independent

Thursday 17 April 2014

Suddenly, ties are cool again

Jeremy Paxman has decided to get rid of his spotted number – which means just one thing, says our man with a half-Windsor: ties are making a comeback! By Joe O'Shea

Veteran news anchors Jeremy Paxman and Jon Snow may not strike most people as trend-setters on the cutting edge of fashion.

But the usually sober-suited doyennes of British TV news, Paxman on Newsnight and the silver-haired Snow on Channel 4 News, have found a common enemy in the shape of one of the great constants of men's fashion.

And their stand against the humble neck-tie could, depending on just how influential they turn out to be, sartorially speaking, spell trouble for a multi-billion dollar industry.

Paxman has made history by appearing in Newsnight, the BBC's late night news programme, without a tie.

The BBC received a number of complaints, perhaps from viewers yearning for the values of the 1930s, when BBC radio announcers read the news headlines in full morning dress and spats.

Younger viewers might have wondered what all of the fuss was about. But for the more sober and conservative sections of the British media, Paxo may as well have anchored Newsnight wearing a feather-boa.

Even in these less formal times, male newsreaders and anchors just do not appear on screen without a neck-tie. Take away the tie and you take away their gravitas and authority.

Appear with an open collar and you are only a few steps away from reading out the headlines in a 'Newsreaders Do It All Night Long!' t-shirt. Or so the argument goes.

Paxo, the wild, tieless maverick of the BBC, has previously spoken on the issue, claiming ties have "always been an utterly useless part of the male wardrobe".

The newsreader has said: "the only people who wear the things daily are male politicians, the male reporters who interview them – and dodgy estate agents."

Paxman has found unlikely support in the shape of John Snow, the Channel 4 newsreader who has long been famous for his collection of loudly flamboyant neck-ties, some of which are sent to him by adoring fans.

Snow has said that he too would be happy to ditch the neck-tie, saying: "I very rarely wear one off air and my preference would be for Iranian collarless shirts, which can be rather beautiful."

Blasphemous words from a former Tie Wearer of the Year.

However, the general trend away from ties and towards open-neck shirts – as seen on men as diverse as Tony Blair, Roman Abramovich and Daniel Craig – highlights a worrying trend for the men's fashion industry.

Neck-ties account for around 53pc of all sales of fashion accessories for men.

The market in the UK and Ireland declined sharply from the mid-'90s but revived as the more formal suited and booted look made a strong comeback – with even the likes of dishevelled indie-rocker (and onetime Roberto Cavalli model) Pete Doherty opting for a suit and tie.

But the overall trend since the 1950s, when no man, no matter what his social standing, would consider himself dressed without a collar and tie, has been downward.

The necktie market in the UK and Ireland is worth around €205m per year, with more expensive silk ties making a big comeback.

Tailor and longtime fashion guru for Irish men, Louis Copeland, says that whatever the views of Jeremy Paxman, a good tie is still an essential part of a man's wardrobe.

"We did see a lot more men dressing casually during the boom-times, from 2000 to 2006, with Casual Fridays sometimes going into Wednesday and Thursday as well," says Louis.

"When the money was just rolling in, a lot of men got very casual about the way they dressed for business.

"But the more formal look has made a big comeback. In tighter times, men realise that if you look serious about the way you dress, you will look serious about your work and career. It's about projecting the right image.

'And you see it on TV as well, you never see Dermot O'Leary or Gary Barlow on The X Factor without a tie, the trend is very much towards sharp, tailored and classic".

Whatever the trend on TV, the open collar look has now become more acceptable.

Tony Blair was the first politician to ditch the neck-tie in a bid to appear more warm, engaging and "down" with ordinary people, his open collar look said: "Hey, guys! You can call me Tony!"

That faux-casual approach has become a bit of a cliché in politics, derided as phoney by many commentators and image-makers.

And Jeremy Paxman's bold, tie-less approach may have the effect of giving the neck-tie a bit of a boost.

As Louis Copeland points out: "The open collar is not a good look for men of a certain age who may have scrawny necks. In the case of a lot of middle-aged guys, I think a tie is a definite necessity".

Irish Independent

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