Ties Remain Beloved Male Symbol / over 100 Million Sold Annually

Article excerpt

NEW YORK - More than 100 million of them are sold annually and they are, according to the designer John Weitz, ""the only free fo rm of personal expression a man has, except for cologne.''

They, of course, are neckties, and the favorite expression of the moment, according to informal on-the-street surveys, is red running neck-and-neck with yellow.

Red, says Donald Davies, neckwear buyer for Brooks Brothers, has been the store's best-selling tie color for the past year. At Saks Fifth Avenue, a store spokesman reports that red has ""always'' been the best seller.

At Macy's New York, the men's fashion director, Bruce Binder, says that yellow and red have outpaced the more traditional navy.

Red, says Gerald Andersen, executive director of the Neckwear Association of America, is the color most men associate with power. It is said to be the top color in neckties in Washington.

No such theories abound concerning yellow, except that so many Manhattan men seem to have realized how terrific a sunny-yellow necktie looks with a sky-blue shirt and a tan.

This is the second summer in succession that neatly patterned yellow neckties have been popping up all over town, from Wall Street to the Upper East Side.

""The thing about yellow is that it's not an easy color to keep clean, and by the end of last summer my yellow tie was a mess,'' Bill Shaw, a graphics designer, was saying the other afternoon as hepaid $25 for a new yellow tie with a tiny geometric pattern at Paul Stuart. ""Now it finally feels like it's summer.''

His old yellow tie?

"It's had it, I'm afraid, and it's hanging on the far side of my tie rack where the old ties go.''

Which brings us to the question: Why do so many men, even those with ties to spare, seem to wear the same ones over and over again?

""Men prefer wearing what they are comfortable and familiar with,'' says Davies of Brooks Brothers, ""and unless a man lays out his wardrobe the night before, he'll tend to wear what he's worn recently.''

Davies says that he himself owns only 20 ties and wears most of them. Richard Merkin, an artist, writer and one of the town's most elegant dressers, owns 300 ties, of which he wears 25.

Dr. Roger B. Granet, a clinical assistant professor of psychiatry at the Cornell University Medical College, explains it this way: ""Man has a quest for structure and order, and after a rambling sleep and the uncertainty of facing the unfolding day, he has a yearning for what is known and refined. People, in general, tend to repeat what is safe and certain.''

As for all those seldom-worn cravats languishing in all those men's closets, they might very well have arrived in a gift box.

Department stores report that the return ratio of neckties is low and that they are consistently among the least-exchanged items, perhaps because a man cannot claim it is the wrong size. …