SIC 2323

This category includes establishments primarily engaged in manufacturing men's and boys' neckties, scarves, and mufflers from purchased woven or knit fabrics. Knitting mills primarily engaged in manufacturing neckties, scarves, and mufflers are classified under SIC 2253: Knit Outerwear Mills.

NAICS Code(s)

315993 (Men's and Boys' Neckwear Manufacturing)

Industry Snapshot

More than 100 establishments were engaged in the manufacture of men's and boys' neckwear in the United States in the late 1990s, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2000 shipments of neckwear from these businesses were $457 million, compared to $607 million in 1998 and $500 million in 1990. The industry spent $229 million for materials and paid roughly $3.6 million for new and used buildings and other structures, machinery, and equipment. A total of 3,969 employees worked in this industry in 2000.

Organization and Structure

According to U.S. Census Bureau figures, nearly half of the establishments that manufactured neckwear in 1997 were small operations with fewer than 20 employees. Neckwear production was not heavily concentrated in any particular region. The states with the most neckwear operations were New York, California, North Carolina, and New Jersey.

Background and Development

To a large extent, even before the advent of the "quick response" system, the emergence and eventual growth of the twentieth-century neckwear industry was predicated on consumer trends. An ability to stay abreast of fashion and changes in design construction proved critical in determining whether a company survived as an industry leader. Other growth-related influences of comparable importance were: changing fashions and construction of shirts, for which neckwear apparel served as a complementary article of clothing; utilization of breakthrough technological processes, which usually emerged first in non-neckwear apparel industries and led to the progressive marginalization of handmade neckwear in favor of machine-made methods; and the development of a professional/managerial strata in the U.S. work force.

Fashion-Related Growth. At the turn of the century the two most prominent styles worn with the popular wing collar shirt were the sailor's knot Teck and Joinville ready-tied neckwear. The Teck was available with both straight and pointed ends, while Joinville was a straight-end only model. According to a 1900 Sears, Roebuck & Co. catalog, Teck and Joinville ties 6 inches wide and 34 inches long were "the most popular and swellest gentleman's scarf ever produced" and were made from the purest of specially imported woven silk. Such ties were available in an assortment of more than 300 designs and in almost every color and shade.

During the 1910s, the last decade before the appearance of the collar-attached shirt, the white, starched-collar, high-band Belmont shirt was an instant hit. It was worn with a narrow tie whose small knot was conspicuously located at the bottom of the shirt's collar. Also meeting with wide acceptance was the Henley detached collar shirt worn with a wide-body necktie covering much of the shirt's front. Two other new forms of ties were introduced during this period: the butterfly bow and the long tie formed in a sailor's knot.

Around 1920, the civilian collar-attached shirt hit the scene and became an instant success, largely due to demobilized World War I veterans who had worn a version of the shirt in the military and found it noticeably more comfortable than its collar-detached alternative. At about the same time, a highly significant design breakthrough also occurred in the neckwear industry. A technique that incorporated a loose stitch method to sew a bias-cut wool interlining (a line cutting diagonally across a fabric's grain) made possible the development of ties that retained their original shape after being knotted and unknotted. These relatively resilient ties went on to become an industry standard.

In the mid-1920s, marked changes in neckwear colors and fabrics were introduced. Ties were designed to capture the attention of women shoppers, who made up the largest component of consumers responsible for the purchase of men's neckwear items. By the late 1920s, the silk-and-wool tie rose to prominence thanks to its ripple weave design, which imparted a three dimensional effect. Among the growing number of college students, ties had taken hold and become an everyday part of dress, even though fashions differed across geographic regions.

The Great Depression of the 1930s ushered in the first appearance of woolen ties, whose growing popularity threatened the reign of silk fabric ties. During this time, the influence of British fashion was at its greatest in the United States, as witnessed by the rise in popularity of two British formal evening wear bow ties: the straight club bow and the satin butterfly bow tied in a narrow knot.

In 1936, improvements in the design and construction of the wash tie led to its gaining widespread acceptance. Wash neckwear worn in a sailor's knot tie or bow tie was now available in a twin-ply design that fortified fabric strength and wrinkle resistance. Other significant advances in the design and construction of wash ties came from the introduction of spiral seams, which increased durability; improvements in bias cut shapes, which permitted a more perfect-looking knot; and hand bar tacking, which eliminated the unraveling of loose stitching during laundering. Due to the popularity of the widespread collar shirt, the wash bow tie and the large knot tie, known as the Windsor knot, rose to prominence.

World War II diverted silk fabric into the manufacture of parachutes, and rayon quickly became the number one tie fabric while wool maintained its solid hold on second. Wool's persistence in the marketplace was a result of its relatively wrinkle-resistant qualities, along with the fact that it was fashionable to sport a wool tie with button-down shirt and single-breasted three-button suit. During the same period of the silkless tie, the highly idiosyncratic hand-painted tie, usually with sporting motifs, was introduced and proceeded to become a mainstay for the whole decade.

From 1950 to 1960, three significant design and construction breakthroughs reverberated through the neckwear industry. Washable, nonwrinkle, and nostretch Dacron knit ties hit the scene in the early 1950s. Next came wash-and-wear all-cotton ties, which, due to a special resin treatment process, retained their original shape and appearance after washing. Around 1957, a more opulent line of what fashion critics referred to as "elegant air" ties became popular. The trouble with these rather expensive ties was their inability to withstand stains. The solution arrived in 1959, when ties were treated with a special finish named Scotchgard, which permitted stains to be washed out with plain cold water.

Major Technological Manufacturing Changes. While the neckwear industry has probably never been in the forefront of major technological innovations, it has proven adept at integrating other non-neckwear apparel industry technologies into its production processes.

The introduction of the sewing machine in 1846 prompted a reorganization of the apparel industry in general and helped transform the neckwear industry from a handicraft to a form of machine-based mass production. The sewing machine's introduction quickened the division of labor and job specialization trends spreading through the apparel industry. The productivity gains made from these changes were staggering.

Other technological innovations were soon introduced throughout the apparel industry. For example, electric-powered portable cutting knives, motor-driven cloth spreading machines, and gas-powered pressing machines displaced such devices as smaller hand-held irons.

Later manufacturing developments included a cloth cutting process directed by laser beams and the integration of computers used for pattern making, grading, and fabric utilization. In addition, the application of computers to other areas of manufacturing operations continued. Consequently, the value added per production worker increased from $10,000 in 1940 to $44,857 in 1989.

Rise of the Managerial/Professional Strata. As the economic situation in the United States changed, a managerial and professional strata emerged. The shirt-and-tie style of dress that was practically mandatory for white collar workers for much of the twentieth century provided a substantial market for the neckwear industry. New trends at the end of the century, however, were casting doubt on the stability of this demand.

While neckwear shipments increased in the first half of the 1990s, there were two signs of trouble ahead for U.S. businesses in this industry. First, new international trade treaties promised to increase the pressure from imported goods on an industry that had historically been vulnerable to foreign competition. Second, relaxed dress codes in U.S. corporations and a more casual approach to dressing in general meant that American men were wearing ties less often.

Tie fashions shifted significantly during the first half of the 1990s. Conservatively patterned yellow and red power ties, which had set the tone in the 1980s, were suddenly out of fashion. The new ties tended to be wider and more brightly colored, and they had bolder abstract patterns.

Current Conditions

In the late 1990s the two most important material inputs in this industry were broadwoven fabrics and narrow fabrics. The industry shipped $440 million worth of woven silk ties, $57 million worth of woven polyester ties, $10 million worth of woven ties made from other fabrics, and $10 million worth of other neckwear such as leather neckties and knit or woven mufflers and scarves. Despite the popularity of these fabrics, however, the growing acceptability of casual attire in the workplace continued to erode total industry sales. As a result, total industry shipments declined from $607 million in 1998 to $457 million in 2000. Over the same time period the number of industry employees dropped from 4,985 to 3,969.

Industry Leaders

One of the leading U.S. neckwear manufacturers in the late 1990s was Wemco Inc., based in New Orleans, Louisiana. At the beginning of the decade, the company had fallen behind fashion trends and began to lose orders from major department stores. A move to revamp the company in the early 1990s led to new orders from Wal-Mart, as well as a comeback in department-store purchases. Wemco had a workforce of about 350 people in 1998 and estimated sales of $55 million.

Other companies that made men's and boy's neckwear as a primary business included Superba Inc. (Los Angeles, California) with 600 employees and sales of $95 million, Castle Neckwear Inc. (Los Angeles, California) with 150 employees and sales of $20 million, and Remington Apparel Company Inc. (a subsidiary of Remington Equities Corp. based in Graham, Texas) with 200 employees and sales of $15 million.

Superba, one of the largest firms in the industry, had been in business since 1873. In 1999 the company obtained the license to use the famous Wilke-Rodriguez name on a new line of ties. Designer Eddie Rodriguez told Daily News Record that his goal was "to make men want to wear ties again." Rodriguez was known for his ability to design modern fashions that appealed to young consumers.


Employment in the men's and boys' neckwear industry, despite annual fluctuations, remained relatively flat during the 1980s and began to decline in the late 1990s. By 2000 the Census Bureau estimated that 3,969 people were employed in the neckwear industry, including 3,209 production workers who earned an average hourly wage of $8.98. These figures were down considerably from 1992, when total employment stood at 7,500 workers.

America and the World

International trade has long been a contentious issue for the U.S. neckwear industry. From 1974 until 1995, world trade in textiles and apparel was regulated under the Multifiber Arrangement (MFA). Yet only a portion of neckwear category types—not including most silk neckwear categories—were covered by this agreement, and no specific quota structures had been put into effect. Therefore, neckwear producers successfully lobbied the U.S. government to impose tariff or import duties.

A trade agreement put into effect from 1981 through 1987, which specified a staged reduction in neckwear tariff duties, highlighted the industry's import vulnerability. The overall results of a report prepared for the NAA by Economic Consulting Services Inc. were less than favorable. The U.S. neckwear industry experienced a sustained decline in domestic profits; production employment fell from 5,300 to 4,800 workers; and these negative trends occurred during a period when U.S. demand for neckwear was on the increase. During the same period, neckwear imports increased by 356 percent, going from approximately 373 thousand dozen to 1,698 thousand dozen units. The report indicated that Korean and Chinese neckwear manufacturers gained the most market share throughout the period.

The 1993 passage of the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) meant that the provisions contained in the MFA were to be supplanted and phased out gradually from 1995 to 2005. Much to the displeasure of the NAA, the terms of the GATT called for a significant reduction in worldwide tariff duties.

To compete with lower-priced imports, U.S. neckwear manufacturers took advantage of tariff provision 9802 (formerly 807), as set forth by the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS). The provision allowed companies to export components made in the United States, assemble them into finished neckwear in foreign factories, and return them to the United States for sale with duty charged only on the foreign value added. In the past, Mexico and Caribbean countries were the largest recipients of HTSUS 9802 trade. With the passage of NAFTA, Caribbean countries expressed concern that 9802 economic activity in their region would shift eventually to Mexico's advantage.

Research and Technology

Beginning in the late 1980s, neckwear establishments, like all segments of the apparel industry, invested heavily in state-of-the-art communications systems that rapidly transmit and respond to information about consumer preferences in the marketplace. These information technology systems, together with attempts to shorten the production cycle and reduce in-process inventories, formed a consumer-driven strategy called "quick response." Manufacturers often adopted "quick response" systems because of pressure from wholesalers and retailers who were determined to accelerate shipments of hotselling items and shorten the time required to respond to changing consumer preferences.

Neckwear firms also invested in computer-controlled automated machines to increase productivity and improve the efficiency of their design, cutting, embroidery, sewing, finishing, ticketing, and distribution operations. Most investment projects were undertaken to reduce the labor-time component per task, which remained excessively high compared to other nonapparel industry group standards. Typically, larger neckwear firms, because of their economies of scale and access to internal financing, were better positioned to implement high-cost technological advances. As a result, the pattern of technological change was anything but uniform across all neckwear establishments.

Further Reading

Brodsky, Renatt. "Not Your Ordinary Knot: Designer Eddie Rodriguez Pledges to Bring Fresh Perspective to Newly Licensed Neckwear Line." Daily News Record, 30 April 1999.

Button, Graham. "Tieing One On." Forbes, 23 October 1995.

Mckinney, Melonee. "Neckwear Industry Begins to Look Beyond Wovens: Some Execs Feel It's Time to Again Emphasize Prints." Daily News Record, 2 January 1998.

United States Census Bureau. "Statistics for Industries and Industry Groups: 2000." Annual Survey of Manufacturers. February 2002. Available from .

U.S. Department of Commerce. Census Bureau. 1997 Economic Census. Washington, D.C.: GPO, 1999. Available from .

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