Are boomers the generation that let fashion slide?
“We are the disruptors,” says Joseph DeAcetis, 58, creative director of the fashion blog StyleLujo, “the generation who let fashion go. We just got too lazy to dress well, to tell the truth.”
One early and lamentable casualty is the once taken-for-granted necktie. In a world where grown men now dress like their 12-year-old selves, replacing button-down shirts and wingtips with sneakers, jeans, T-shirts, and ball caps, the necktie is beginning to seem almost quaint, like a wardrobe item from an old movie, maybe Cary Grant old.
It is obviously not on the scale of a global calamity, but ties fading entirely from fashion would have lamentable downsides, partly because they are useful—adding polish and a splash of colour to neutral suits and sport coats—and partly because they are social signposts. For basically the entirety of the 20th century, and in some quarters right up until today, the stodgy old necktie has served as a beacon of what was unironically seen as respectability. Popping up your collar and knotting a tie conveyed a willingness to put yourself to some small trouble to announce yourself as part of society’s common enterprise, an outward sign of keeping yourself shipshape so you could contribute.
This arguably worthy goal may seem mossbacked when every day has become Dress Down Friday. From Steve Jobs’ pathbreaking turtleneck, to the photographs of the pointedly tieless leaders of the Group of Seven wealthy nations at Elmau, Germany, last June, to Sir Richard Branson scissoring ties off people’s shirts, an open collar now beams its own clued-in, future-aligned virtue signal. Even in some traditional business settings, it has become a badge of success not to have to wear a tie.
“A friend of mine just went for an important job interview in New York and I asked him if he wore a tie,” says Karen Alberg Grossman, editor of menswear trade publication MR Magazine. The guy said nope, he didn’t: “I was there for them to kiss up to me, not me to kiss up to them.”
Amid all this, tie makers might have to squint hard to locate any green shoots. But on the other hand, fashion trends are notoriously fickle. “The state of the tie market has been dismal,” Grossman says, “but there is a notable return to dress-up in menswear right now. I’m not sure I’d call it a comeback, but we will see more ties being sold in 2023 than 2022.”
Anne-Marie Colban, co-owner of Paris’ venerable Charvet, agrees. “We have been happily surprised since the Covid lockdown to see sartorial elegance make a strong comeback. And the desire to wear ties has come back along with it.”
But tie-wearing has come back changed, as Colban acknowledges. “Men wear ties for pleasure now, not because of social conventions,” she says. “A tie is an ornamental piece and an expression of refinement, not a constraint.”
It is a note you hear sounded elsewhere around the industry. There is a feeling—a hope, anyway—that neckties may be entering a new era of creativity and securing a smaller but vibrant niche as items of self-expression.
It is a bet Jonathan Meizler went all-in on 11 years ago. His Orchard Street atelier on New York’s Lower East Side, called Title of Work, handcrafts striking and outré ties at prices ranging from around $275 to $1,000. Incorporating elements like rattlesnake vertebrae, gauzy veils, hand-painting, and fine beadwork, they are, says Meizler, “a blending of the worlds of art and couture on a 58-inch by 2½-inch canvas.”
They are definitely not for everyone or for most daily occasions, nor does Meizler intend them to be. But what Title of Work’s works might be instead is the cutting edge of neckwear’s new direction. “As a symbol of masculine power, ties have fallen away,” Meizler says. “But as an avenue for defining yourself and your style, there is plenty of room for that.”
That avenue also looks promising to more mainstream luxury clothiers. “Nowadays, men wear ties because they want to, not because they have to,” explains Christophe Goineau, creative director of men’s silk for Hermès. “This has liberated the creative process considerably and invited reinvention: We can create a tie in grenadine silk, add a tufted horse head or a shower of embroidered motifs.”
“All the rules we knew have been abandoned,” Goineau adds. “The tie has become an easygoing and liberated fashion accessory.”
NOT YOUR GRANDPA’S NECKTIE
Today’s tie designers get creative with pattern and color
(1) Title of Work’s Plaid Beaded Necktie 1005
A deconstructed plaid pattern, intricate and asymmetrical, is hand-beaded and embroidered on tulle overlay. (US$800)
(2) Hermès’ 7 Faconnee New H tie in raisin
The 7 Faconnee New H is hand-sewn 100% silk twill. A series of infinite “H”s are revealed in the jacquard weave of this tie. Made in France. (US$215)
(3) Hermès’ Faconnee H 24 in orange
Hermès employs jacquard weaving to repeat the brand’s iconic “H” letters in this refined-casual hand-sewn, 100% silk twill tie. (US$215)
(4) Title of Work’s Standing Woman 1079
This free-form line drawing of a woman is hand- embroidered on tulle overlay. (US$500)
(5) Title of Work’s Line Gradient Necktie 075
This navy to burgundy gradient creates an ombré effect on this custom-woven silk twill tie. (US$225)
This article appears in the March 2023 issue of Penta magazine.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’
Concern about electric vehicles’ appeal is mounting as some customers show a reluctance to switch
Auto dealers across many parts of the country say electric vehicles are becoming too hard a sell for buyers worried about the range, reliability and price of these models.
When Paul LaRochelle heard Ford Motor was coming out with an electric pickup truck, the dealer was excited about the prospects for his business.
“We thought we could build a million of them and sell them,” said LaRochelle, a vice president at Sheehy Auto Stores, which sells vehicles from a dozen brands in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C.
The reality has been less positive. On Sheehy’s car lots, LaRochelle says there is a six- to 12-month supply of EVs, compared with a month of gasoline-powered vehicles.
With automakers set to release a barrage of new electric models in the coming years, concerns are mounting among auto retailers about whether the technology will have broader appeal given that many customers are still reluctant to make the switch.
Battery-powered models have been piling up on car lots, dealers say, as EV sales growth has slowed in the U.S. this year. Car companies have been offering a combination of discounts and lower interest-rate deals in an effort to juice demand. But it hasn’t been enough, because buyer reticence extends beyond the price tag, dealers say.
“I’m not hearing the consumer confidence in the technology,” said Mary Rice, dealer principal at Toyota of Greensboro in North Carolina. “People aren’t beating down the door to buy these things, and they all have a different excuse why they aren’t buying one.”
Customers cite concerns about vehicles burning through a battery charge faster in cold weather or not being able to travel as far as they expected on a single charge, dealers say. Potential buyers also worry that chargers aren’t as readily accessible as gas stations or might be broken.
Franchise dealerships fear that the push to roll out new models will inundate them with hard-to-sell vehicles. Research firm S&P Global Mobility said there are 56 EV models for sale in the U.S. this year, and the number is expected to nearly double to 100 next year.
“I start to think, you know maybe we should just all pump the brakes a little bit,” Rice said.
A group of dealers expressed their concerns about the government’s role in pushing electric vehicles in a letter last month to President Biden.
A Toyota Motor spokesman said the majority of dealers have become “increasingly more confident in their ability to sell Toyota EV products.”
At Ford, the company’s electric-vehicle sales are rising, including for its F-150 Lightning pickup, but demand isn’t evenly spread across the country, according to a spokesman.
Dealers say that after selling an EV, they sometimes hear complaints about charging and the vehicles not always meeting their advertised range. In some cases, customers seek to return them to the dealer shortly after buying them.
“We have a steady number of clients that have attempted to or flat out returned their car,” said Sheehy’s LaRochelle.
While EVs remain a small but rapidly expanding part of the new-car market, the pace of growth has slowed this year. Electric-vehicle sales increased 48% in the first 11 months, compared with a 69% jump during the same period in 2022, according to Motor Intelligence. Sales remain concentrated in a few states, with California accounting for the largest chunk, S&P Global Mobility data found.
The cooling growth has raised broader questions in the industry about whether car companies face a temporary hurdle or a longer-term demand challenge. Automakers have invested billions of dollars to bring more EV models to the market, and many analysts and car executives say they remain optimistic that sales will continue to expand.
“Although the rate of growth has slowed recently, EV demand is clearly moving in the right direction,” said General Motors Chief Executive Mary Barra on a recent conference call with analysts. A combination of more affordable model options and better charging infrastructure would help encourage more people to buy electric vehicles, she said.
There are also varying views within the dealer community about how quickly buyers will adopt the technology.In hot spots for electric-vehicle demand, such as Los Angeles, dealers say their battery-powered models are some of their top sellers. Those popular EV markets also tend to have more mature public charging networks.
Selling an electric car or truck outside of those demand centres is proving more difficult.
Longtime EV owner Carmella Roehrig thought she was ready to go full-electric and sold her backup gasoline vehicle. But after the 62-year-old North Carolina resident found herself stranded last year in a rural area of South Carolina, she changed her mind. Roehrig’s Tesla Model S got a flat tire, but none of the stores in the area carried tires for a Tesla. She ended up paying a worker at a nearby shop to drive her home.
Roehrig still has her Tesla but bought a pickup truck for long road trips.
Tesla didn’t respond to a request for comment.
“I have these conversations with people who say we’ll all be in EVs in 15 years. I say: ‘I’m not so sure. I’ve tried to do it,’” Roehrig said. “I think you need a gas backup.”
Customers who want to ditch their gas vehicle for environmental reasons are sometimes hesitant, said Mickey Anderson, president of Baxter Auto Group, which owns dealerships in Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado.
“We’re in the Colorado Springs market. If this is your sole mode of transportation, and you’re in a market in extremes of elevation and temperature, the actual range is very limited,” Anderson said. “It makes it extremely impractical.”
Dealers representing around 4,000 stores across the U.S. signed the letter in November addressed to Biden, saying the administration’s proposed auto-emissions regulations designed to promote electric-vehicle sales are unrealistic. The signatories ranged from stores owned by family businesses to publicly held giants such as AutoNation and Lithia Motors.
“Some customers are in the market for electric vehicles, and we are thrilled to sell them. But the majority of customers are simply not ready to make the change,” the letter said.
Some carmakers are pushing back EV-rollout plans. GM said in mid-October that it would delay the opening of an electric pickup plant by a year to late 2025. In response to weaker-than-expected consumer demand, Ford said in late October that it would defer $12 billion of planned spending on electric-vehicle investment.
Since September, dealers on average took more than two months to sell an EV, compared with 40 days for all vehicles, according to car-shopping website Edmunds.
While discounts have helped boost sales of some electric vehicles, they also have led to repercussions for some current owners because it reduces the value of their vehicles, dealers say.
“Most people don’t have the confidence to buy an EV and know what it will be worth in 10-15 years,” said Rice from the Toyota dealership.
It may take some time for the industry to adjust because it is still in an early stage of switching to electric vehicles, Sheehy’s LaRochelle said.
“We’re asking for this market to grow organically,” he said.
Chris Dixon, a partner who led the charge, says he has a ‘very long-term horizon’