Sunday, October 21, 2007

Skinny Ties

It should come as no surprise to anybody who has seen some of the slim suits that designers have been putting out in recent years. Sixties-era skinny lapels have worked their way from the designers into the mainstream (witness Brooks Brothers' new Thom Browne-designed Black Fleece collection), and, as day follows night, ties put out by many mainsteam companies have also been getting skinnier. Ray Smith of the Wall Street Journal reports that
Neckties are moving to 3½ inches at their widest point, at least based on the latest offerings from many major mainstream labels. That's a narrowing of ¼ inch or more from the width that's been typical of conservative ties for the past few years.

That ¼ inch may not sound like much, but on a tie, the difference is more visible than you might expect. ("New Neckties Go On A Diet", October 20, 2007, p. W5)

He's absolutely right about the visual impact of a slight difference of width in a necktie. To me, a 3.75 inch wide tie looks normal. A 3.5 inch wide one will be obviously skinny, and a 3 inch wide one will look ridiculous. One of the first things that I notice when I look at an Hermes tie (aside from the content of the print) is that it's skinny, and Hermes ties are 3 9/16" wide. It's not that I'm super-perceptive, either. It's that a little width makes a big difference in appearance.

Smith identifies two major reasons for the shift. First, as mentioned, is the trend toward slimmer suits with narrower lapels. The rule of thumb is that the width of the tie should be in proportion to the width of the lapel. Narrower lapels require slimmer ties. Second is financial:

The shift also represents an attempt to inject freshness into the struggling American neckwear market. Tie sales fell 4.6% to $761.4 million for the 12 months ending July 31, according to market researcher NPD Group.
Neckties are going the way of the dodo. It's unfortunate, but it's true. Manufacturers and retailers are attempting to give a temporary boost to sales by making a fundamental change in the look of the ties that they sell, thus perhaps inducing their remaining consumers to buy more ties than they otherwise might to avoid looking outdated. It's a gimmick, and I doubt that they will get any permanent financial relief from doing so.

As for me, I will continue to buy ties of the same width that I always have. I have neither the body nor the disposition to hip and happening. It's probably just as well. I suspect that Marinella, the ultra-traditional Neapolitan tiemaker responsible for that twill print on the left, feels the same way as I do.

1 comment:

mamacita said...

I am fond of both wide ties and a narrow silhouette, so I guess I win either way. But the narrow silhouette does look awfully young this time around.