This is not the first line of a modern-day Shakespeare play, but rather a fundamental question in reference to men’s fashion attire. In the past, tie producers planned new lines and designs of neckwear for men and established an association for Men’s Dress Furnishings. It never occurred to these businessmen that ties would see such a dramatic decline in sales. Nevertheless, business attire became less formal and the tie was relegated to weddings, funerals, and a select number of country clubs. These men didn’t seem to notice that fewer younger men were interested in wearing ties and that the trappings from the past were uncomfortable in the present. Although surprising to the producers of men’s ties, the necktie’s falling out of fashion seemed a natural occurrence to the rest of us – much like the decline of the cuff-link.
You may be wondering why I would pull out an old article that has seemingly nothing to do with the produce industry or associations. In response, I must say that there are always lessons to be learned when we reflect on the past. In this case, I wonder whether the members of the Men’s Dress Furnishings Association were aware of the changing trends or whether they stubbornly thought they could survive the drought.
“Historically, the guy wearing the navy suit, the white shirt and the burgundy tie would be the CEO,” Marty Staff, chief executive of JA Apparel Corporation, stated in the 2008 Wall Street Journal article. “Now he’s the accountant. Power is being able to dress the way you want.”
According to the article, even the tie manufacturers themselves had mixed feelings about wearing ties and many didn’t wear them. But not every tie-maker was oblivious to the trends. Scott Sternberg, at the age of 33, founded the Band of Outsiders tie label in 2004 with a brand new approach to the traditional tie. He designed skinny ties, sold them at high-end department stores, and developed a following of young hipsters who love his designs. Sternberg even won an award for best emerging menswear designer from the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
Men like Scott Sternberg, who look at changing trends as an opportunity to make something different or new, often find themselves successful in spite of trends. Someone coined the phrase, “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade,” and although the original meaning suggests that we look for the positive solutions to life’s challenging problems; it also means that something that appears to be distasteful can be turned into something very sweet.
So the question remains, ‘To tie or not to tie?’ When the answer became ‘not to tie’ the Men’s Dress Furnishings Association closed its doors. But others did not give up so easily. There has even been a resurgence of the bow tie!
When trends suggest that you’re business or practices are becoming irrelevant, what will your answer be? I challenge you to take the innovative approach and make some ‘lemonade.’
Smith, Ray A. “Tie Association, a Fashion Victim, Calls It Quits as Trends Change.” The Wall Street Journal. N.p., 4 June 2004. Web. 16 Oct. 2015.