Recently, 24-year-old billionaire and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg was spotted at Davos, the winter gathering that is the Ascot of the world’s business elite, wearing jeans, jerkin… and a tie. When questioned about the latter, the reply was swift: "The tie is back. It’s a serious time – and therefore I dug into my box of old school ties, and found a bunch that I can now wear."
It is touching to imagine this 24-year-old billionaire giving serious thought to what to do in the face of economic catastrophe and deciding that the best solution was to rummage around in his wardrobe – not least because Zuckerberg is a member of the generation that has grown up viewing the tie as an anachronistic relic of a vanished world, as relevant as the top hat and frock coat. His is the archetypal tieless fortune born out of a tieless industry for a tieless world.
Indeed, one could have argued as recently as a few months ago that appearing in a tie at the world’s most important economic summit was to court suspicion and opprobrium in equal measure.
For my part, I love ties. I have hundreds of the things in all manner of silks: knitted, madder, foulard, woven, grenadines. And then there are the other fabrics: the satins, the wools, the linens, the cottons, the vintage rayons, the velvets, the piques, yes, even the bootlace. You name it and I have worn it around my neck. I have ties for every occasion – and I mean every occasion.
Weddings see me selecting a silvery grey tiny houndstooth check, a Prince of Wales check, or a herringbone and then spearing with a diamond stickpin. Striped ties of the old school sort give me – and I hope others – the impression that I received some sort of an education, although my total lack of military bearing makes it difficult to carry off anything with regimental pretensions.
When I want to look like I know what Sartre was talking about, or if I feel the need to appreciate some contemporary art, I will knot a knitted silk tie with straight tip and slip into a corduroy jacket.
Summer brings with it the joy of pastels, floral prints and silk and linen mixes. For my forays into the English countryside, I make a point, even though I have only ever sat on a horse once, of wearing a woollen tie with an equestrian motif.
For the Cannes film festival, I am immensely proud of my lime-green, knitted-silk tie that chimes so perfectly with my lettuce-green, silk trousers and matching suede slip-ons – worn sans socks, of course.
In fact, I am thinking of wearing a tie when I sleep – in Irish linen – to match my pyjamas.
GET THE LOOK
The Master of the Universe
The Master of the Universe may be feeling more than a little humbled, hence the tailor-made (rather than designer) suit and the discreet geometric print silk tie from Hermès – the default neckwear of the professional classes. After all, you’d rather toxic debt from a man who looks like Philip Green than one resembles Alvin Stardust
The look A sober, geometric print foulard tie in smooth or woven silk from trusted shops is the way to woo investors. Nothing says "I am dependable and reliable" quite like a tie that gives the appearance of having been designed with a protractor and a set square.
Born again squires
The squirearchy, with its values of solidity, integrity, decency, and sotto voce dignity (often mistaken for pomposity); its love of field sports, dogs and the Sunday roast; its contempt for political correctness, distrust of Lord Mandelson and dislike of ostentation is set to regain its central position in British life. The one thing that they will spend money on is their shooting clothes: cashmere ties, worn with brushed cotton shirts, under bespoke tweeds.
The look Cross the chap in the old Viyella ads with Edward Fox in The Shooting Party and you’ve got it. Shirts should be quietly checked and fastened with heavy crested gold links and ties that look like they are crafted from pieces of moss, chunks of bark, bunches of heather or dead birds
Open-necked shirt and skinny tie is a youthful cliché that started with Pete Doherty and has now found its way into the mainstream. For evidence, think Justin Timberlake in tank, skinny tie and rolled-up sleeves. It has taken some time but that early-Eighties fashion crime of jeans and loosened tie is back. Complete the retro look with pastel-coloured sports jacket with sleeves rolled up to the elbows.
The look If you are going for the skinny tie thing, you might as well embrace the dubious delights of the ribbon-wide leather tie. Skinny ties should always be worn with a healthy sense of irony, which usually translates as untucked shirts and random waistcoat and trouser combos, and should not be attempted by anyone (a) over the age of 25 or (b) over 12 stone.
For years the artistic industries have been able to get away with sartorial murder, flaunting their jeans, T-shirts and piercings as part of the witchcraft of their profession. With the downturn being used to justify all manner of cutbacks, they are on the horns of a sartorial dilemma. Too much formality brings the risk of corporate dronedom; the usual sloppiness implies a business-as-usual hat won’t go down well either. Hence the rediscovery of unworn ties bought for a first job interview.
The look If you made a billion or two in the good times, follow Jude Law and spend a little on knitted silk ties now. They strike a note of creative informality and you can just about wear them with jeans and a white shirt. Better still, they never crease.