First, banking monolith JP Morgan instructed its male staff that they need no longer wear suits to the office, then accountancy firm Price Waterhouse Coopers followed suit (so to speak) and now, the House of Commons - a place where clerks were until recently required to wear wigs and black robes with white pussy bows (very Gucci) - has decreed that members of parliament need no longer wear ties.
The announcement came yesterday when Speaker John Bercow responded to Tory MP Peter Bone's complaint that Lib Dem Tom Brake was looking slovenly in the house, by stating that ties were no longer mandatory (and that, in fact, they never really had been). In the face of the current political disquiet it's a point which may seem paltry, but in reality, it's a sign of a wider trend.
At the menswear shows in Paris and Milan last week there were very few brands which showed traditional suits and ties. The ones who did: Fendi, Giorgio Armani and Wooyoungmi, did so with a kind of wry nostalgia, teamed as they were, respectively, with oversized contrast collar shirts, Wolf of Wall Street pinstripe suits and tracksuit bottoms.
The shift away from traditional dress is being noticed in the stores too. "There is no longer the expectation to wear a suit and tie like there used to be." Says Fiona Firth, buying director at Mr Porter. "We have been offering many of our suits on site with the jackets and trousers sold as separates, adapting to our customers' more causal requirements. We have seen now more than ever that men desire versatility with their clothing, being able to mix and match pieces to create more looks and extend the life of their wardrobe. There has been an increase in the sales of sports jackets and tailored trousers as they are being teamed with more casual pieces such as jeans and luxury sportswear." Suits and ties, in short, are not selling like they once did.
Like spats and braces before them, ties are becoming a vestige of a past populated by our parents and grandparents - functionless affectations that look as uncomfortable as they feel.
The thing is, in my opinion, ties still have their place.
Originally worn by Croatian mercenaries in the 17th century, over the years neck ties have evolved to become an integral part of British society. From the four-in-hands of the 20s, to the skinny mod styles of the 50s and the ultra wide kippers of the 80s: ties have acted as a barometer for the mood of the moment, demonstrating either restraint or confidence; statement or understatement. Ties were, and in reality still are, the final flourish on a formal outfit - a coded indication that the wearer is both willing and able to do business. They can also look incredibly cool. Just look at Richard Gere in American Gigolo, David Bowie in the Young Americans era or David Hockney and the club ties he wore with Oxford button-downs in the 60s and 70s. There's a self-aware elegance that can only be achieved by wearing a tie.
So, John Bercow may have loosened the rules in the House of Commons, but in reality no one is going to take an honourable gentleman wearing an open-neck shirt and rolled up sleeves more seriously than a man in double-breasted Savile Row suit and a perfectly tied half-Windsor, and that's unlikely to change anytime soon.
From: Esquire UK