Loosening the Knot on Tradtion Celebrity-Designed Ties Lend Dash to Menwear, and Give a Boost to Causes Such as Environmental Preservation

Article excerpt

FOR a growing number of American men, the familiar look of traditional neckwear - stripes, solids, medallions - is giving way to ties with an attitude.

Bold colors and big patterns, based on everything from television cartoon shows to celebrity paintings, are showing up in boardrooms and offices across the country. Even people who have shunned ties in the past are wearing them, sometimes as an accessory worn with jeans rather than a suit.

Organizations such as Save the Children are offering ties through department stores, giving people a chance to wear their social consciousness, if not on their sleeves, then at least on their necks.

These "statement neckties" are the "T-shirts of the '90s," says Gerald Andersen, executive director of the Neckwear Association of America, a trade group that represents neckwear manufacturers. Even stores such as The Gap, which appeal to a younger, more casual buyer, have begun stocking these ties, Mr. Andersen says.

A bold tie can "individualize a pretty standard wardrobe," he points out. While a typical department store may carry one or two dozen styles and colors of dress shirts, the same store will likely have neckties with hundreds of patterns and fabrics, he says.

Today, "even conservative ties are bolder than back in the '80s," he says. The average tie has grown to four inches wide, perhaps so that the "artist gets a wider canvas to work with," Andersen says.

One manufacturer who's seen spectacular success with celebrity ties is Stonehenge Ltd. Last summer, the New York-based manufacturer introduced a line based on the art of Jerry Garcia, the lead guitarist and vocalist for the legendary rock group, the Grateful Dead. …