Neckwear Notes: Brooks bow tie business is brisk

by Harry Sheff

As part of my research for our June furnishings coverage, I spoke to Jeff Blee at Brooks Brothers. Here’s what he said about neckwear:

“Bow ties are up 60 percent since last year. And that’s on top of being up 30 or 40 percent last year. Bow ties are about 10 percent of our unit sales for neckwear, the rest of which is essentially flat.”

Bow ties at Brooks Brothers typically range from $55 to $65, with some special seasonal cottons coming in at $45. Pictured above: a seersucker bow tie, retail: $55.

But that’s not all. Pocket squares are outperforming regular neckwear too:

“Pocket squares are up 30 percent over last year. We’re finding other ways to sell guys silk accessories, it’s just not always that traditional long tie,” Blee explained. “We’ve added tons of cotton ones. We’ll lop off some shirting fabric, add the embroidered logo and make hankies. That’s a nice $20 pick-up item. But we’re also selling the regular shoe string border silk squares as well, in paisleys and other foulards. Guys still need something fun to add pops of color to express themselves. And if they’re not going to wear a neck tie, they’re going to wear a scarf, a pocket square, a bow tie.”

Pocket squares and handkerchiefs range from $20 for shirting fabrics to $65 for Irish linen. Traditional silk squares range from $40 to $50.

To further illustrate his point about accessories, Blee took a picture of Andy Lew, the managing director of Asia/Pacific business for Brooks Brothers. “This is the new Brooks man!” Blee announced. I could hear Lew exclaim “oh boy,” in the background, obviously nervous about his sudden status as the standard bearer for Brooks Brothers style.

“Andy’s got on a pair of red bucks, which were a big thing for us this year—all of our colored bucks. He’s got slim-fit chinos and a madras d-ring belt, a white button-down shirt and a blue scarf casually wrapped around his neck. It’s that new international look.”

I’m going to get a lot of grief over this, aren’t I?” Lew added. Possibly — he’s not wearing a tie!