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Tuesday, 3 December, 2002, 12:26 GMT
Time to ditch your tie?
Stelios Haji-Ioannou and Sir Colin Chandler
Neck and neck in fashion stakes

As British Tie Week comes around, men are increasingly shedding the "noose" around their necks. Is it time for the tie to get knotted?
It's often said the tie is the only room for expression a man has when dressing formally.

So Iain Duncan Smith is perhaps a strange choice for launching British Tie Week. As the self-proclaimed quiet man of politics, he's not given to striking fashion statements.

Gabby Roslin and Prince Charles
A fan of the half-Windsor
But at least that's saying more than no tie at all, which seems to be the prevailing trend in the white-collar workplace.

We all know the tide has turned on the late 90s trend for dressing down, but it seems the open-collar look has survived this stiffening up.

And it's not a case of disenchanted workers pushing their luck - increasingly bosses themselves are setting the trend.

Last week's boardroom handover at no-frills airline Easyjet is a case in point. Perhaps inspired by Sir Richard Branson, Easyjet founder Stelios Haji-Ioannou is a fan of the informal open-neck look.

What logical man wakes up and puts a noose around his neck?

Kay Davidson
At the passing-out press conference, his fashion-sense seemed to have rubbed off on his more conventional successor in the job, Sir Colin Chandler, who also sported the tie-less look.

The final of the BBC's Great Britons debate was another example. None of the men advocating the top 10 candidates wore neckties. Only Richard Holmes demurred from the open-collar look, preferring a cravat.

Was it any co-incidence that his candidate - Oliver Cromwell - was the people's least popular choice?

Tie die

Corporate wardrobe designer Kay Davidson does not shy from predicting the demise of the tie.

Frank Bough
Of the silk ilk: Frank Bough presenting Grandstand in 1979
The media is setting the pace, says Ms Davidson, in particular sports presenters.

"Men are sitting at home watching the sports programmes and seeing that you don't need to have to wear a tie to look smart.

"They can look good, given the right tie; the right shirt; the right occasion. But you have to ask yourself: 'What logical man wakes up and puts a noose around his neck everyday?'"

She believes the tie will go the same way as the bowler hat, which 40 years ago was indispensable to the City gent.

Relaxed feel

Ms Davidson has pioneered the dishabille look at some of Britain's biggest high-street chains.

Leonardo DiCaprio
Jacking in that Hilton job
When it came to ditching the tie, her landmark re-design was three years ago when she was asked to come up with a new uniform for catering staff in Hilton hotels.

"Traditionally, it was a very black and white dress code, with a tie for lunch and maybe a bow-tie in the evening. But customers want to relax when they're eating, so they don't want to see that."

Instead, she plumped for a coloured shirt and no-tie look.

Pinning hopes on revival

"Initially there was a bit of hostility to the idea, but it went down very well with the staff."

Kevin Brennan MP
MP Kevin Brennan was recently ticked off for not wearing a tie
But not everyone is quite so keen to write-off the necktie.

While admitting it's "about as practical as the stiletto", Mary Spillane, who founded the Colour Me Beautiful fashion consultancy, says ties now make more of a statement.

"If you're going out to impress, to make an impression and you want to look smart and formal, a tie is the perfect way to do it.

"It's especially effective on men over 25. When they're starting to lose their youth, a tie can hide a multitude of sins."

And with the job market looking uncertain, Ms Spillane believes men will come back to the tie to underpin their seriousness about work and commitment to a company.

Add your comments using the form below.

The thought of men ditching the tie is similar in theory to women ditching the bra. We'd all love to see it but we know that it's never going to happen.
Owen Flack, UK

I have always found ties constrictive and a little over the top - now there is such a wide variety of shirt styles the tie can die quietly, and the old corporate image with it. We havent worn ties in our office for almost a year, it makes for a more relaxed and productive environment.
Tim Davie-Baguley, UK

It looks like ditching ties will further narrow the cultural gap between Britain and America. What a sad day for Britain. I actually prefer not to look a complete scruff at work.
James McCormack, England

I am all for not wearing a tie, but it does present us with the "one button or two?" dilemma. In the USA the custom appears to be to open only the top button, but to also keep the sleeves buttoned down. This gives the unfortunate appearance of simply having forgotten to put on a tie. The British way seems to be to leave the top two buttons open and to roll the sleeves back a couple of turns. This gives a much more relaxed look that is still accepted as "business casual". I find I can use this unspoken code as a way of identifying British men in the USA. It works every time.

I hate ties, and look forward to reading of their demise on BBC News Online's R.I.P. page.
Chris, UK

Not another ghastly choice for men like me to make - do I wear a tie or not? I haven't a clue how to look smart without wearing conventional clothes! It's all very well for people with good taste/style advisers etc to dress down, but the rest of us need to stick to simple things that we know are all right. The advantage of a tie is that you can always take it off, which is more than can be said for the wrong pair of trousers.
Patrick Stevens, UK

I like ties as they can help hide the beer belly a bit more when wearing a jacket.
James, UK

I think ties are ridiculous. They serve no function whatsoever, and appear to just point at the groin area. Men look much nicer without them, I say ditch them boys.
Victoria Bartholomew, UK

If I ditch my tie what will I use to clean my glasses?
Roger, UK

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See also:

04 Mar 99 | Science/Nature
11 Nov 02 | UK
14 Oct 02 | England
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