WASHINGTON – Cameron Brenchley’s workday routine is similar to a lot of Washington-area male professionals. He wakes up, gets dressed and leaves his Northern Virginia home around 7:30 a.m. to catch the Metro to his office in Southwest, D.C.
But unlike a lot of local male professionals, Brenchley’s morning involves an extra step: Brenchley, 34, puts on a necktie.
“I think it’s expected, but I also think if I came to work every day not wearing one, no one would care,” says Brenchley, who works as the director of digital strategy at the U.S. Department of Education.
Brenchley is one in what’s becoming an increasingly smaller pool of professional men who wear a tie — something that was was once considered a staple in a man’s wardrobe.
Fifty years ago, a tie-less male professional was rare, and a popular TV show illustrates that. “Mad Men’s” Don Draper is never without a tie in his Madison Avenue office, and neither are his male co-workers.
These days, it’s difficult to find an office where men wear ties, routinely — even in a political power town like D.C.
A national 2007 Gallup poll shows that only 6 percent of men surveyed wore ties every day. That number was down from 10 percent in 2002.
Twenty percent of respondents said they wore ties occasionally, and 67 percent said they never wore ties, a figure that shot up from 59 percent in 2002.
On top of that, the Men’s Dress Furnishings Association, a trade group that represented American tie-makers, shut down in 2008, due to a decrease in the number of its members and a decline in the American tie industry, The Wall Street Journal reports.
The Sometimes Tie
What’s becoming more common in today’s professional environment is the “sometimes tie” — a dress code that requires men to wear a tie on more formal occasions, such as a meeting with a client or a business presentation.
This mixed-tie environment is something Brenchley, a Springfield, Va., resident, sees on a daily basis.
“You see a lot of people wearing ties, particularly those that work with the secretary or [those] who are meeting with folks outside of the department,” Brenchley says.
“[In] many of the offices, it might be a little bit more casual, where you’ll see folks with sweaters or with jackets, but maybe not a tie.”
Sarah Milans works as a marketing manager for Baker Tilly Virchow Krause, LLP, an accounting firm in Tysons Corner. She says the general rule of thumb at the office is business casual — but that all depends on where you are and who you are meeting.
“If the client environment calls for a necktie, then that’s what our accountants and consultants go with,” Milans says. “Some probably keep a necktie in their office if they need to go to a client site on a moment’s notice.”
This tie from Hugh & Crye is hand-block printed with indigo. (Courtesy Pranav Vora)
Milans says keeping the office business casual is not only a plus to current employees, but to potential ones, as well.