At the recent Hawke's Bay A&P Bayleys Wine Awards I noticed a distinct necktie drought.

Sure there were fancy chokers on show: some Nicky knots, Victoria knots, a few Atlantics and many (including my own) DIY numbers based on the half-Windsor schoolboy classic.

But there were as many ties as there were men choosing to expose the open-scrub immediately south of the Adam's Apple.

This despite the invitation clearly stating "formal" attire.

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The vexing issue reared its head at Hawke's Bay Regional Council recently where chairman Fenton Wilson asked councillors to wear neckties at meetings to reflect council's "very formal process".

Rex Graham and Tom Belford decided to trust their own sartorial nous and arrived at the subsequent meeting sans noose.

Ties are fast losing their stranglehold on the formal market.

Living in Wellington a decade ago I wore one every day. Visiting the same Lambton Quay scene a few months ago there was an appreciable dearth of the accessory in corporate circles.

Its absence is no longer a marker of non-conformity or lack of ceremony. The tie-less modern-day wedding underscores this.

Billionaire Richard Branson claims he carries a pair of scissors in his top pocket to cut people's ties off. "I'm sure they only exist because bosses, after being forced to wear ties all their life, are determined to inflict the same fate on the next generation."

Keeping with style, many in the male population last month grew an ironic, once fashionable, hairy accessory on the top lip - an accessory Branson has long been synonymous with.

Such are the vagaries of fashion.