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Are We Over the Tie?


What does the future hold for the necktie? hide caption

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The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the trade group that represents American tie makers is shutting down after 60 years. The reason — tie sales are dropping... big time.

Today on the show we spoke to Marty Staff, CEO of JA Apparel, which owns the Joseph Abboud label, about the future of the tie. Staff says the tie isn't going away, it's just changing.

"The necktie has morphed into something different where it becomes more of a fashion accessory, not unlike a scarf, or a pocket square or an iPod case, more than just a piece of silk or cotton tied tight around your neck," Staff says.

As for me, the only time I've ever worn a tie was during my brief stint waiting tables at the Cheesecake Factory, and boy did I hate it.



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I love ties. Love 'em. Own many, want more.

Thing is, I work at home. As I type this, I'm wearing LL Bean slippers, black paisley pajama bottoms and a t-shirt. So I really don't get the opportunity to whip out the tie as often as I'd like to.

Never get to wear my fedoras, either, I'm afraid.

Sent by Stewart | 3:20 PM | 6-5-2008

Due to a job change I no longer wear a tie and I miss them.

Sent by David Hollis, Hamilton, NY | 3:24 PM | 6-5-2008

I'm an Accountant but I greatly dislike ties. When I wear them my head starts to feel all hot and bloated (think Mr. Mackie - South Park). I wear ties in court when I testify. My ties are from the 1980's and 90's - some of them are not that bad looking today (really - no - I never had the knit ones) The last time I wore a tie was Friday, I had a meeting with Bankers, accountants and attorneys - I was the only one with a tie. I promptly removed it the first trip to the restroom. My head is back to normal now, I'm in my office, in a t-shirt now.

Sent by Ron Bero | 3:50 PM | 6-5-2008

ch-ch-ch-changes. i love my tie collection, but i wear them out at night more than i do at the office.

Sent by kevin | 3:55 PM | 6-5-2008

@Stewart: "Thing is, I work at home. As I type this, I'm wearing LL Bean slippers, black paisley pajama bottoms and a t-shirt."

I think you're just the sort of guy who could make a tie work with this ensemble. It's all about attitude, Stewart.

Ties? I wear them to make my wife happy sometimes. The last case was a New Years Eve Ball. Before that I cannot honestly recall. I stopped wearing them daily a couple of decades ago. They cut off the circulation to my face. I also stopped wearing belts a couple of years back. They cut off the circulation to my brain. I'm a suspenders guy now. They are far more comfortable than belts, I always have something to do with my hands, my wife has a ready tool for behavior modification, and I always have a place to stick my prized KBI pin. Oh, and they last forever. Belts last a year or two max. I've had some suspenders since 1985.

Sent by Dave Wiley | 4:14 PM | 6-5-2008

I wear a tie every Monday. It makes me smile.

Sent by William | 4:18 PM | 6-5-2008

My husband LOVES his ties and he wishes he could wear them more. He loves with with neat patterns, but also has a Star Wars bounty hunter tie (my favorite), Seasme Street, Disney, lions, and computer jargon. Then there are the tie tacks, which he uses the Triforce from The Legend of Zelda, his former last name initial (he took MY last name), Threepio, or Arto.

I have to say, I love it too. Especially when he changes them at noon and confuses people. You might has well look good and have fun!

Sent by Natasha M. Heck | 4:23 PM | 6-5-2008

I love ties. It's not a requirement that I wear them to work, but I do.

Sent by jim | 4:30 PM | 6-5-2008

I believe that ties were put on this earth to remind men of Adam's fall from grace and give women something to yank at so that we'd lose oxygen to the brain & pass out.

That said, I love my dress ties. I don't have a single work tie left, but I plenty of dress ties for my church clothes and after 5 clothes.

Sent by Matthew Scallon | 4:31 PM | 6-5-2008

I have a love/hate relationship with ties. As someone who sees men's fashion as a dry desert, full of not much that's fun to dress in, ties are a great accessory for men. But on the other side of things, because of the lack of menswear accessories, when I see a tie staring me in the face it just taunts me saying "ha ha, I'm all you got. If you want to look pretty today, you're stuck with me."

At a New Year's Eve party this year, the official attire was "Semi-Formal" and I knew that I would be expected to wear a shirt and tie (and some khakis, eck) and that made me upset. So instead I thought, well, what might a lady wear if she wanted to go to a semi-formal party and feel sexy and attractive. I ended up w/an indigo, deep V-neck cut T and straight-cut black jeans and I felt formal, fancy and free! Yet, at the party another guy said "Where's your tie Mike?" and I just said (after a few wine glasses in) "Ties are the chains of masculinity!" and in the moment, I meant it. I guess I didn't like the fact that in order to be formal, dressed-up, fancy, classy I HAD to wear a tie to signify it. I felt like my attitude about the evening rather than a tie was my way of signifying the grand fete.

I like ties. I really do. However, I agree with your guest that the compulsory neck tie is the achilles heel of tie fashionability and a signifier of the many ways in which men are taught to limit themselves in how they express themselves.

Sent by Michael Wood | 4:38 PM | 6-5-2008

I really wish you would have interviewed someone that is a critic of fashion rather then someone who has an interest in making money off the industry. Of course he is going to say that ties are changing, not going away. It appears to me that neckties are still around for the older generation, but many of the younger men find it to be fashionable to not wear them.

Sent by Keith | 5:11 PM | 6-5-2008

I wish wearing ties was more culturally acceptable even outside of work. Ties are a rare form of expression that are seemingly disappearing in our society today. It's a shame.

Sent by tay | 5:37 PM | 6-5-2008

I wore one today. I can only add that when I wear one I get more respect then when I don't. An as an auditor it can make a difference. I agree with several other writers that is is an expression and the only place a gu and spice up the wardrobe

Sent by Harper | 6:13 PM | 6-5-2008

My husband has to wear one to work every day; he works in retail while going to grad school. I'd say that if there's an industry that still has to wear ties it's service: restaurants and retail.

Sent by Sarah Lee | 6:22 PM | 6-5-2008

I am 45 and wear a tie, I fear that ties will be the equivalent of checkered pants and jackets with patches of today's old people. Your piece got me thinking as I do see more and more people without them.

Sent by Noose | 9:08 PM | 6-5-2008

I don't wear ties, I wear a clerical collar, combined with my Patagonia collection.

Sent by Rev. Jeff | 11:34 PM | 6-5-2008

Tee shirt wearing slobs.

Sent by Steve Foley | 6:42 AM | 6-6-2008

It will be 97 degrees and humid in South Carolina today.

In order to look 'professional' and get 'respect' men will wear long sleeve starched shirts, coats, and neckties.

Think about it: They are wrapping ties around their necks and pulling on COATS to go out in that suffocating heat and humidity.

Which means their homes, autos, and offices must be cooled at greater expense and effort (and to the greater detriment of the planet) to maintain their comfort.

By any objective measure this is idiotic and bizarre behavior that is perpetuated by a class of imbeciles who believe it makes one 'professional'...

Sent by Tony | 7:35 AM | 6-6-2008

I wear a tie only infrequently. The last time was in April, and for a study council meeting. The ties I wear - if at all - are bolos, the string type with decorative slides. They are much more comfortable.

For the same reason, I rarely wear wingtips or even loafers. In my inventory are a number of sneaks - plain ones all the way up to very nice looking suedes for more semi-formal occasions.

What do others think? I don't care. I'm comfortable.

Sent by Bob Rightsell | 7:40 AM | 6-6-2008

Back in the day at MTV, if someone wore a tie he was usually greeted with this question--"How'd the job interview go?"

i like 'em on a fella.

Sent by Alison Stewart-NPR | 9:17 AM | 6-6-2008

Although I have lived in Maryland for nearly 20 years, I grew up in Arizona, where at least one cowboy-themed restaurant threatens to cut off ties of customers. Reflecting my desert heritage, I almost always wear a bola tie, which the Arizona legislature designated as the official state neckwear about 30 years ago. I'm a university professor--the campus dress code is to wear ties from Labor Day till Memorial Day, but no one has ever challenged my bola tie.

Sent by Lawrence Shirley | 9:44 AM | 6-6-2008

I keep seeing comments about cutting off circulation and stuff. Y'all know that you're supposed to stop tightening eventually, right?

Sent by Stewart | 11:21 AM | 6-6-2008

Your tie looks like a leash. I'm self employed: I don't wear a leash.

Seriously, though. I'd noticed that G.W. Bush wasn't wearing a tie for many of his appearances during his reign. I remember thinking that this was the first president where I noticed this and that the rest of society might soon follow.

Still, I get a little personal snicker of pleasure to be walking to my business downtown in the morning, past all the businessmen in their "dog collars".

Sent by Erick | 11:40 AM | 6-6-2008

Ties are the bane of my existence (I have to wear one 4 days out of the week)... I started (was forced) to wear them at a young age (8 or so) and have never gotten used to the idea of having a piece of cloth tied around my neck like a noose.

My personal theory - ties are meant to s1/4onsciously remind a person of their role in society... everybody is a slave to somebody/thing and what better way to remind yourself that then putting on (as Erick stated) a dog collar? I'm waiting for a new fashion trend in stylish leg shackles...

That said, my girlfriend always says I look good in one (which only goes to prove she's an evil sadist out to get me).

Sent by Dan | 1:09 PM | 6-6-2008

Wow. Based on the comments here, a lot of you never learned to properly size your collars and how to tie a ectie properly. A tie should not be worn so tight as to make it feel like a noose for heaven's sake.

I've worn ties in great comfort for the last 20+ years, and while I am not required to wear one to work, I have no problem putting one on and wearing it with ease.

Oh, and the last time I wore a tie was last sunday, going to church. I am actually one of the rare people who wears a tie regularly in my church, but I think it is appropriate to the situation. It shows respect for the place and is not really all that hard to do.

Sent by Dennis Thomas | 1:45 PM | 6-6-2008

I think the next thing might be cravats, those silk puffy things you wear next to your naked skin to fill in your open shirt collar. They look classy as hell and make you look rich and debonaire. Cole Porter wore them. I think Obama should try one and set a trend.

Sent by Joseph Fischer | 4:11 PM | 6-6-2008

What about wearing a tie loosely, with an open collar? I like the novel appearance each tie provides but not the tight knot that seems required by the normal way of wearing it. Semi-loose is not enough - but to abandon it entirely seems a loss.

Sent by David | 2:28 AM | 6-7-2008

All I can say is that I am glad I am not a guy. The only form of accessory is a tie and from the comments, it is judged very negatively. I love scarves, necklaces, ties etc. So, you guys think tie are equivalent to a leash... I'll let anyone lead me around with pearls.

Sent by oliviadog | 3:01 PM | 6-7-2008

have a ground breaking design concept for neck ties, ok stop lol, i have figured out the missing piece of the puzzle why 97% of ties just dont get it done... THIS IS THE REAL DEAL. so before i let the cat out of the bag and its knock off in China or stolen by the big guys, who knows a lawyer who will protect me from the get-go in the NY area...TIA

Sent by bill | 3:57 PM | 6-7-2008

I enjoy wearing ties. I don't get to wear them often (the software industry isn't known for being fashion forward). Nonetheless, if I am making a pitch for a bunch of money, I wear a tie. It says "I'm taking this seriously." It's not required, but it's a clean way of saying, "I know how this works." A kid came in the other day to tell us how smart he was (he was) and capable (appeared to be). But his dress (printed t-shirt and dirty jeans) said "I don't give a crap about your company." The interview didn't last long. He's still looking from what I understand. You can do it without looking stodgy or tight.

As for the guys that think they cut off your circulation, buy the right collar size and tie the knot correctly.

Sent by Jon Hopkins | 9:47 AM | 6-8-2008

I think of ties as symbolic leashes when it comes being required to wear one for work. If I choose to wear a tie to make a fashion statement, that's a different thing. The last time I wore a tie was to my niece's wedding 2 years ago.

Sent by Jerry Lumpkins | 4:11 PM | 6-8-2008

I like the way I look and feel when I wear a tie. But it's just not an expectation at my workplace, so I don't wear one.

Sent by Dave in Brighton | 8:45 AM | 6-9-2008

My husband is a pickpocket: he steals ties on stage. He can steal a tie without a man knowing it. He and I also hunt thieves in streets around the world, some of whom dress like business men (which they are, in a way). More than once he's stolen the tie right off a pickpocket in the street, as in this story with photos:

Sent by thiefhunter | 2:41 PM | 6-16-2008