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      Blog — Neckties

      Socks Are The New Neckties

      Socks Are The New Neckties

      I have been an investment banker for over 35 years and I am focused on the retail and fashion industries. Throughout the decades, when I’ve gone to meetings I’ve worn a suit and tie. No matter what, regardless of whether the fashion is skinny ties or fat ties, wearing a tie was de rigeur. Looking like a banker involved wearing a tie. I thought that without a tie my head would fall off.

      Until now. Two months ago I stopped wearing a tie and I haven’t regretted it for a moment. For the six months prior to that, the tie felt wrong. It was no longer a sign of being the grownup in the room. Something had happened to neckties and what they mean, but what?

      Three years ago my firm represented a company for sale called The Company designed all its own ties and sold them online only, direct to consumers. At the time, ties were having a moment and we sold for a super high price. Three years ago, you could go to a party and see a young man wearing shorts, a woven shirt and a tie. But since then, the necktie’s fortunes have moved in another direction.

      What is it that feels so wrong about wearing a necktie now? The answer is: consumer attitudes. It’s not really about the tie, it’s about how consumers feel about themselves. It’s not that the fashion has changed, it’s that the culture has changed. The necktie isn’t a symbol of authority, stability and knowledge as it was in the past. It’s a symbol of subservience. Most people now expect that a person with a tie has a job where they say things like, “you can find that in aisle five” or “your car will be right up.” And you don’t consider people with ties sources of authority anymore.

      What does the necktie symbolize? Conformity, commercialism, mass production. Those are the opposite of values that consumers now want. Today consumers want artisanal products, personalized for them, not mass produced in China. They want things that are produced locally and ethically. They want their things to give them a feeling of belonging, to be authentic to the consumer’s lifestyle. They want their clothes to reflect how they feel about themselves and their place in the world. In that schema, the tie is just the wrong message. Unlike other garments, it’s not about the color or fabrication, the whole thing is just wrong now. Ties for professionals are off-message, they say the wrong thing about the wearer.

      Will anything replace the necktie?

      Yes. Socks. Socks are the new neckties, the place where a man can, on a pretty risk-free basis, express his individuality. And the socks business is on fire. There is enormous growth in socks because consumers need to stock up to replace their all-black collections with something more thoughtful, interesting and fun. And buyers of companies are paying high multiples for successful sock companies. Will that last? Most likely, it will move like most trends towards something else in three years’ time.

      It’s very unusual for a garment to represent values that are rejected by the culture and become obsolete. But most garments have a function and aren’t only symbolic or decorative the way the tie has been for a long time. Will the necktie return? It’s hard to foresee a time when that will happen. Until consumers impute a different meaning to neckties, or until their production and presentation changes in some unforeseen way, the necktie is not likely to make a big comeback. So until then, knot not, let your open shirt help you recall the power of consumers and let all men’s necks breathe free.



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