More Koreans Shed Ties, Suits As Firms Embrace Casual Look

Korea Inc’s evolution away from authoritarian formality toward a more dynamic workplace is taking a toll on sales of neckties and suits, according to Chosun Ilbo.

Tie sales had plunged 16% during the first eight months of the year compared with the same period last year, according to Lotte Department Store. Sales of ties are down 30% over the past five years. As a result Lotte has shed half the space once allocated to tie counters.

Lotte, which occupies a more upmarket niche, appears to be the bellwether in this trend. Hyundai tie sales shrank 10.8% while Shinsegae was down 9.7%.

Office workers appear to be shedding suits as well. All three major department stores saw suit sales slide 5% this year while sales of the more casual blazers and khakis jumped by almost 10%.

Business casual attire will account for 75% of the men’s garment market by 2018 compared with 57% today, projects Lotte.

The trend isn’t necessarily bad news for men’s fashion retailers. Loss of sales of ties and suits has been more than offset by surging sales of bold designer shirts, scarves, handkerchiefs, belts and socks as men turn to other ways to add sartorial spice.

The shift toward a more casual workplace that emphasizes productivity over formality began in corporate Kora in 2008 when Samsung, the nation’s leading conglomerate, relaxed its office dress code in a bid to encourage more creativity.