In a recent profile on him in Newsweek, independent movie producer Steve Tisch says he was amazed by how many people commented on the necktie--a rather flamboyant blue-and-yellow squiggle print--he wore in the photograph.
A conservative dresser who leans toward dark Italian suits and wears only solid-white dress shirts, Tisch admits he does have a wild streak when it comes to his choice of ties. No red and navy rep stripes for him, thank you. When he wears stripes, he says, lavender and black are more his style.
"In a somewhat conservative package, a tie like that can certainly make a statement," Tisch suggests. "It's like a wink, a punctuation mark. I think there's a real continuity--the movies I make, the ties I wear. There's a sense of humor about it," adds the producer of such movies as "Risky Business" and "Soul Man."
For today's well-dressed man, the details of his wardrobe can have a large impact, be it a rakish cravat or a shirt with French cuffs or even a black titanium pipe poking out of the breast pocket of his blazer.
New York menswear designer Alan Flusser says emphasis on such accouterments "follows a period when men decide to get more dressed up."
In other words, he explains, "I think men are settling into how they want to look. Adding these small touches is kind of refining the picture."
"Men have raised their fashion consciousness, and they're aware of details, like socks, pocket squares and tie bars," Sherman Oaks retailer Rick Pallack says. "They realize there's more than wearing a black or brown belt."
For the gutsy individuals, that realization often includes an outrageous tie, characterized by Japanese-abstract psychedelics, hand-scrawled graffiti and "Amadeus"-like brocades. The colors they turn up in, such as peach, bougainvillea pink, raspberry and apple green, might seem more appropriate in a hothouse than in a board room.
Suffice to say, the soft yellow ties with diminutive patterns that proliferated among Wall Street types last year pale in comparison.
"The wilder the better, and nothing is too wild," says Pallack, who nevertheless cautions: "This isn't for everyone."
Still, Pallack--who stocks 5,000 tie styles at one time, many of them sold in "limited editions" of 10, 12 or 16--maintains that many of his most traditional customers are opting for the unconventional or choosing a traditional necktie, such as a stripe or paisley, in an untraditional color, such as purple or champagne.
A case in point is Mark Nemets, a financial consultant from Chatsworth, whose necktie wardrobe includes an array of dizzying prints and crazy colors. Nemets--recently clad in a gray suit with a tie of coral, burgundy and black in a paisley polka-dot configuration--believes his ties, if nothing else, set him apart from the pack.
"When I walk into a room with a bunch of other financial consultants, they're all wearing dark blue suits, white shirts and red ties," he says. In contrast, Nemets makes a statement before he opens his mouth: "When you're talking to people about their money, they've heard the same thing over and over again: Put your money in a mutual fund and get 9%. When they take a look at me, they know I'm going to give them something else to think about."
In an era when a good suit sells for upwards of $400, perhaps it's no surprise that men who never cared much about the minutia of their wardrobes are suddenly spending hours hunting around town for the right socks or grappling over the merits of a collar pin versus a collar bar.
Now men are rediscovering classics like French cuffs (Paul McCartney was recently photographed in a French-cuffed denim work shirt), gold cuff links and the refinement of a custom-tailored shirt. They're also learning to express their sense of humor and individuality through a wacky pair of suspenders or the latest, clunkiest brogues. Either way, the point is that the little things count.
Public relations executive Josh Baron, who has represented everyone from Gary Hart and Rosanna Arquette to the 72 Market Street restaurant, has found that his new, bizarre-looking eyeglasses--which appear to be floating on his face, almost as if by magic--have become something of an adjunct to his personality. (They're held in place by a micro-thin plastic line and are made by Suspension Eyewear.)
"I'm not a wild dresser," Baron says, "but I do want people to know I understand what's the newest and the best. I want them to know I don't do the ordinary; I'm more creative; I think up wild and more interesting ideas; I'm in no way traditional."
For those who are not inclined to bold fashion statements, there's always the other route: the subtle but well-chosen accessory, such as a crocodile belt. (To be precise, the legal South American import is called caiman crocodilus.)
"There's not a person alive who doesn't know what a crocodile belt is," says Mark Erickson, manager of men's furnishings at Saks Fifth Avenue in Beverly Hills, where such belts are selling briskly at about $125 apiece. "It's real status; it's understated taste, and it's so durable you can literally go to the grave with it."