Just as the suit silhouette has been getting bigger, boxier and bolder, ties are getting wider. In their new catalogue, J Crew announced: “We widen our ties by 1/4 inch to keep up with today’s changing proportions.” The trend dubbed as the kipper revival is set to hit the high street.
“We are definitely seeing the wider tie more on the catwalk, however we haven’t seen this trickle down to the high street yet,” says Tayler Reed, a senior assistant buyer at Asos. She says the site will be featuring them next season. “For SS17 we are building to a bigger mix that will include wider ties.”
The shift away from the thin to the wide can be seen as ideological. Historically, the wide tie has been associated with conformity, the establishment and latterly corporate greed and betrayal. Punk and New Wave, re-cast the tie as a stylistic symbol of DIY culture and anti-capitalism in its thinnest and skinniest form. Patti Smith appeared on the cover of Horses in a photo shot by Robert Mapplethorpe in a slim fitting man’s suit wearing an untied tie. While on the cover of Parallel Lines, the male members of Blondie accessorised their ruler wide ties with Converse and cartoonish expressions. While Prince nodded to the look on the cover of his Controversy album, with a micro skinny tie worn as part of his 2 Tone ska influence outfit.
A decade later, the cast of Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs strutted down the road, in black suits, proving the skinny tie was still a signifier of anti-establishment tailoring. In the early noughties when the indie-scruff look went high fashion, the skinny tie was a trademark piece. “In the early-mid 2000s, Heidi Slimane’s tenure at Dior had a massive influence on the design of ties,” says Andrew Field, Reiss’ head of menswear design. “From high-end to the high street, skinny ties completely dominated.” Former boarding school boy Julian Casablancas and his band the Strokes wore their ties boy scout tight. The look invaded the high street via Topman.
In Mad Men, the coloured, tightly knotted ties of Don Draper and Roger Sterling were the centrepiece of their conservative coloured suits. The patterns and shades nodded to the Ivy League and the preppy office look defined the show’s early seasons. But as the show aged and moved into the late 60s the skinny tie style became less dominate. The younger more idealistic generation didn’t wear skinny ties with Stan’s wider paisley tie being a highlight of the later seasons.
“Double-breasted suits and wider peak lapels have become more popular in men’s tailoring recently and this requires a wider blade width tie to counterbalance,” says Field. “As a result men are once again returning to ties which are wider than those which were favoured around a decade ago.”
So is the return to the bigger, wider tie symptomatic of a move to a new conservativism? Possibly. But more likely, as soon as the skinny tie became the norm, it lost the sting of its subversive power. Now turning away from it to a wider silhouette, is the most rebellious thing to do.