After slimming down over the past decade, men’s ties are inching back to old form.
Ties at young menswear brands were skewing skinny for the past few years, especially at J. Crew, where most of the ties were 2.5-inches wide. But even J. Crew announced in its October catalog that it was fattening up its ties by a quarter-inch “to keep up with today’s changing proportions,” as Bloomberg News pointed out, gloating, “Sorry hipsters, the skinny tie is over.”
The revised width doesn’t make the neckwear old-fashioned, though -- these ties still fall under the traditional width of 3 to 3.5 inches.
Classic designers like Hermes and Brioni have always kept their ties at a traditional width, but designer Hedi Slimane kicked off the trend in 2000 when he slimmed down the Yves Saint Laurent men’s collection, including its ties. Neckties narrowed to as skinny as 1-inch wide at hip stores like Topman, while the popularity of “Mad Men” helped keep skinny ties en vogue.
The trend wasn’t enough to completely revive tie sales, which peaked at $1.8 billion in 1995, according to market-research firm NPD Group, and dwindled to $418 million by 2009. Still, the look was so popular that it spawned the launch of startups like SkinnyFatties, a company that took men’s favorite ties and tailored them to be thinner for $29 apiece.
Joshua Adam Brueckner, founder of SkinnyFatties, said he recently broadened his scope and opened Air Tailor, an on-demand tailoring service, after the skinny tie trend started slowing.
“It was probably around a year ago that we started to really see a drop-off in sales,” he says. “We started to sort of see it declining a little bit, and then measuring over the course of this year, it probably has cut our sales in half.”
Brueckner admits that although he used to say he would never wear a tie wider than 2 inches, even he’s now “open” to 2.5- and 2.75-inch wide ties: “We preached that you should have ties tailored to your body type, so if you’re 100 pounds, a 3-inch tie isn’t going to work, but people weren’t really picking up that line anymore.”
Ethan Song, CEO and co-founder of millennial-focused retailer Frank & Oak, said his company has been stocking wider ties, ranging $26 to $36, since last fall.
“We’ve definitely seen the change in what the consumer’s buying,” he said. “We’re seeing them go wider now, but not as wide as they once were in the ’90s.”
Song explained that the widening isn’t necessarily a trend reversal.
“I don’t think we’re going back to the wide Italian ties,” he said. “The designers who influence the way men are buying and shopping, like Givenchy and Gucci, you see patterns and classical elements take shape, but they’re not traditional -- they have more street elements.”
In other words, it’s not quite time to recycle old ties -- you still have an excuse to buy.