Deck the necks with bows and holly — that’s one way Glenn Derhammer can describe Christmas ties.
“We’re selling Christmas bow ties this year for the very first time,” said Derhammer, neckwear buyer for the chain of 39 Boscov’s department stores in the mid-Atlantic states. “They’re doing very well. There are Christmas tree ones, Santa Claus ones. They’re pretty unique.”
The bows are the latest idea to jazz up Christmas ties, which have been merrily decorating guys for decades. Holly, ivy, bells, candles, sleds, stars, snowflakes and snowmen are just a few designs that show up every December.
Derhammer said the ties are a traditional part of the holiday season. But he said they may not be a man’s preferred fashion accessory.
“Women like to see them on men,” Derhammer said, explaining the ties’ popularity. “I don’t see many men buying them. Probably 75 to 80 percent of the customers are women buying Christmas ties for their guys. You’ll see some kids buying them for novelty purposes.”
Mike Bernstein, who owns Simon’s Men’s Wear on Union Street in Schenectady, sees it another way. “People who love Christmas love Christmas ties,” he said. “We’ve been carrying Christmas ties since we opened in 1962.”
The slender bolts of fabric aren’t great sellers. Bernstein said he sells only a handful or two every year and admits the ties have a limited shelf life. “We’ve sold winter coats in July and August, but I’ve never sold a Christmas tie in July,” Bernstein said.
Some men wear their holiday chokers to work as Christmas approaches. Sam Vavala, who owns Samuel’s Formal Wear in Rotterdam, said not everyone can do that.
“We deal with a lot of professional people,” he said. “Doctors aren’t going to wear them, lawyers. They might wear them for parties, but they’re not wearing them in professional offices.”
Vavala would hate to see a Christmas bow tie on a tuxedo. Red or green, December’s vibrant color combination, would be acceptable. “Those colors are more festive for the holiday,” Vavala said. “A tie with reindeer on it would take away from the sophistication of the look.”
Bridget Johnson has plenty of ties with reindeers. And holiday wreaths, snowflakes, smiling Santas, candy canes and the cartoon Grinch. “We have them for Thanksgiving, with turkeys and foodstuffs,” she said of her inventory at Internet store ABCneckties.com. “We also have some Hanukkah ties. We don’t discriminate. I think they’re blue and have a menorah on them.”
Johnson, director of audience development at the company in Greenwood, Ind., believes people like to show off their Christmas colors.
“They’re a conversation piece. That’s one of the biggest parts,” she said. “The holidays are times when you meet people you haven’t see in a while. They’re also something fun.”
Like holiday fruitcakes, Johnson knows Christmas ties are only around for a little while.
“Our ties are $10, $15, up to $25,” she said. “You’re not going to spend $50 on something you’re only going to wear once a year.”
Derhammer said the seasonal angle is one reason Christmas ties were marketed in the first place. He said there used to be seasons for neckwear — knit ties during the summer, woolen ties during the fall. Christmas ties were another way for neckwear manufacturers to generate interest and income.
Derhammer said just about all ties are now silk, or a silk-polyester blend, so seasonal lines are out. And some corporate decisions to dress more casually — ties faded and open-collared shirts became more popular during the 1980s — hurt the tie manufacturers.
He said people are looking for more value now. So a tie that looks nice at Christmas, but can also be worn throughout the year, may be preferred.
“Every year, someone tries to re-invent it,” Derhammer said. “Several years ago it was musical Christmas ties. But still, 50 percent of the ties we sell at Christmas are sold during the last 10 days before Christmas.”