It doesn’t bear repeating that the neck tie features in fewer men’s daily wardrobes now than it did half a century ago: quite enough digital ink has been spilled on this subject already. It’s true that all but the most traditional offices have eschewed the tie, and certainly there are few bars or restaurants left in any of the world’s major cities that will turn you away for choosing to arrive open-collared (in fact, one well-known group of private members’ clubs has become notorious for refusing to admit patrons should they turn up in their favourite silk knit). All of this, when viewed together, might appear to be the death knell of the neck tie. In fact, quite the opposite is true.
Though fewer men wear ties regularly now than in the 1950s, I would be willing to bet my best ancient madder that far more men are now wearing ties out of choice, simply because they enjoy doing so. And it is this element of choice that is crucial – even the most classic of garments can be stripped of its charm should the wearing of it become a matter of policy. Consider the school uniform: items such as the duffle coat, the rugby shirt and the cricket jumper – all common components of school uniform across the UK – have been sported by some of history’s most stylish men, yet become rote and dreary once issued by a higher authority. Those who suffered under the yoke of a mandatory uniform in their youth may find that their feelings on these garments are reversed later in life, when they can be donned out of pure, personal choice.
And the same is certainly true of the neck tie. What was once merely an act of compliance to a specified code has become for many men a distinct expression of personal style. Here at Drake’s, we have those ties which feel specifically occasional: a grenadine or modest repp stripe for business; a silk satin for dining out; a textured tussah, or a Prince of Wales check end-on-end for a summer wedding. But then there are those which defy categorisation, which don’t quite so readily announce their purpose: a florid medallion print, perhaps, or an oversized paisley; a richly textured wool stripe; a printed motif featuring foxes, dalmatians, or pheasants.
These ties, in a sense, serve no practical purpose, meaning they belong to that beautiful category of things which one does not have to own. This is the zone where one crosses over from the pure necessities – a navy suit, a white dress shirt – into an area of deliberate aesthetic choices. In short, this is where dressing becomes fun.
Here at Drake’s, while our more conservative, evergreen ties remain as popular as ever – there will always be weddings, funerals, important job interviews and elegant functions to attend – we have observed a marked upswing in interest for of our more ‘recreational’ ties: ties which gentlemen of a certain sartorial persuasion wear proudly and joyously, paired with their favourite tweed jackets and oxford-cloth button-downs. Not because they’re compelled to (at least, not by anyone but themselves), but because they revel in a simple yet effective visual flourish; a small, permissible eccentricity. Wearing a tie for its own sake allows a noble tradition to live on – a tradition which may seem outdated to some, but at its core is dedicated to the timeless pursuit of beauty.