What is the secret of the much-maligned necktie? It's only real function is to give hot-headed bosses a means of throttling their staff, yet it survives in the arid desert of men's accessories - even after WPP's Sir Martin Sorrell praised MT's 'open-necked' style. The tie was invented after Louis XIV met Croatian mercenaries during theThirty Years' War and was impressed by the bright silk tied around their necks. 'Croat' became 'cravat' and neckwear took off, evolving through the centuries to its current form, now synonymous with business. As befits its military beginnings, the tie is a fighter, battling alone to put some personality into men's attire. And it has quite a record. Last year, UK tie sales hit £154 million, despite the fact that only 15% of full-time male employees are obliged to wear one at work. It has received support from surprising quarters - with the Kaiser Chiefs and Franz Ferdinand sporting them on stage - but fortunes are turning. Dress codes are easing, and even the tie's staunchest allies are defecting. The new-look Tories are flaunting their naked Adam's apples on TV, and the Japanese PM has launched an offensive urging businessmen to eschew the tie in summer to help cut the energy consumption of air-conditioners. So with the opposition rallying, the tie is sure to get it in the neck sometime, but past form suggests that its grip on male attire won't be loosened easily.
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