The necktie is so tangled up in Father's Day it's become the cliché gift of the century.
Or maybe it's the perfect gift. Fine line.
On the cliché side, the choice of a tie for Dad is lame, the tie, unwanted.
But the "not another tie" message resonated more soundly just a few years ago, before suit coats and ties started clawing their way back from "business casual."
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"People are dressing up more today," said Keith Novorr, owner of Michael's Fine Clothes for Men in Kansas City, Mo. "It's reverting back."
As for the tie being an uninspired gift, Novorr doesn't think so. It would be much easier to choose khakis and a sport shirt for most men. Customers often ask, "Can you pick out a tie my father would like?" Novorr tells them he can, but first he has to learn something about him.
"Ties are extremely personal," Novorr said. "You can almost tell the personality of a person by his neckwear."
Lee Allison, who has a nationally recognized tie-selling website (www.leeallison.com), said there has always been a lot to recommend a tie gift.
"A tie rejuvenates an entire outfit, so it's the biggest bang for the buck," Allison said. "The rest of the outfit is the frame, and the tie is the piece of art. It's the exclamation point."
And, in fact, the tie remains among the leading Father's Day gifts, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Americans buy about 100 million ties every year.
So how did the necktie become intertwined with Father's Day? Father's Day emerged after World War I and was followed in the 1920s by the creation of the modern tie, constructed from three pieces of fabric, cut on the bias, with a lining. Tiemakers and sellers saw the potential and began pushing neckties as gifts, said Jerry Andersen, executive director of the Men's Dress Furnishings Association in New York.
Ties are an affordable gift. Buying the right size isn't a problem, and they are in fashion again.
"A lot of people are just getting back into neckties, particularly younger men," Andersen said.
The deeper question -- why wear anything around the neck at all? -- takes us way back in time. Neck coverings were needed for protection against the elements but quickly morphed into a fashion statement, from demonstrating social status to expressing individuality.
Stephanie Allmon and Caitlin Cockerline contributed to this story.