Some still view them as an absolute non-negotiable in the laws of gentleman’s style. Others despise them as a fusty outdated relic and pride themselves on refusing to wear one come what may.
Whatever else they may do, ties certainly divide opinion. There are many occasions where, be it for work or a formal social occasion, men feel compelled to wear one regardless of their own personal preferences or comfort. And when we don an item of clothing more out of compulsion than pleasure, considerations of style and impact can quickly go out of the window.
What too many people forget is that a gentleman’s neckwear does not begin and end with a tie. Yes, the tie has become such a cultural standard that, for many years, the need to wear one went virtually unquestioned and we are still living with the remnants of that today. It is a good thing that that norm is now being challenged. But instead of taking the default reactionary position of refusal, why not try mixing up what you wear around your neck instead?
Here are three options to experiment with.
The wearing of a bow tie is laden with almost as much cultural baggage as a necktie. For too many people, bow ties are accessories you only consider donning with a tuxedo at ultra-formal ‘black tie’ events. To wear one on other occasions, especially at work, is to make yourself stand out as some kind of eccentric. Fortunately, we finally seem to be moving past such unfortunate attitudes and the bow tie is making a big come back right at the cutting edge of men’s fashion. Offset a plain, monotone suit with a rich, vibrant bow tie - perhaps paired with a silk pocket handkerchief - to give your look a subtle splash of colour.
Cravats are thought to pre-date neckties by some distance and have considerable pedigree in the upper echelons of fashionable gentleman’s attire. There is a tendency to view a cravat as having a rakish kind of appeal - think smoking jackets and pencil moustaches - but a cravat is actually one of the most versatile of all men’s accessories. Worn under the collar, you can get away with wearing cravats in vivid colours and designs you might shy away from in a necktie worn over the shirt. The Ascot Tie, on the other hand, a type of cravat popular with morning suits and made famous at Royal Ascot, forms a link with the modern necktie in that it is worn over the collar and tends to be found in plain greys or blacks.
You might not have worn a ‘necker’ since you were in the Boy Scouts, and perhaps this is part of the reason why the most straightforward of all men’s neckwear options is so sadly overlooked these days. Folded from a simple square of cloth, a neckerchief is often classified with scarfs rather than with ties, but in its effect is much like a cravat. The real beauty of a necker is that there are literally dozens of ways to wear one without having to earn a scout’s badge in knot tying.