LONDON — Seven world leaders have declared the end of the necktie at the G7 Summit in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany.
The annual gathering of the Group of Seven is never about fashion, however, every photo op sends a loud and clear message in the world of politics.
Everyone got the memo for the official 48th G7 Summit group photo on Sunday featuring Italy’s Prime Minister Mario Draghi; Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau; French President Emmanuel Macron; German Chancellor Olaf Scholz; U.S. President Joe Biden; British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida.
A price cap on Russian oil, supply of weapons to Ukraine, climate change and Africa’s potential famine is on the agenda for the next three days for the gentlemen to discuss, but under all that, so are the intentions of presenting their best image to the world.
After all, this isn’t just a press conference, it’s a stage to show a united front.
At the 47th G7 Summit held in Cornwall, England, last year, all the male politicians sported a necktie while gray clouds hovered over them in the group shot. Their somber suits and ties resembled the mood of the last two years.
A pandemic later and with the activewear industry expected to generate more than 95 billion dollars in the U.S. alone, the power suit no longer yields the intellect and vim it once did.
The removal of the necktie is a departure from the expected stale presentation of world leaders — the seven white crisp shirts worn with blazers in flat hues is the Hollywoodification they’ve been searching for. It’s George Clooney’s signature recipe for the red carpet with two buttons undone that Draghi emulated to perfection.
“Traditionally, the tie is a badge of professionalism, distinction and success,” said Peter Bevan, a London-based menswear stylist, adding that it once carried gravitas, but now it’s being considered as “increasingly stuffy and conservative — becoming more casual since the pandemic in line with the rest of the world is perhaps a way for the politicians to remain relatable and relevant.”
Outside of the western world, the necktie carries no sentiment. It’s a sartorial tool used to project authority rather than having earned it.
New Zealand politician Rawiri Waititi called the accessory a “colonial noose” in 2021 after being ejected from parliament for wearing a traditional pendant called hei-tiki instead of a tie.
“Wearing a tie is wrapped up in notions of class, male privilege and status, which are concepts the younger generation are increasingly trying to reject,” Bevan said.
On the runways, ties are loosened and are being interpreted in new ways. For Thom Browne’s spring 2023 collection, necktie lengths got shorter, brighter and camper while models wore them with tweed miniskirts.
“The obligation to wear a tie day-to-day will become a thing of the past, but as they can bring such personality to a suit, I don’t think they’ll die out altogether. They’ll become solely fashion accessories rather than necessity,” Bevan explained.
The sartorial chatter was among the politicians themselves, too. When the leaders sat down for their first meeting of the day, Johnson asked if they should remove their jackets or doff further, which was met by a witty answer from one of his colleagues: “We all have to show that we’re tougher than Putin.”
Trudeau chipped in with “bare-chested horseback riding,” alluding to the images of Putin topless on a horse in southern Siberia’s Tuva region in 2009, to which European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen fired back with “horseback riding is the best.”
Conversing with fashion lightens the mood, but changing the course of a uniform can perhaps combat real change that’s much needed in the world right now.