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Necktie foundered

Necktie sales may have foundered in the decade or more since the words “casual Friday” entered men’s vocabularies, but in the last year or two, stylish men in their 20s and early 30s have embraced the old four-in-hand as a style statement — that is, as long as it is an optional one. Even with tie sales among older age groups uniformly down, sales to men 18 to 34 were up more than 13 percent, to $343 million from $303 million, between March 2006 and March 2007, according to NPD Group, which tracks clothing sales and trends.

“There’s no question that there has been a dramatic increase among younger guys, who are age 18 to 34, expressing themselves by dressing up,” said Marshal Cohen, the chief retail analyst at NPD. “He’s not hesitating, given the option, to grab a tie, and a fancy tie at that.”

This is a news flash that will either amuse or dismay men in their 40s and 50s, who after years of wearing a tie to work, finally won the right to hang up the old choke chain.

But this is no ordinary necktie. A far cry from the storied “power ties” in aggressively colored and printed silk twill that defined the power corridors of the 1980s, the defiantly low-key tie of today is destined for dress-up Thursday as well as casual Friday.

It may be made of wool, cashmere, silk knit or glove leather; cut a pointedly skinny two-and-a-half inches wide; woven in plaid or printed with an unorthodox pattern of skulls with bunny ears. It may boast a trendy label like Alexander Olch or Band of Outsiders. Slightly offbeat in a laid-back way — the Wes Anderson of the accessory world — the youthful tie is giving the old dress code a much-needed shot in the neck.

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