As a fashion-conscious opinion leader, an Egyptian billionaire declared the tie’s role as a status symbol to be a thing of the past. It still has a future as a fashion accessory, though.
Mr Sawiris is an investor and entrepreneur who is used to spending time in the highest circles. Currently, he is building a major tourist resort in West Europe, but even the most important business meetings will only ever see him wearing an unbuttoned shirt.
Ties make him feel like he might get strangled, and he therefore refuses to wear one, convinced that it long lost its meaning as a social status symbol. In the past, a dark suit and tie always went together. In the nineties, the young entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley already put an end to that. Wearing jeans and t-shirt, they send a clear signal: “Wearing a suit doesn’t make you special.” For a while that trend was limited to “young” fields of industry like the IT sector, but slowly it is spreading to other business areas.
Hence, more and more professionals wonder whether a tie might not be seen as up-tight by their business partners.
Mr Sawiris’ opinion is clear: A person should never be judged by their attire, the only exception being excessively bad taste. One example for that would be a striped shirt worn with a chequered jacket. Deliberate stylistic inconsistencies, though, are a different matter.
Will the tie disappear, then? Our Egyptian fashion expert has his doubts. In the future, they will turn into a fashion statement, like brightly colored pants or jeans. Instead of a status symbol, the tie will turn into a fashion statement: leading also to greater variety in shape, color and overall design.
Surprisingly enough, that shift of habit seems to be happen all over the globe; in the Western world as much as in the Arab world, and of course in Asia. In the latter as well as in Africa, the tie originally was part of a dress code imposed by colonial masters. As independence and self-confidence of those regions grow, there has been a renewed focus on their own cultural roots. In November 2014, for example, the Chinese president as host of an APEC meeting requested traditional Chinese attire to be worn to the banquet.
Such gestures aside, we see more and more presidents and other high-ranking politicians with unbuttoned collars, even during formal occasions. This is also due to another shift in how society views those leaders: more and more they are seen as normal people, and as such the same rules in terms of dress code apply.
However, there are still plenty of occasions where a man is supposed to wear a tie, like at some opera festivals or a state reception. In such situations, leaving it off can easily be interpreted as the arrogance of someone who deliberately is staying short of expectations. In the end, it always depends on the specific situation and place – and whether there are hierarchies involved or not.
Other questions of style are not affected by this! The cuff of a shirt should still be visible at the end of the jacket sleeve. Hence the short-sleeved shirts which have become so popular in Central Europe, are still a no-go. Even in summer, unless you are a bus driver or policeman, you had better stick to the traditional long-sleeve shirts. The short-sleeved version hasn’t so far achieved a status as fashion statement.