Trump’s victory has left many bewildered. On Facebook and Twitter, personal analyses of what led to his victory are abundant but my guess is that many voters were won over by his power tie – what else? That iconic red tie was selected intentionally to portray him as a man of success and authority, because in the West, those are two qualities we associate with red. Of course, it’s not what really got him elected but because of its associations, colour is definitely an effective way of influencing people’s judgement.
In the second part of our guide to men’s ties, the focus will be on colour and pattern, specifically, what they are associated with, and which suit colours they can be best worn with.
Against a light shirt and dark suit, which is the combination most men wear, the only distinctive element is the tie. It’s what sets a man apart from the rest and the first – if not the only – thing people will notice about his outfit. Since colour affects how people feel towards something, before even having really tried it or experienced it, a tie can influence people’s judgement about a person they do not really know. Therefore, it’s worth choosing a tie colour in a way that facilitates a favourable judgement, especially on occasions, such as job interviews, when such judgement could make a real difference.
Less aggressive than a red tie but one which also stands out and can represent vitality is green, such as bottle green. Like red, it’s a colour that tends to look too strong for a professional outfit – unless it’s a patterned tie. However, a grey or navy suit and light blue shirt will tone down the colour’s intensity for a more muted look.
On the contrary, pastel colours are associated with tenderness and tend to have a calming effect. Consequently, a sky blue tie can give a man a softer look. Outside office politics, pastel ties are a great option for summer, especially on a light grey suit.
Similarly, a yellow tie can make a man look more radiant and approachable. However, yellow is a colour that looks too dull on a white or light blue shirt, especially against a fair complexion, making it a better option as a background colour for a patterned tie, worn with a grey or blue suit.
You might have noticed how most uniforms tend to include navy and/or burgundy. They’re two classical colours that tend to denote experience and therefore, reliability. Being easy to combine with grey, green, and blue suits, they are also the two most versatile tie colours a man could opt for. Burgundy is also one of the very few colours that pairs well with a black suit.
For the opposite effect, opt for a purple tie. However, it doesn’t mean it’ll make you come across as inexperienced. In terms of tie colours and menswear in general, purple is considered a modern colour and for that purpose, a rather bold option. Therefore, a purple tie can be associated with youth or a modern outlook. It’s a colour that is best worn with a navy, green or grey suit.
In addition to black, silver and gold are other options to consider for evening events. Like anything that sparkles, they can be too dressy for the office.
Like colours, patterns can also be associated with specific attributes and these can be further emphasised by one’s choice of tie colour. There are various patterns typically used in ties, each giving a different twist to an outfit.
Diagonal stripes are definitely a favourite. In addition to having a slimming effect, diagonal stripes can look both modern, interesting, and yet, still conservative enough to avoid an outfit from appearing too playful, something that’s not easily achieved with a tie in polka dots.
Paisley and plaid are two other options but which are not as popular as diagonal stripes, possibly because they can look too fancy or even slightly old-fashioned. However, that depends a lot on the colour scheme. A high contrast colour scheme can give a tie a more modern, bolder effect, whereas darker colours with minimal contrast can make it look like a more conservative option.
On the other hand, men whose skin tone and hair colour contrast very little, such as blonde and/or bald men, or those with shaved hair will look best with a tie, shirt, and suit combination that offers little contrast, e.g. with a medium grey or green suit, light blue shirt, and a tie in an earth colour.
When combining colours, one should ideally limit himself to a maximum of three different colours (i.e. suit, shirt, and tie in a different colour). In the case of a patterned tie, that number can be exceeded. However, the tie’s colour scheme needs to tie in with the rest of the outfit. Therefore, one of the tie’s colours should be identical to that of the suit with the shirt acting as a buffer, usually in white or light blue but sometimes also pink.
Moreover, when combining patterns, whilst these need not necessarily all be different, their intensity should vary quite considerably in a way which keeps one dominant pattern. Thus, if your suit has a rather noticeable pattern, that of the tie, should be softer, so as not to clash with the the suit’s. In short, wide patterns should be paired with denser patterns and not others of the same intensity.
As mentioned earlier, the tie is often the first thing people notice about a man’s outfit. It’s very much the focal point. Consequently, it’s worth making the effort to not only make sure the size and length complement your frame but that the colour and pattern keep the outfit looking coherent, and if need be, enhance the message about yourself you are trying to get across.