The Tory leadership hopefuls battled it out on live TV this week, and alongside the bluster and grand proclamations, social media lit up when Rory Stewart whipped off his tie half way through the debate. Was the former army officer going full Hulk and readying himself to tackle Boris Johnson to the ground? Was he simply showing that he was getting hot and bothered?
One point about the tie in question, cast aside as he got on with the robust business of outlining his plan for the country, was that it was knitted, making it more interesting and less banker-esque than traditional silk variations (and he wore it with what seemed like a dark olive suit; another signifier that he’s more used to khakis than the corporate world).
Kin knitted tie, £9, johnlewis.com
Whatever the message, Stewart’s wrangle with his tie is something most men can relate to; yanking at it halfway through a wedding reception, fiddling with it pre-meeting, trying to avoid it trailing through your lunch. Despite the (admittedly rather old) Telegraph photo, I rarely wear a tie - bar weddings and funerals - these days.
It's little wonder that the tie is in terminal decline; in a more informal age, it’s garnered a reputation as being old fashioned and fusty, perhaps even a tad affected. Goldman Sachs earlier this year announced it was relaxing its dressing rules, and from Savile Row to Jermyn Street, brands are reporting that ties aren’t selling as they once did; shirting specialist Thomas Pink has even created a range of shirts designed for wearing without ties, with collars that stay standing upright and sit properly without the addition of a tie.
Gucci silk scarf, £315, mrporter.com
If a tie is mandatory to your working life - or if like many of us you’re eyeing up your formal wardrobe this summer ahead of weddings and events - it’s worth re-evaluating. A classic silk tie in one solid colour (subtle or rich hues are best, rather than primary brights) is a perennial, but variants on tried and tested styles might be a touch more modern and appealing if you’re uncomfortable, like Mr Stewart under the spotlight there. Knitted silk is one example; the nubby surface texture is a point of difference against a smart suit and the weave results in a kind of rich lustre - especially excellent at weddings.
For the less patrician and smart dress codes during summer - Henley, garden parties, etc. - it’s worth looking at linen or tussah silk, for a rougher, more easy texture. Linen has a reputation for crumpling, so suits in the fabric can quickly look dishevelled - but in ties it gives an organic, relaxed feel. After all, there’s nothing worse than looking like you’ve come from the office at a wedding breakfast.
Linen tie, £14.95, ctshirts.com
And despite the dandyish name, thinking beyond the tie to options like a foulard can be a saviour for a smart stance in warmer climes, particularly for continental weddings; tucked beneath your collar it adds a louche air to the sense of ceremony.
I’m not suggesting our Conservative leader hopefuls adopt one - no-one wants a PM dressed as an Italian count - but if you’re game, it’s a raffish take on neck adornment.
And, finally, one tip on what to do if you do end up disentangling yourself of your tie; slip it in your front jacket pocket as a pocket square alternative, like your average Euro executive traveller. It’s far more chic there than bulging out of your trouser pocket; and at least you’ll be a leader in the sartorial stakes.
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