Trendy guys, take note: Like it or not, neckties are getting wider again. J. Crew said so.
In a footnote on page 86 of its latest catalog, the trendsetting chain quietly announced, “We widened our ties by ¼” to keep up with today’s changing proportions,” signaling the death knell of the skinny tie that its consumers — and an entire culture of fashion-savvy males — have been sporting since at least 2011, according to Newser. But take heed: That doesn’t necessarily mean the pendulum is swinging in the other direction entirely, either.
The announcement means that J. Crew will be bumping up its tie widths from 2.5 to 2.75 inches — still slimmer than the typical mainstream tie, which measures between 3 and 3.25 inches, according to an expert interviewed by Bloomberg. Currently, the popular necktie retailer Tie Bar sells skinny ties as slim as 2 inches. As Bloomberg notes, just seven years ago, the company’s most popular tie was a broad 3.25 inches wide. But over the course of that time, designers have slimmed down suit silhouettes, and ties have, well, followed suit.
Perhaps J. Crew is taking its cue from the runway, where “softened shoulders in the Italian style and a general air of relaxation,” as Bloomberg puts it, are upstaging slimmer suits — and proving that the phasing out of skinny fashion has already begun. Or maybe the company is following the consumer’s lead. “We’ve definitely seen the change in what the consumer’s buying,” said the CEO of a fashion retailer interviewed by CBS. “We’re seeing [ties] go wider now, but not as wide as they once were in the ’90s.”
But it’s common knowledge that fashion is cyclical, so it should come as little surprise that the reign of skinny silhouettes would come to an end eventually. Just look at the recent evolution of neckties. The Beatles are widely recognized as the pioneers of the modern skinny tie. The Fab Four sent the fat neckties of the 1940s and ’50s packing when they touched down in New York City in 1964 sporting svelte black neckties.
The skinny-tie trend slowly faded away as the fashion world changed, and by the 1980s, wider ties like those worn by Michael Douglas’s character Gordon Gekko in Wall Street emerged as the style du jour. The 4-inches-plus neckties that were a staple of the 1980s and ’90s menswear are the antithesis of the modern man’s style — and the very reason some guys might be freaking out over J. Crew’s latest sartorial statement.
Indeed, the move is being interpreted as an attempt on J. Crew’s part to find a happy middle ground and appeal to the largest demographic possible: people who aren’t beholden to trends but also want to look current. These people are in “the middle of fashion,” according to Scott Christian, a writer for Esquire, astutely referring to the description of Cary Grant, the late actor and style icon, of his own personal style ethos. Christian calls this demo “the meaty part of [J. Crew’s] wheelhouse.”
But, as Christian points out, this doesn’t mean that hipsters — or even trend-loving teachers, attorneys, or real estate agents — have to say goodbye to their skinny-tie aesthetic. After all, personal style is just that: personal. As Christian suggests, if skinny fashion is your thing, by all means keep the skinny necktie in your arsenal, and tie it on it proudly.
But if you’re somewhere in between and not deeply affected by shifts in fashion trends, you’re in the best possible place. You’re like Cary Grant: in the middle of fashion. And that’s a great place to be, Christian suggests. If you stay somewhere near the center of the fashion continuum, “You’ll never be out of style,” he says.