Sorry Hipsters, the Skinny Tie is Over

Sorry Hipsters, the Skinny Tie is Over

Buried on page 86 of the October J. Crew catalog is a sentence to chill the blood of any man who has shopped for clothing in the past five years:

We widened our ties by to keep up with todays changing proportions.

It is almost an aside. Nearly an afterthought! But for the loyal J. Crew neckwear client, who has been investing in 2.5-inch-wide ties since the year 2011, it signals a potentially seismic shift. See, the width of ties across the broader market had actually been shrinking since the start of the decade. Could it be that mens neckties are again expanding after an all-too-brief moment of discreet, clean lines? Is that modest quarter-inch the start down a slippery, silky slope into ties the size of mainsails?

Sorry Hipsters, the Skinny Tie is Over
Say goodbye to this 2.5-inch J.Crew tie.
Source: J. Crew

Don’t panic. Loosen your collar, take a breath, and absorb some context: The J. Crew customer is a relative youngster, with a boyish figure and a breezy air that helped him carry off a 2-inch tie in the first place. More staid brands such as Charles Tyrwhitt and Thomas Pink never went so narrow with their standard ties, each holding the line at 8 centimeters, or 3.15 inches.

Second, this is not an abrupt about-faceyetjust an indicator of future change. The 2-inch tie remains the most popular width sold by Tie Bar, according to company President Allyson Lewis. But, she noted, In the last year, weve seen three inches get a little more pickup.

Sorry Hipsters, the Skinny Tie is Over
A Brooks Brothers tie, at 3.25 inches.
Source: Brooks Brothers

“The average mainstream tie is roughly 3 to 3 inches at this point,” said Andrew Tarshis, owner of Tiecrafters, the countrys preeminent tie-cleaning and alteration service. Its a nice, safe width. A look at such big brands as Brooks Brothers (currently 3.25 inches) and Herms (eight centimeters for its boardroom-ready classic, as opposed to 7.5 centimeters, or fewer for its contemporary models) bears this out. So does Lewiss experience at Tie Bar: Seven years ago, the companys most popular tie width was 3 inches. These days, they dont even manufacture that. With the exception of old stock, the widest model at Tie Bar has migrated down to 3, she said.

Basically, since the end of the 00s, tie sizes at mainstream companies have been generally shrinking, a result of the influence of such fashion-forward designers as Thom Browne and Hedi Slimane, who pioneered nipped, short suits (Browne) and ultra-slim, boyish silhouettes (Slimane for Dior) on the runway a few years earlier. When the influence of these suits eventually made it to the worlds shopping malls, ties were narrowed to match increasingly smaller lapels. Without even realizing it, your fashion-agnostic dad is probably wearing a narrower tie than he did 20 years ago.

Sorry Hipsters, the Skinny Tie is Over
The Beatles pose for a portrait, circa 1962, with their skinny, mod ties.
Photographer: Michael Ochs Archives

But the skinny suit is gradually falling out of fashion on the runway, replaced by softened shoulders in the Italian style and a general air of relaxation. With suit lapels no longer resembling boning knives, it is only natural that neckties should move further away from the Reservoir Dogs collection. 

Sorry Hipsters, the Skinny Tie is Over
Singer Shirley Jones politely ignores Johnny Carson’s bib-like tie in November 1969.
Photographer: NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Heres my prediction: The slim tie of the hepcat and the plump one of the company man are on their way to converging at the mutually happy medium of the 3-inch wide tie. I dont think we have to worry about anyones neckties returning to the napkin-like dimensions witnessed at mid-90s NBA draft nights and mid-80s insider-trading trials. (The wider stuff was too much, Tarshis un-fondly remembered of an earlier era. You look at old episodes of the Tonight Show, some of Johnny Carsons ties were 4-, 4-inches wide.)

Sorry Hipsters, the Skinny Tie is Over
Tom Ford with an ample tie in 2015, when mainstream ties were at their narrowest.
Photographer: Jason Kempin/Getty Images for iHeartMedia

That said, broader ties will always look good on burlier men and those who favor spread-collar shirts. And there continue to exist fashionable men who favor wider ties for lavish philosophical reasons. Some of Tom Fords current models come in at 9.5 centimeters, or 3.74 inches. There is something a bit meager and uptight about a skinny tie and jacket, Ford once told an interviewer. I think that accentuating the natural V of mans body makes men look more masculine, less boyish, and in general, more powerful. Its a knotty issue.

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