Former political advisor Peta Credlin has lamented the decline of the necktie as a mandatory accessory in the corporate workplace in a scathing new essay for The Spectator.
In the piece, titled Clothes Maketh the MP, the ex-chief of staff for Tony Abbott provided detailed advice on how MPs must dress themselves and insisted MPs who forgo the silk choker are sure to lose the respect of middle Australians.
After giving detailed instructions on how to properly knot a tie, Ms Credlin let rip.
“The current trend of leaving the tie off a business suit? Don’t get me started!” she wrote.
“Maybe you can get away with it if you’re a start-up wunderkind just learning to shave, but if you’re an MP expecting the support of middle Australia, then respect their code of propriety and wear a tie.
“If you want to be casual in a suit, remove the jacket, not the tie, and roll up the shirt sleeves if you must (but only mid-way between wrist and elbow, never higher … unless you’re a vet)!’’
What Ms Credlin calls a “current trend” actually began 20 years ago, around the time when John Howard was elected as Prime Minister, curiously enough.
Over the course of Mr Howard’s reign, necktie sales tumbled – and they hit rock bottom soon after he lost government.
From that point, the apparent death of the necktie became a regular chew-toy for media commentators.
There aren’t any Australian figures readily available, but US experience is telling.
According to the NPD Group, a market research outfit that’s followed fashion trends for 50 years, necktie sales peaked at $US1.3 billion ($A1.7 billion) in 1995.
By 2008, the market had halved, with sales at $US677.77 million ($A885.5 million) – and, according to a Gallup poll, only 6 per cent of men were wearing ties in the American workplace down from 10 per cent in 2002.
Then the Men’s Dress Furnishings Association, the trade group representing American tie-makers, announced it was closing down – due to a lack of interest in membership from US manufacturers.
This prompted a report on ABC news titled, Can the Necktie Survive?.
So what happened? Initially, the fall-off in sales was blamed on the Global Financial Crisis – with a shrunken jobs market, who would bother wearing a self-strangler for the fun of it?
And while the market has enjoyed an occasional uplift – notably in 2011 – the US tie market appears to be static.
Some observers have suggested the decline of the tie can be tied to the 2008 election of a groovy Barack Obama as US President.
By 2013, The Wall Street Journal ran what it called an investigation into the notion that Mr Obama had personally killed off the necktie by making it an optional item in the Oval Office.
Former British PM David Cameron was also mentioned as an accessory.
Six months ago, The New York Post ran up the white flag with a story titled, Let’s face it, the tie is dead.
The report noted the lack of disquiet when Prince Harry turned up at an official military function in an open-necked shirt.
A 91-year-old D-Day veteran reportedly snapped: “Where’s your bloody tie?’’ But even he appeared to be half-joking.
The New Daily asked local retailers David Jones and Myer to comment on the state of the necktie in Australia, but we’re yet to hear back from them.
Gentleman outfitters Henry Bucks were more obliging. Mr Tyrone Blade, of the marketing department, said ties were selling well – but the reason people were buying them had changed.
“I believe it’s one of those things for the dandy, the peacock. It’s not a necessary item anymore. They’re being worn less at work and more for an occasion. They’ve become a `want’ item rather than a `need’ item.’’
Mr Blade, for one, loves his ties. He has 12 of them.
“The tie is an extension of myself. I take careful consideration in choosing which tie I will wear today.’’
Having worked in the fashion industry for 10 years, Mr Blade reckons the tie went from loathsome noose to treasured item about five years ago.
“That’s when the transition occurred.’’
Meanwhile, there’s a new US president keen on reviving US manufacturing, presumably including the fashion industry.
But he’s not helping the situation by wearing his necktie long enough so that the tip bounces against his much-trumpeted pudenda.
Tie a knot in it, buddy.