If Jeremy Paxman has decided to stop wearing ties to work, that must mean they're back in fashion

It used to be simple. Men wore ties in almost every professional and formal setting

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As if the BBC didn't have enough problems to contend with at the moment, along comes another minor controversy for the scandal-hit Newsnight programme.

Why, after all these years, did Jeremy Paxman decide not to wear a tie while presenting the show this week? He is known to have strong feelings (in fact, does he have any other sort?) about this item of male apparel, and wrote on a BBC blog five years ago that "the only people who wear ties daily are male politicians, the male reporters who interview them – and dodgy estate agents".

Notwithstanding this inaccurate, and characteristically intemperate, statement, he has continued to wear a tie, that symbol of sartorial conformity, ever since on the programme. Until this week, that is. Was it a veiled comment on the Savile saga? Why should he fall in with these superficial proprieties when there had been a wholesale lapse in standards elsewhere? Or could it have been that he knew he was interviewing Conrad Black and that he may have needed to get his jacket off sharpish and put his dukes up?

Given that Lord Black of Crossharbour threatened to get off his chair and "smash his face in", this is not such a fanciful idea. Either way, it meant something, if only a further loosening of the conventions of what men should wear in a formal situation.

It never used to be a problem. Men wore ties. Full stop. Those pictures of football crowds in the 1950s, the terraces full of men wearing ties, look comical in an age when senior politicians and business leaders are often to be seen open-necked.

It used to be simple: a man would wear a tie in almost every professional and formal setting. Now, we don't know what the rules are any more. Funeral? Most certainly. But a memorial service? Not quite so simple.

In delicate matters such as this, I always turn to my friend Peter York, whose insouciant style advice has been invaluable to men about town for decades. He saw Paxman sans cravate as a fashion statement, but maybe not in the way that dear old Jeremy might have imagined. "Much that I love Paxo," said York, "I think the fact that he's gone tieless is a very clear indication that tielessness is over. Once men with no sense of sartorial style dispense with ties, it's safe to say that ties are back with a bang."

According to York, going without a tie was considered fashionable for a decade between 1995 and 2005. But the age of austerity demands a different, more ordered approach, and Paxman's tieless appearance on Newsnight only confirms this, in the view of our style guru. "I shall now go home and curate my collection of ties for immediate re-use," proclaims an excited Peter York.

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