A tie speaks a thousand words


FOR many young men about to step out into the working world, buying a tie can be a daunting task – that is, if the young man actually had the sense to consider the norms and sensitivities of the dress code of his work environment.

Many of the younger generation see ties as fashion accessories – as long as it matches the shirt, hey, it’s fine isn’t it?

Not so, for the British. To the British gentleman, the way one knots a tie, the colour and even the pattern of a tie can tell a lot about a person.

According to historian David Cannadine, ties, in their traditional form with diagonal strips and crests were associated with public schools, university alumni and gentlemen’s clubs.

In other words, ties can be hierarchical. The late 19th century saw a growth in white collar jobs in the lower social scales in Britain and clerks, government bureaucrats and officials could be distinguished by the design of their ties.

Among others, the direction of the diagonal stripes on a tie distinguished the so-called ‘classes’.

In Commonwealth countries, tie stripes run from the left shoulder down to the right side. This normally indicates only people affiliated with a regiment or social classes in the upper hierarchy such as a distinguished family, a gentleman’s club, university or school alumni.

In the United States, on the other hand, diagonal striped ties are widely acceptable dress codes for professionals and produced in all sorts of colours and designs.

Still, the Brooks Brothers, which specialised in outfitting American men, distinguished ties in the US from the exclusive British club and regimental ties by producing ties that had diagonal stripes going the opposite direction – from the right shoulder to the left side.

And in case some of you did not know, this difference between British and American ties remains till this very day.

The decision to wear a tie can make a lot of difference in one’s career, according to Cannadine.

It has been observed, that politicians in the United States and Britain campaigning for general elections or seeking re-election are more successful when they dress down – appear casual, without a tie, rather than buttoned and tied up.

On the other hand, after being elected and tasked to run a country, it is expected that they wear what is known as the proper business attire – which includes a tie.

Thanks to evolving fashion trends, these days we have vibrant and flamboyantly patterned ties. Gone are the days when men actually consider the meaning of diagonal stripes on a tie.

We have cartoon characters like Bart Simpson adorning ties these days. It is widely believed that one who wears a tie with cartoon characters is either easygoing or cannot be taken seriously, depending on the cultural environment one is in.

Those in the medical field have been known to wear ties that depict medicines, stethoscopes and surgical instruments.

Yes, despite fashion trends, the choice of ties and their colours can still say a lot about a person.

It has been said that a red tie combines well with almost any suit and shirt, while dark red or burgundy, with no pattern is a business classic and preferred by politicians.

Black ties are especially relevant at funerals and formal evening dinners while brown is considered casual and suited for weekends or informal gatherings. Green and navy blue ties are considered the perfect match for a classic white shirt.

In Japan, white ties are strictly for attendance at weddings and school graduations, and some say, exclusive for Yakuza members. White ties are also affiliated to the judicial system in Britain and in Sweden worn for funerals.

Those who wear multicoloured ties are said to be those who dare to stand out and accentuate individuality, mood and taste.

For those out buying their first work tie, bear in mind that the basic characteristics of a tie, the environment that it will be worn in and even the quality of the fabric can say a lot about the wearer’s personality, professionalism and sense of style.