“Just get him a nice tie.” Without fail, this message will make its way into my WhatsApp days before Christmas: the annual instruction from my mother over what to gift my father. “I love it, thanks sweetie!” he’ll smile, looking down at yet another M&S silk tie. A doppelgänger to last year’s - varying only very slightly on the navy colour spectrum. To be fair, he does wear one seven days a week - extraditing this accessory from his wardrobe would be an impossible feat.
I, on the other hand, have had a patchy relationship with ties. The first time I wore one, it was compulsory, as part of my school uniform from the ages of 12 to 16 years old. A dark blue and garish yellow-striped polyester number. It felt wholly inexpressive. I wore mine loose, in an (admittedly weak) act of anti-authoritarian defiance. The knot big and fat, hanging halfway down my scruffily buttoned white shirt. I was almost smug about the fact that school reports would come back with a note that read simply: “Needs Improvement.”
Then I went to sixth form college. No uniform. I could wear whatever the hell I wanted to. No ties necessary - hurrah! It felt like the gate to adulthood had finally opened. (Oh, how wrong I was - but that’s another story entirely). Around my 17th year, I had begun to develop two very strong obsessions when it came to appearances: 1) vintage clothing. 2) A desire to emulate Annie Hall.
For those that are not so familiar with the Annie Hall/Diane Keaton ‘look’ circa ‘77? The essentials are as follows: high-waisted trousers, tinted sunglasses, button-down-shirt, waistcoat and a tie. A tie! This time I saw the finishing touch in a different, more positive, light. Here was a woman with distinct personal style; this was her uniform; an artful combination of scruffy and put-together. Translation = chic. She broke the rules by adopting purposely masculine attire with great ease. I wanted in on all of it. From that point my dadcore preconceptions of the tie died. And for a large portion of that year I resolved to being more Diane - or was it Annie? I still find it hard to separate the two.
Only recently was I reminded of this fashion frisson when casting my eyes over the autumn/winter 2020 runway. Neckties were everywhere… top button up and all.
At Prada, colour was a focus; a pick ’n’ mix assortment of blue, red, yellow and pink. Rokh – the new label to know, founded by Phoebe Philo’s protégé Rok Hwang – inserted the style with a more back-to-school, Hogwarts-gone-haute spirit (see: stripes). The trend was cemented at Dior’s 70s-infused show, entitled A Visual Diary, which opened with a series of strong monochrome looks featuring Keaton-esque shirts and ties.
Still erring on the side of caution, and worried you might just end up looking like a security guard? Play with volume. The aim is lofty dishevelment. For a fail-safe informal, formal look, pair a shirt and tie with an XL blazer and channel Julia Roberts' awardrobe at the 1990s Golden Globes.
Recently, I resurrected the whole tie thing; paired with a black velvet suit and oversized white shirt (which pleasingly spawned compliments from my colleagues; which, in turn, made me question my 9-5 apparel the rest of the time). I posted a picture on my Instagram stories, with some replies saying they loved the look, but when asked if they themselves have ever worn ties, general consensus was: “No. I just don’t know whether it would suit me.”
I’ve no doubt that mentality will change in the coming months. The tie is now breaking out of its corporate culture shell, with women wearing them in different ways. From experimenting with bold colourways to pairing with shorts and three-piece suits.
Another bonus? It’s the most low-cost, yet high-impact styling trick going. My most recent procurement, for instance, was stolen from my father’s closet. What goes around, really does come back around.
images | shutterstock