The casuality of tie with suit in modern fashion

Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh *

Fashion is something we associate everyday for the 'feel-good' factor. Among the Meiteis in Manipur, wearing the humble "khudei" (loin cloth), we choose the colour and design. This however, does not blend entirely with Shakespeare, who wrote: "The apparel oft proclaims the man."- Hamlet.

Fashions are dynamic. Ray-Ban sold more sunglasses after the Hollywood movie, Men in Black (1997). I bought my first aviation Ray-Ban from Whiteways in 1952 in Bombay after seeing American pilots wearing them in Imphal (cf. my portrait with my email address).

It's said that behind a fashionable man there stands a woman who knows how to dress him. This is true in Imphal. While I was in Imphal in November (2016), a sophisticated niece of mine saw her husband going out dressed in pheijom and pumyat (dhoti and kurta), and wearing sandals. She made him change the sandals into a pair of pumps. Lo and behold! He looked "dressed". It's my offbeat paean to their domestic harmony.

Fashion, such as the current trendy facial stubble is for the young and 'young at heart' though only some people fit the stereotype smugly. Research has shown that women find well-dressed men more appealing and sensational. To younger generations, seniors like me, sometimes, seem like we are a different species.

It's recommended that men marry younger wives who will keep the fountain of youth flowing in them. I should know better. My wife is younger than me. Look at Donald trump (70) and his wife Melania (46), 24 years younger. Those of you who have seen him on the net, one week before the election, canvassing for presidency of US, wearing the latest fashion a well-cut navy blue suit and a pristine white double-cuffed shirt without a tie, will warm you up to the demise of the hegemony of a tie with lounge suit.

The lounge suit, business suit or office suit and tie, or more properly, with braces in earlier times, has some 150 years under its belt. Even my father, in the darkest corner of the globe in Imphal, kept a three piece suit, beige and herring-bone with a matching silk tie, handkerchief and braces, which he wore once in a flood, on such occasions when a Sahib bigger than Bara sahib (Political agent) came to Imphal. He would take them out every summer to weather them in the sun, to get rid of the smell of moth balls.

Western dark lounge suit with a tie has become 'international business attire' or Tenue de ville, though some business people eg a Saudi Arab Sheikh will wear national costume nonetheless. The necktie is an accessory to your suit, a focal point that draws the eye in, while a pocket square (hankie in your breast pocket) tucked in pouty, straight or triangular form, is a decorative addition for the flamboyant.

In post-war Imphal, civilisation erupted from a low key origin. Only one Sessions Judge Yendrembam, and Durbar Members, Sanasam, Sougaijam and Waikhom wore ties. In the early 50s wearing suits and ties became fashionable among Meitei and hill-youth, especially for evening hangout at the Maxwell Bazaar (Thangal Bazaar) in the town centre, just like at Chowringhee in Calcutta, Hazarat Ganj in Lucknow or Queens Road (Janpath) in New Delhi. As I studied at hill stations, Darjeeling and Nainital, I wore suits and ties most of the time.

A suit without a tie or "smart separates" (jacket and trousers of different clothes) are now in fashion. The jackets are shorter and tighter as if one size too small with two buttons worn unfastened, and a waistcoat with four buttons. The trousers are shorter and tapered. For today's man about town, the casual look without a tie is where it's at. Even prime ministers and presidents sometimes, fashionably appear casual without a tie.

In Britain, currently, a suit and tie, except for rare suity moments, like weddings and funerals and at some work places, is old hat. Doctors, lawyers and bank managers continue wearing suit and tie to give a responsible image.

Sporting "smart cas", such as white jeans or chinos (cotton twill fabric; more casual than dress pants and more dressy than a casual jeans), a blazer and loafers (casual moccasin-like leather shoes with wide flat heels), has displaced suit and tie as the smartest attire. Fashion is now about bold and geeky choices. It's about luxury. Depending on the mood or company, sometimes they ring the changes to Oxfords (sturdy laced-up leather shoes) or brogues (leather shoes with decorative small holes) rather than loafers.

British imperial formal wear took a long time to die in India. As a college student in Bombay in 1952, my friend Mohammad hired from a shop, black trousers, black (bow) tie and white 'shark skin' tuxedo for each of us to go to New Year's Eve celebration at the Taj Mahal Hotel. In one very hot April 1972, when my wife and I stayed at the Oberoi Grand Hotel in Kolkata, we were not allowed to have dinner in the dining room as I didn't have a jacket.

A person with a formal dinner jacket and black tie can ironically, be mistaken for a barman or a doorman at night clubs. I knew a retired senior Mr Khan in Delhi, a relative of Dilip Kumar. He was at one time, an official in the Indian Embassy in Norway. One evening after hosting a dinner at the Embassy, he came out to see off a Norwegian official to his car. He was dressed in dinner jacket and black tie. To be polite, he opened the car door for the distinguished guest. As the man got inside, he somehow mistook him for the doorman and gave him a tip.

Modern casual fashion followed the indomitable youthful John F Kennedy who was a fashion icon for many and who would dress in confident and relaxed style, wearing casual light chinos, a polo shirt, and at times with a navy blazer. He freed European men from the tyranny of hats. The "light cas" now is for people who want to be on the side of history that is never dull.

The provenance of many codes of men's dress style had their roots in English and Italian tailoring, back and forth between the two. Suits are global menswear, for corporate businessmen and government officials except in India and Saudi Arabia. European businessmen in the heat of Delhi summer, staying in 5 star air-conditioned hotels, would go about to business meetings, wearing dark light-weight suits and ties.

The 'lounge suit' is a set of garments which are crafted from the same cloth, often made in dark colours. London was the centre of man's clothes, suits and accessories, tailored at the world-famous bespoke Savile Row (street) in central London. The modern tieless fashion is all about cut, fabric, luxury and a big watch.

The history of the modern lounge suit began in a period of sartorial revolution during the late 19th century while searching for more comfortable and loose formal attires. In the 1920 -1940s, wide straight-legged trousers, measuring 24 inches around the one inch-wide turned up cuff was fashionable. In the post-war 1940s and 1950s, the fashion was simply to modernise the suit as much as possible.

Fashion tends to repeat itself in a cyclical trend in a lifetime. I had my first double-breasted suit in 1947, paid for by my mother, cut and stitched by a young tailor master known as Kunje (popular with students). He had his tailoring shop by the side of the newly constructed Rupmahal theatre. The jacket had 4 inch wide lapels, waisted and wide shouldered, with 20 inch wide trouser bottoms. In the 1950s the jacket became straighter with narrower lapels, and slimmer trousers. In the 1960s, suit jackets were cut as straight as possible without a hint of waistline.

I had suits made at Connaught Place in New Delhi in 1962. The lapels had then dwindled to 2 inches with hipster trousers with straight bottoms narrowed to 17 inches. By the 1970s here in the UK, the lapel grew in size to 5 inches, with wide flared trouser bottoms. In the 1980s, the fashion was double breasted 'power jacket' suits (stiff rigidity). In the 1990s, single breasted three or four button with notch lapels became popular.

Tieless fashion is because of changes in societal norms, influenced by the fashion industry's advertising. Skipping the tie when you are formally dressed is an art of undressing. It's an aesthetic look with your shirt fully buttoned up. It could be the top button unfastened to look more casual, or two unfastened, more relaxed.

Undressing and trying to look smart is not for the light-hearted. Some will look like rustics. Everybody cannot be Mahatma Gandhi, only clad in a loin-cloth and a shawl when he came to London for the Round Table conference in 1936. When asked by King George V, why he was so scantily dressed, Gandhi replied wittily, "Your Majesty, you're dressed for both of us."

In a formal environment in any society there is a dress code that does not favour self-expression. The smart thing is to dress as the occasion demands and 25% better than others for self-confidence. Annotation: Jacket sleeves shouldn't be creased.

* Dr Irengbam Mohendra Singh wrote this article for The Sangai Express
The writer is based in the UK; Email: irebnammsingh(AT)gmail(DOT)com ; Website:
This article was posted on January 21, 2017.

* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.

  • Nongpok Thong Hangba
  • Khubak Eeshei @Kang festival : Gallery
  • Punsi Sangba, Mathiupuang :: eMing
  • Arresting decline of higher education
  • RPL-PMKVY Certificate at Tripura
  • Silence :: Poem
  • AFSPA took my father
  • Dark Net: Underbelly of the internet
  • Alternative Arrangement, Article 371A
  • Petition challenging dilution AFSPA
  • Rio for integration of Naga areas
  • Brought NE closer to Delhi: PM
  • Independence Day celebrated in NE
  • Tikendrajit : The Lion of Manipur #1
  • Compressed Earth Blocks: Housing
  • Support breastfeeding among adolescent
  • Ithai: Development Decision Gone Awry
  • Who made the sports university ours?
  • An Unoccupied Forehead :: Poem
  • 'NRC should not be a political issue'
  • Independence Day : Govt needs trust
  • Apprehensions before final pact
  • NNC stand to protect Naga sovereignty
  • 'Delay in solution irks people'
  • Patriots' Day- Floral Tribute : Gallery
  • A shot at survival
  • Demography and Population Studies
  • RPL-PMKVY Certificate at Baishalgarh
  • E-Commerce to help access new markets
  • Manipur Heart Foundation Anniversary
  • Artist lineup for NH7 Weekender
  • Kakching World War-II Memorial Run
  • The Killing Fields 2013-18 : News Timeline
  • AMPWA observed Patriots' Day
  • Real homage or just showmanship
  • Drama of political clout at MU
  • Patriots' Day @ Kolkata : Gallery
  • Historical War fought by Manipur
  • Where are the nurses in HIV response?
  • Understanding false smut of rice
  • The love song of autumn :: Poem
  • Help Underprivileged Sports Youngsters
  • Police : List of Awardees on I-Day
  • NSCN-IM word on Naga unity
  • Scribes demand colleague's release
  • Jadugi Mingsel :: Folk Tale
  • Patriotism Redefined [On 13th Aug]
  • Karate Winners felicitated at Kumbi
  • Of Citizenship & Manipur People's Bill
  • Seminar : Path & Pattern in Northeast
  • 42nd Indian Social Science Congress
  • Naga Peace Process :: News Timeline
  • Certificate Distribution at Tripura
  • Failure by WPS-IE to arrest rapist
  • Resolutions : People's Democratic Alliance
  • ..Will it burnt the state again
  • ..Now get the killers !
  • 'Homecoming', Painting Exhibition : Gallery
  • Legacy of Resistance in Cordillera Highland
  • Woke Up, But You're Nowhere :: Poem
  • Resurgence of Sanamahism
  • Nagas & Meiteis must live together
  • No change in 1951 as Base Year : JCILPS
  • B. Voc. at DM Community College
  • Young Scholars Conference 2018
  • ..legitimacy of remaining to power
  • The precursor of things to come
  • Khangkhui Cave , Ukhrul #4 : Gallery
  • Kanglen Kang Chingba #2 : Gallery
  • Reform Manipur's Education System
  • Friendship
  • Cry of a Dying River - 40
  • World's Indigenous Peoples Day
  • Chandigarh students' solidarity with MU
  • MU agitator should withdraw their agitation
  • Repercussion of a prejudice attitude
  • Regulate school vans/buses
  • Disputed Myanmar Border Pillar : Gallery
  • Seven Breaths of Dragon :: Book Rvw
  • Chronological framework of NRC
  • Buttering Najmaji in public
  • JRF Post at Mizoram University
  • Manipur Tourism : Festival Promotion Award
  • The uneasy shift
  • Well co-ordinated rallies across dists
  • Chalwa Village, Kangpokpi #1 : Gallery
  • General strike on article 371 (A) #2 : Gallery
  • Up against the saffron brigade
  • My unsailed ship :: Poem
  • Mathematics and Science Competition
  • General Strike by ATSUM on August 10
  • Drawing Competition at Wapokpi, Bishnupur
  • ADBU delivers course to Indian Railways
  • One man that put Manipur in frying pan
  • Relax MU shut down !
  • Khumang Pokpa Haraoba #2: Gallery
  • Robert Naorem @Blr Fashion Week : Gallery
  • Territorial integrity of Manipur
  • The string :: Poem
  • General Strike by KIM on August 8
  • Robert Naorem at Bangalore Fashion Week
  • Inner Line Permit (ILP) Demand :: Timeline
  • Dr. Monisha Behal's work in North East
  • Registrations for IIT Techniche workshop
  • PDA on situation in Nagaland
  • The politics of divide: MU
  • Significance of August
  • Mukna Khong Kangjei #3 : Gallery
  • Greater Nagaland or Mini Nagaland? #2
  • Paint Your City : Campaign at Kakching
  • Pemberton line in Kabaw is our boundary
  • Awakening :: Poem
  • Coffee Plantation : In-lieu of Poppy
  • Recalling of AK Pandey by HRD Ministry
  • TSA's reply to KNO/KNA's allegations
  • 21st Manipur Integrity Day : Gallery
  • Konung Kang Chingba #3 : Gallery
  • Ecological, social impact of Ithai Barrage #3
  • Swindling Manipuris in solving Naga issue
  • The Last of the Romantics :: Poem
  • 'Thoughts on MU strategies'
  • Concerned about continued closure of MU
  • Fear factor
  • No takers for 1 month leave
  • View from Shirui Hills #1 : Gallery
  • Manipur as seen by Meiteis, Nagas, & Zo
  • Certificate Distribution at Nirjuli, ArP
  • Contract Jobs available at NIELIT HQs
  • Cry of a Dying River - 39 :: Poem
  • Banana flower vada
  • Entrance for Free Residential IAS Coaching
  • Resolution of NPF Consultative Meeting
  • Concerned about militants' interference
  • Issues : From ILP, MU to FA
  • Emergence Nongda Lairen Pakhangba #2
  • MU Rally at Canchipur : Gallery
  • News Analysis 0f Akashvani Imphal
  • ILP: A Genuine Idea Lost in Translation
  • Tryst with an Alzheimer's patient #2
  • Letter to Prime Minister of India
  • Female DTP faculty reqd at Protocol
  • In between :: Poem
  • Sowing the seeds of Greater Lim
  • General strike on article 371 (A) #1 : Gallery
  • Student is important or AP Pandey
  • Article 371A is sui generis
  • Protection on Land, Environment at TML
  • Press Conference on MU Crisis at Delhi
  • Oppose extension of Article 371(A)
  • DTP-Desktop Publishing course at Nambol
  • Certificate Distribution at Namsai, ArP
  • Rejoinder to KNO/KNA on Moreh attack
  • Issues which burn Manipur State Assembly
  • The brand of politics in MU crisis
  • Central team @ BP 81 , Kwatha #3 : Gallery
  • August Calendar for Year 2018 :: Tools
  • Protest against MHRD @Delhi : Gallery
  • People's Strike greets this August
  • Slump in fight against #AIDS
  • What does moonlight want ? :: Poem
  • MU students protest against MHRD
  • An Unknown killer - "E-Waste"
  • Talking peace and threatening others
  • Singcha Wuya Won @Kamjong #1 : Gallery
  • Dismal Politics in Universities
  • Kanglen Kang Chingba #1 : Gallery
  • Engulfing Uncertainties
  • Ecological, social impact of Ithai Barrage #2
  • Certificate Distribution at Dibang, ArP
  • EEVFAM case: Report for 30 July
  • Pertaining to statement of T. R. Zeliang
  • Issues plaguing the state
  • What is the stand of BJP Govt ?
  • Monsoon Assembly Session : Gallery
  • Election 2019: end of road for Modi
  • The absurd baby talk :: Poem
  • Assam University BTech, MTech Admission
  • Saving the Rhinos - Campaign
  • Arrest perpetrators of Moreh attack
  • Training programmes of NCC
  • Central team @ BP 81 , Kwatha #2 : Gallery
  • MU: Students clash with Police #2: Gallery
  • Prospects of coffee in Manipur
  • Why ILP should not be implemented
  • Hill students get alert on Trafficking
  • IBSD Meghalaya inaugurated
  • Conference on India-Vietnam
  • Govt's strategically pre planned conflict
  • Heart ruptured but life saved
  • Pseudo intellectuals should stop thinking
  • Mass sit-in protest : How about Nagaland?
  • Folklore genres of Meetei community
  • Kang Khichri chaba : Gallery
  • Binalakshmi Nepram at United Nations, NY
  • Certificate Distribution at Changlang, ArP
  • Out to clear her name
  • CBI failed to comply to SC orders
  • Condemned as a cry in wilderness
  • Security meeting conducted
  • Ripe opportunity for awareness & action
  • Is the NRC of 1951 available ?
  • Central team @ BP 81 , Kwatha #1 : Gallery
  • Our Common Crisis: What are We to Do #3
  • ..Take a break from the common road
  • Skin problems that arise during monsoon
  • Cry of a Dying River - 38 : Poem
  • Meghalaya edition of NH7 Weekender
  • 'Special status' under which provisions ?
  • Issues which need minute deliberations
  • Pay Nareckpi : Funga Wari
  • Kayada Ningthijaba Lambino : Story telling
  • Yumkhaibam Nanao: Walking from Delhi..
  • Ningol Pali at Kang Festival : Gallery
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn Manipuri script
  • Naga American conference at California
  • MU: Students clash with Police #1: Gallery
  • Kanglen Kang Chingba : Gallery
  • ISKCON Kang Chingba festival : Gallery
  • Meira Rally protest of MU VC : Gallery
  • Bandh demanding VC removal #2 : Gallery
  • Front Page Photo 2018 #3: Gallery
  • Art Exhibit @Imphal Art College #1 : Gallery
  • Kang Khichri chaba @Kwakeithel : Gallery
  • Dzuko valley #4 :: 360 Panorama View
  • Manglandasu Nang - OST :: e-pao Radio
  • HSLC 208 Exam Toppers : Gallery
  • Class XII Exam Toppers : Gallery
  • Temples of Manipur : Gallery
  • Old Manipuri Movie #1 :: eRang Classic