Ties that bind: resurgence of a formal look

By Anna Rushworth

Tony Ryall's fashion sense has inspired a Facebook page called 'Tony Ryall's shirt and tie combos'. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Tony Ryall's fashion sense has inspired a Facebook page called 'Tony Ryall's shirt and tie combos'. Photo / Mark Mitchell

The recession is being credited with the return of the necktie, with one retailer reporting sales up by 25 per cent.

Menswear experts said ties were a colourful way to lift business looks during troubled times and suggested professionals who embraced dress-down Fridays were out of step with world trends.

"The death of the tie? No way as far as I am concerned," said John Mangham, manager of Italian designer store Ermenegildo Zegna on Auckland's Queen St.

He said sales rose by 25 per cent last year - despite the hefty charge of $250 - or $275 for a tie custom-made in Italy.

Mangham said more men wanted to be taken seriously at work - particularly if their job was at risk during the recession.

"You should be dressing for the job you want, not for the job you have, particularly if you're in the upper executive.

You really need to be dressing better than the mailroom boy."

Mangham said international fashion magazines suggested the trend for more formal male dressing would continue and the "casual Friday" phenomenon had been already been dumped in other countries.

Some trace the tie's history to the early 1600s, when Croatian fighters looped fabric around their necks before battle.

By the 1920s the tailored suit was taking over and neckwear makers started cutting cloth at an angle to the weave - and the tie as we know it was born.

Auckland firm Parisian has been designing and making them for 90 years.

Managing director John Crompton said a suit without a tie didn't look right.

"Historically, there's always been something worn around the neck or chest. There's a nakedness that's calling out for something to be there."

Crompton agreed with Mangham the return of the tie was linked to tough financial times. He said when the economy suffered, fashion tended to get simpler. Shirt designers were returning to plain colours and the basic white business shirt has become popular again, making the tie a great way to add colour.

Crompton said young men entering the workforce may also be contributing to the resurgence of the tie.

"They've grown up with their dads taking their ties off and (untucking) their shirts. When the dad age is doing the whole dress-down thing, the youth fashion tends to rebel against them and do something retro."

John Milford, managing director of Wellington store Kirkcaldie & Stains, said the tie was a traditional fixture in the capital.

He wears one every day - after five years of going tie-less when he worked in Auckland.

"The tie is probably one of the key accessories that expresses an individual and how they feel."

JOHN KEY, PRIME MINISTER: His Facebook page carries a picture of him tieless. "I wear ties a lot - Being Prime Minister means a suit and tie is required virtually every day. I have dozens of ties to choose from and I enjoy putting on a good suit and tie and feeling great. Sometimes if it's a weekend and I'm at a public event I drop the tie and just wear a shirt and jacket, and it's a bit more relaxed. But many weekends you'll find me in a suit and tie and I don't mind that."

TONY RYALL, MP FOR BAY OF PLENTY: Ryall's fashion sense has inspired a Facebook page called "Tony Ryall's shirt and tie combos". It has 255 fans.

ALISTAIR WILKINSON, NEWSREADER, 3NEWS:Wilkinson wears ties only for work. "Wearing a tie goes with the territory when you're reading the 6pm news, but I do like it. I wouldn't feel ready to go on without one."

- Herald on Sunday

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