The pandemic will change the course of necktie history

Ties have slowly disappeared from red carpets, a trend led by a new generation of Hollywood stars such as Jared Leto, John Boyega, Donald Glover, and Harry Styles. The presidential candidate Andrew Yang leaned into his dot-com roots by showing up to the first Democratic debate of 2019 without a tie—a political milestone that launched not one but two Twitter accounts purporting to be the missing garment. Although most male characters in the Emmy-nominated Bridgerton sport starched cravats appropriate to the Netflix show’s 1813 setting, the breakout star Regé-Jean Page wears open-necked shirts to sexy effect. Today’s tieless norms, in other words, are beginning to take hold even in period dramas. The monarchy may fall next. When 7-year-old Prince George showed up in the royal box at London’s Wembley Stadium to watch Euro 2020 matches dressed in a suit and tie, social media cried foul.

Indeed, ties were in retreat long before COVID-19 turned business casual into business pj’s. “Let’s face it, the tie is dead,” the New York Post crowed in 2016. And, in the summer of 2019, Philadelphia Magazine declared, “The Necktie Might Finally Be Dead.” Meanwhile, alternatives to ties proliferated. Henleys and collarless “grandpa shirts” offered a compromise between overly casual T-shirts and overly formal dress shirts. The collared shirt—whether a tieless button-down or a polo—became the new standard of formality in many restaurants, schools, and offices. Yet no one should confuse the relaxed clothing norms with the suspension of judgment about a worker’s class and social status. Underneath his famous work hoodies, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg wears drab T-shirts, but they’re custom-made by Brunello Cucinelli and reportedly cost hundreds of dollars apiece.