When you think about the neck tie, it's a rather peculiar item of clothing. Apart from adorning a shirt and tie, it doesn't really have any practical purpose. The origin of the neck tie apparently dates way back to the French who caught on to the small-knotted neckerchiefs that were worn by soldiers of the Croatian military during the Thirty Years War of the 1600s. This was the birth of the Cravat, as it was known, which was later made fashionable amongst French nobility by King Louis XIV. The industrial revolution eventually ignited the desire for a less complicated, low maintenance cravat to specify one’s status in society; right from the very beginning, the tie possessed an inherent association with position and formality.
Since that time, the tie hasn’t changed a whole lot over the years. It has not only survived but firmly entrenched itself as the official badge of the working man: limo drivers and corporate CEOs alike. Accordingly, as so many workplaces broaden the definition of appropriate business attire and business casual is becoming the norm, it makes sense that the tie is usually the first superfluous accessory to get the boot. What’s funny is we have gone almost full circle in reaching a point where the daring move is actually choosing to wear a tie against the herds of “smart casual”, and not the other way around. Most men have forgotten how to appreciate ties as a fashion accessory, rather than just a burden. Some may even resent them as stuffy, uncomfortable or pointless. To me it’s a shame that so many men are missing out on an easy way to distinguish themselves. Why does everyone immediately loosen their tie or to remove it when at a wedding?
Despite the rampant bitterness, there is a good reason that ties are still an essential mainstay to the archetype gentleman’s ensemble. A tie somehow puts a polished and necessary finishing touch on formal wear. Sometimes I even feel slightly awkward with a suit and shirt without wearing a tie, as if the jacket and shirt were designed for the sole purpose of framing the tie, just as a picture frame makes the subject of a photograph stand out. Even if your workplace is a bit on the casual side, and wearing a suit and tie may be misconstrued as stiff or over-dressed, there are ways to incorporate it while avoiding your colleagues asking if you have a job interview.
With all these fashion changes happening, like shifting dress does, there is usually an upside. If less and less people are wearing ties because they have to, we may witness the extinction of the "bad ties". Remember those super wide, thin, shiny things from the nineties that were printed in funny geometric patterns?
A few important details are worth considering when dressing down a tie properly. The type of tie in general will have a major impact on your ability to work it into a casual ensemble. Avoid bold printed silk or anything with a sheen, and look for textural ties like woven, knitted or grenadine. You also want to keep to tonal and subtle colours and patterns. Lastly, the width should be on the slim side in keeping with the contemporary theme of the look. In general, try to keep the tie width in proportion to your lapels and shirt collar.
Among the few ironclad style rules that should never be broken is wearing a tie with a shirt and no jacket. A tie should always be framed by a blazer, sport coat, cardigan or sweater. As with many looks, the soft unstructured sport coat proves its value once again, making it the perfect companion to a laid back tie. A cardigan or sweater can be substituted for an even easier going vibe.
In this article, I’m wearing a soft tailored flannel sport coat with a fairly laid back flair, considering the shade of blue, patch pockets and suede elbow patches. Pretty much any sort of trousers can work here including jeans if you can pull it off. Normally I like chinos with this combo, but here I was aiming for more a professional style.
As for shoes, I am wearing suede, double monk demi boot in copper, which gives an overall casual feeling to the entire look.
At the end of the day, the lesson here is that the tie shouldn’t be avoided simply because of its perceived formal connotation. It should be embraced and utilized for form and function.