Britons cut ties with formal attire as sales of loungewear soar during lockdowns

Both have been politicised and divided sartorial opinion for generations. Yet, it seems that ties and thongs need no longer spark debate, because they are apparently no longer in vogue.

John Lewis has revealed how the shopping habits of its customers have changed in the last year, with Britons shunning more decorative items in favour of comfort.

Thong underwear made a brief comeback in 2018, but the high street retailer said sales fell six per cent this year as customers grew tired of the item. “Instead, they opted for more comfortable and practical underwear,” it said, noting that “this year was all about loungewear”.

Similarly, up until July, the retailer said that sales of men’s ties were down by 75 per cent compared to the year before. “Formal workwear simply wasn’t required: it was all about dressing casually,” it said in its annual Shop, Live, Look report.

John Lewis sales

However, sales bounced back 200 per cent post-July due to the return of weddings, re-opening of some offices, and the "Southgate effect" after the England football manager wore his navy polka dot lucky tie during the Euros.

While some items have been obviously neglected due to the closure of offices – filing cabinets have been completely discontinued as people opt for digital storage – one item that has seen a rather intriguing revival is the Speedo.

The trend for wild swimming helped sales of men’s swimming briefs (in black, blue and orange) double over the year. There was also the "Tom Daley effect" after the diver won his Olympic gold medal wearing a pair of very small trunks.

It has been a good year for the brand: total sales of Speedo swimwear rose 79 per cent.

Among the products that “defined the last year” were tents (up 650 per cent), air fryers (up 400 per cent), trampolines (up 270 per cent) and Crocs shoes (up 58 per cent), according to the report. 

Online business also soared to account for between 60 and 70 per cent of all sales, up from 40 per cent pre-pandemic. 

Pippa Wicks, executive director of John Lewis, said: "The unprecedented events of 2020 and 2021 have left a permanent mark on how we shop, live and look.

"People have become clearer about what matters to them and their work-life balance has shifted towards life."

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