort Belvedere]

By the way, while all of these six factors could also apply to bow ties, we’ll be focusing mostly on long neckties today. If you’d like us to do a similar deep dive on bow ties, just let us know in the comments below.

1. Restrictive Dress Codes

Let’s jump into our list then with the first reason we believe men have largely stopped wearing ties: restrictive dress codes. Somewhat ironically, the once mandatory nature of neckties may have ultimately contributed to their downfall. In the 19th and 20th centuries, in addition to simply being a clothing accessory, ties were also markers of social and class distinction.

Fans of the TV series Peaky Blinders may recall that many of the characters in the show often appear without neckwear and sometimes even without collars as both of these items were fairly expensive at that point in time.

In the past, ties signify one's social status. Here we see two gentlemen in the 1930s wearing patterned ties matching their suits.
In the past, ties signify one’s social status. Here we see two gentlemen in the 1930s wearing patterned ties matching their suits.

On the other hand, men of means were expected to wear ties and, in turn, those ties were expected to conform to strict, rigidly-enforced dress codes as to what tied designs, materials, and colors were appropriate for individual times and occasions. These origins, then, established some foundational tropes about ties – namely that they were a signifier of one’s financial success, they identified one’s way of making a living, and they were expected to be worn by certain types or classes of people.

2. The Cultural Revolution of the 1960s

As the 20th century progressed, then, all of these factors would contribute to the tie’s undoing. And we’ll get more into this with the second item on our list for today: the countercultural revolution of the 1960s.

For the first half of the 20th century, the tie was regarded as a symbol of the establishment. It was an icon of authority and power worn by magnates who captained industry and made money and by their employees.

A group of counterculture teens in the 1960s [Image Credit: Elaine Mayes: Summer of Love]
A group of counterculture teens in the 1960s [Image Credit: Elaine Mayes: Summer of Love]

But, as we discuss in our video on what men really wore in the 1960s, the seismic social and political changes of that decade rocked menswear to its core as well. Disaffected by the inequality, prejudice, and materialism of their world, counterculture and subculture figures rebelled against the values and ethics of authority figures and this included rebelling against icons of the establishment like the tie.

Many popular figures stopped wearing ties entirely, preferring more creative or expressive neckwear. These would include the cravats and ascots of the Peacock Revolution, as often seen on musical group Procol Harum.

Musician Chris Copping, pictured here as a member of Procul Harum in 1975, wearing a boldly striped ensemble. [Image Credit: Jim Summaria/Wikimedia Commons]
Musician Chris Copping, pictured here as a member of Procul Harum in 1975, wearing a boldly striped ensemble. [Image Credit: Jim Summaria/Wikimedia Commons]

Counter-cultural figures didn’t represent the entirety of the population, of course, but their attitudes toward neckwear would snowball and grow throughout the culture at large as time went on.

3. The Rise of Business Casual

While the hippies, beatniks, and spiritualists were mocking the corporate shills with chains (i.e ties around their necks), changes were also taking place in the corporate sphere.

After World War II, casual wear, worn mostly on the weekends at first, was becoming a mainstay of Western fashion, especially in North America. Eventually, this desire for more casual clothing crept into offices; first as an advertising stunt in the 1960s to encourage men to wear Hawaiian shirts to the office on what became known as “Aloha Fridays.” This would eventually morph into what we now know as the “business casual dress code,” and, tellingly, ties are optional.

A 1951 Whitmont Hawaiian Shirts ad [Image Credit: Vintage Dancer]
A 1951 Whitmont Hawaiian Shirts ad [Image Credit: Vintage Dancer]

And even within office cultures, the perception around ties began to change. Ties were something that could be slipped on before a big meeting, but they were fundamentally unnecessary and something of a nuisance to many men. And like a stuffy jacket, ties were meant to be removed or at least loosened when serious work was being done.

Business Casual Men’s Attire & Dress Code Explained

4. An Increasingly Casual World

While counter-cultural forces rejected the tie as an emblem of “the man” and businesses were willing to jettison what was increasingly viewed as a superfluous accessory, the rest of the world was being swept along on a wave of casualization, sparked primarily by notions of comfort and convenience.

Especially in the 1980s and 1990s, the clothing market emphasized perceived comfort over all else. The implication was that, when one wasn’t required to dress up, the default should be that they should basically dress down. Baggy trousers, plush, loose flannels, and even undergarments were held up as clothing that was comfortable to wear and, therefore, the “best type” of clothing.

Ads showing men in the 1990s donning baggy trousers [Image Credit: Newstock (left) and Matthew Valencia (right)]
Ads showing men in the 1990s donning baggy trousers [Image Credit: Newstock (left) and Matthew Valencia (right)]

A greater emphasis on perceived speed and efficiency in daily life also hurt the tie as it was just one more thing to worry about when rushing to get out the door in the morning because we’re all just so busy, right?

Also, when changing outfits at places like the gym, ties could be easy to forget or misplace. In effect, ties were coming to be seen as a relic from the past that was ill-suited to the needs of the present day.

By implication, then, they were also becoming associated with stuffy, ill-fitting, constrictive clothing. After all, a tie is literally a length of fabric knotted around your neck and that just didn’t sit well with these modern notions of casual fashion.

Like any other item of clothing, then, ties are also victims of fashion and, in particular, trendy fashion. While the conventional tie styles of the golden age of menswear – with their rich colors and regular patterns – were abandoned as being boring in the 1960s and 70s, ties with psychedelic patterns or made from new materials like leather became very modish as they were the perfect subversion of the “stuffy tie” ethos.

In Great Britain, in particular, extremely wide, so-called, “kipper ties” became popular. This style was first popularized in the 1940s as a rebellion against wartime rationing but surged back to popularity again in the late 50s through the 70s.

A wide kipper tie, as seen in 1953; they would come to prominence again (this time ironically) in the late 1960s. [Image Credit: Bill Whittaker/Wikimedia Commons]
A wide kipper tie, as seen in 1953; they would come to prominence again (this time ironically) in the late 1960s. [Image Credit: Bill Whittaker/Wikimedia Commons]

These ties were loud, colorful, and extremely broad; sometimes up to 5 inches or 13 centimeters in width. Essentially, they were meant to ironically embody everything that was wrong with conventional ties.

The 1980s saw another wave of unusual ties with perhaps the best remembered being the bold “power tie.” As you’ll see in our review of the menswear in 1987’s Wall Street, these ties are intended to showcase one’s wealth and, presumably, dazzle your enemies with the tie’s brilliance and silky sheen.

The 80s also featured ironic takedowns of the tie, such as with the piano key necktie. This one likely became popular because of its bold coloring and strong horizontal lines, as well as the increased use of synthesizer keyboards in popular music.

The 80s also saw a fascination with other novelty ties like these zany, fish-shaped ties by designer Ralph Marlin. By the way, these ties had an equally zany commercial.

But, the 90s did give us those shiny watercolor ties and, by the 2010s, everything had gotten extremely skinny, including ties, reviving a trend that had already come and gone several times over. As if just one round of skinny jeans wasn’t enough.

A collection of Ralph Marlin fish ties [Image Credit: Laughing Whitefish]
A collection of Ralph Marlin fish ties [Image Credit: Laughing Whitefish]

The point we’re trying to make here is that trendy tie fashion so closely associated particular types of ties with particular eras, that all of these fads would become almost immediately dated. This led to the perception that all ties would have a shelf life. And why would you want to invest in a quality tie if it was just going to seem dated in a few years’ time?

15 Men’s Style Trends We Hope Die Forever!

Having brought ourselves up to the present day then, we’re now able to understand the various factors that have gone into modern perceptions of the necktie; many of which are constantly reinforced by popular media. This brings us to our sixth and final point: popular and media perceptions of the tie today.

Returning to our original point about ties and power dynamics, ties were traditionally associated with men who ran businesses or nations. But, because of the implications of classism, inequality, or just being out of touch, many politicians are now forgoing ties whenever they can. 

Preston does not always wear ties. Here, we see him in his typical workwear.
Preston does not always wear ties. Here, we see him in his typical workwear.

And in the business world, venture capitalists and go-getters in the industry are now more commonly associated with casual fashion styles that eschew the tie and the corporate culture that it represents.

Ties have unfortunately become associated then with middle management, pencil-pushing types, who have to continually run the rat race in business. And hip young professionals are often ignoring ties altogether or trying to wear them in an ironic way.

So, ties are either consigned to the 9-5 daily grind or used as an obvious attempt to impress others. Effectively then, the tie has become a symbol of constraint and artifice pitting the mundane, money-making, overworking, corporate world against the genuine, fun, joyous world of comfort and free time that we’re all secretly daydreaming about.

It’s something that you’re bound to have seen in the media so many times that it’s actually become a real part of many people’s lives. As soon as you get home from a long and taxing day at work, what’s the first thing you’re supposed to do? Remove your tie as that first step into the world of comfort and relaxation.

To some extent, modern tie-wearing culture can be blamed for this. Just think about all the times that we’re still commonly expected to wear ties today, like funerals, important business meetings, or fancy ceremonies like weddings. Not only do most people dislike feeling obligated to wear particular clothing, but it’s also hard to find the joy in wearing a tie when it’s so closely associated with tedious, boring, or even sad events and functions.

Don't give into the temptation to wear your tie "Rambo-style" at a wedding reception!
Don’t give into the temptation to wear your tie “Rambo-style” at a wedding reception!

And even for weddings when you can look forward to fun and excitement, the convention always seems to be that the real fun begins at the reception when ties are loosened, removed, or worn “Rambo-style.”

Overall, then, it can be said that men today – at least, in general – are dressing more specifically for themselves than for others with whom they might be sharing an occasion.

Our Take on Ties

The purpose of today’s article is not to bemoan the decline of tie-wearing and we do firmly believe that men should be able to dress for themselves. But, as with everything in life, there are limits. In many ways, as we also concluded in our post on whether or not the suit is dying, stylish dress is better for all when we each have a choice.

In other words, we’d rather see just one gentleman dress up and wear a tie because he wants to, rather than seeing a hundred gentlemen wearing ties when they feel like they have to. It is a good thing that ties are no longer effectively mandatory to be considered a respectable person, and it’s also a good thing that men have increasing freedom to wear what they want when they want.

Ties, however, don’t have to be a casualty of these attitudes and changes. If you love classic style as we do here at the Gentleman’s Gazette, then ties will undoubtedly spark excitement for you as a way to creatively express yourself.

And, of course, there are still some circumstances where a tie really should be worn as a matter of respect for the occasion and the other people present. This shows not only that you’re aware of other people’s feelings toward a given event, but also that you have put effort toward those feelings. Remember that, to a reasonable degree, caring about what other people think of you is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of respect.

Dovetailing into our last point, then, it should come as no surprise that we here at the Gentleman’s Gazette think that ties are a supremely versatile and creative way to accent your outfits. You can personally express yourself through the color, texture, and pattern of ties that will make you feel confident and creative, not confined or constricted.

My Necktie Collection (Sven Raphael Schneider’s Ties)

Outfit Rundown

Today, I am, of course, wearing a tie as the central element of my outfit. It’s a relatively new addition to our Fort Belvedere shop; an extension to our line of jacquard weave, diamond pattern ties. The base of the tie is in a magenta shade featuring elements of both purple and pink, and its repeating diamonds are in off-white and green.

I’ve tried to incorporate these colors elsewhere in my outfit as well, such as with my triple clove boutonniere in magenta and my pale pink, linen pocket square with pink X-stitching. Furthermore, my socks are our two-toned, shadow-striped models in dark green and purple.

To balance out these bolder colors then, the rest of my outfit is simply in the grayscale today. We’ll start with my plain white shirt, which has French cuffs, into which I’ve inserted our platinum-plated, sterling silver monkey’s fist knot cufflinks. I’m also wearing a collar clip in silver to accent my tie knot.

Other silver accessories include my pocket watch and chain and the buckles on my black monk strap shoes. And, of course, my three-piece suit is in dark charcoal gray and features a slight pattern and texture to its weave – though it reads as a solid overall.

You can find all of the Fort Belvedere accessories I’m wearing, along with a host of other designs, in the Fort Belvedere shop.

Do you think the necktie is dying? Share your thoughts in the comments section!

Preston Schlueter

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