Remember the maths teacher who matched his ties to his socks? Or perhaps yours sported a keyboard number.
Musical instruments in general – particularly of the woodwind variety – have proved excellent neckwear fodder in the past. Ties often get a bad rap for being either too fuddy-duddy (Johnny Ball is great, but the man's no style icon) or, conversely, too novelty (beware Colin the office joker on The Fast Show). But they're the accessory of choice for the modern man this season and next, and have popped up across catwalks and red carpets this autumn. Tom Ford's latest men's fragrance, the delicious Grey Vetiver, is accompanied by a shot of the man himself looking enigmatic in a sleek, not to mention prominent, crochet tie. If fashion's Mr Sex is working an embellished neck, you should be too.
"Ties are the obvious choice when it comes to a fast and effective update to a working wardrobe," says Adam Kelly, men's formalwear buyer at Selfridges. "Sales are up 30 per cent, with customers opting for slim designs from directional bands like Raf Simons, as well as traditional styles by Duchamp".
The tie may once have announced its wearer's stuffiness or retentive tendencies, but the new generation marks an attempt to dandify, brush up or, confusingly, to pull up one's sartorial socks. Blame the recession or the Eighties revival, blame Matthew Weiner's slick Fifties ad execs in the TV series Mad Men, blame David Cameron, whose first official portrait last week depicted him as conspicuously tie-less, supposedly showing off what a laid-back, easy-going kind of guy he really is.
Think Bryan Ferry or Kraftwerk. Whether you consider yourself an indie hipster, latter-day flâneur or an executive go-getter, there's a tie for you. Now all you need to decide is how to knot it: remember, a true gent knows the difference between a half-Windsor and a Prince Albert.
Homely with a touch of cool, this season's knitted and crocheted ties are a fashion-forward and preppy look.
Forget Reg Holdsworth, the bow tie has evolved into something more chic and less clownish this season – colours and motifs are acceptable, but please, no revolving ones.
"Narrow ties are by far the bestsellers this season," says Lee Hamilton, menswear buyer for John Lewis. "It seems men want to add subtle sharpness without going too formal." Whether brightly patterned or more sober, a skinny style will add edge to your outfit.