[Photo of G7 Summit Leaders can be seen here]
What connection does a haberdashery have with the G7 summit?
If I were Harry S. Truman before he was President (and just making a living as a haberdasher), advising the previous President and staff, then the connection would be clear. Likewise if I had dressed any of the leaders of these seven countries.
As it stands, much of the reporting on the recent G7 summit focused on the distracting attire of these leaders of the free world, rather than the policies discussed or the actions taken. It is worth noting that they all look horribly disheveled, not a single tie amongst them.
I always hope that these gentlemen have advisors who would counsel them on such things. I am ready and willing to be that person for any of them if they ask. What is a tie? A cravat, neckwear, 58 inches of silk wrapped around one’s neck. It establishes proper etiquette and ceremony at events that call for a higher standard of attire.
Henry VIII brought the cravat into fashion to separate royals from the common folk. Neckties in general were introduced earlier than this, but their true debut was with the King. Over the centuries the tie has become an integral part of the art of being a gentleman, as well as a right of passage for young men. Fathers never forget the memory of showing their sons how to tie a tie for the first time. When a gentleman dons a tie it is more than just an article of clothing. It is symbolic and carries layers of meaning. A tie indicates that a man is civilized, professional, and of good character. It both commands and offers respect to the event at hand, as well as to the other attendees.
We are starting to see what it looks like when these symbols are discarded. The end of 2022 is almost here – is this the beginning of the end for neckwear as well? If so, what will be the cost? What will our judicial system look like if judges and attorneys show up with open collars? What will a wedding look like without a single person wearing a tie? Will we show up at the funeral of a loved one dressed inappropriately, denying them the respect they deserve?
The impact of the neckwear industry cannot be overstated. The high-end silk used to make ties could certainly be utilized elsewhere, but an end to the tie manufacturing process would be devastating for countries like Italy that produce these items in high volume. What effect will the loss of jobs and revenue have for these countries, communities, and generations of workers? Despite all these reservations, time often brings changes that we just have to accept.
So if we’re not going to be wearing ties to differentiate ourselves, then what are the other options? We’re already seeing signs of where things are heading. Before the pandemic, the shoe industry was introducing casual dress shoes with a white bottom. This slowly moved into the mainstream and is now regularly seen with suits of all kinds, almost always with no tie and an open collar. To make this look work, the dress shirt needs to have colored buttons rather than white. This helps give definition to the entire look, and leads the eye in. A simple colored pocket square can add some personality back in to make up for the missing tie, though at Ken’s we do prefer the pocket circle! All these little details make for a more polished modern look when suiting up without a tie, rather than the flatness of a plain white shirt with white buttons, no pocket adornment, and classic shoes.
Whether you decide to stick with tradition or embrace the no-tie look, you should still pay careful attention to how you present yourself and what image you’re conveying. This is especially true if you are a leader of the free world.