“It's Christmas in heaven
The snow falls from the sky
But it's nice and warm, and everyone
Looks smart and wears a tie”
The previous blog on neutral and natural colours touched on the topic of capsule wardrobes.
Not all of your clothing can be tactically orientated. You will need some clothes for formal occasions and other instances where you have to “dress-up”.
As a change from the norm, and to compliment my other articles, I would like to offer some personal opinions, specifically on the topic of neck-ties.
It has been many decades since I have had to wear a tie for work. Tee-shirt and cargo trousers is a more usual look for me.
When I do have to smarten up, people are often surprised at how well I “scrub-up”.
I will admit part of this is probably shock, since they are used to me dressing otherwise. Being tall and with long legs also helps. I would like to think part of my successful transformation is attention to detail.
Half a dozen years of wearing school uniform taught me that wearing a tie does not automatically make you smart or presentable. Even if you are James Bond!
Let us start with a bad example. A still of Sean Connery as James Bond in “Diamonds Are Forever”.
• The one thing about this tie that I do not have a problem with is the colour.
Wearing a tie stylishly is about contrast. How well does your tie compliment or clash with the other garments you are wearing? In later scenes, Bond adds a cream-coloured jacket to this outfit and the pink looks really good with this.
In previous centuries pink was regarded as a strongly masculine colour. A confident man can wear pink and make it work for him. I imagine any woman that comments on Bond's tie colour opens herself to the full Bond charm and wit!
• The obvious flaw with this particular tie is that is looks too short and too wide. Bond looks like an infant dressed up for a wedding.
The Bondsuits website explains this look was deliberate, this being a fashion or trend of the time. This reminds us that style is something distinct from trends and fashion. Just because something is claimed to be fashionable or trendy does not mean it should be followed blindly. Have the confidence to reject what you dislike or what feels wrong.
• Ties work best if worn with a jacket, waistcoat or jumper. Bond is seen here without his jacket and the tie seems to just hang there, not sure what it is doing. Literally, “at a loose end!” If you really must wear a tie with just a shirt, try wearing it GI-tuck style.
• Notice how the tie is irregularly creased where it enters the knot? I recently learnt this is called a “dimple”. Much to my amazement, some people put this in deliberately! Ludicrously, it is even claimed to be elegant and stylish. In my opinion, it is not. The dimple makes the wearer look inexperienced and that they have poor attention to detail. It looks sloppy and slovenly. We may also add “affected” and “pretentious”.
If you cannot tie your tie without a dimple, try a different knot or different tie. Dimples are for bums and mugs.
Fashion follows blindly. Style selects and rejects what is stupid, looks bad or is impractical.
Another bad example. This time, the uniforms in the series “T. J. Hooker”. Not even a young Heather Locklear could swing this look.
• Primarily, the duty uniform of a police officer should not include a tie. Ties should only be worn for funerals, formal occasions and parades. To avoid a choking hazard most cops wear clip-on ties. Clip-on ties are the antithesis of style. All the arguments for wearing a clip-on are better arguments for not wearing a tie with the daily uniform.
• The tie is worn without a jacket or other outer garment. This looks sloppy and the bottom will dangle into wounds when giving first aid.
• Remember I told you the secret to a stylish tie is contrast? Virtually no contrast for a tie the same colour as the shirt.
• I am undecided on the pros and cons of women wearing ties. The tie tends to draw attention to the bust, which for a female police officer is probably not a good look.
US Army regulations in the 1930s and 40s were that the second button of the shirt was to be undone and the tie tucked into the space between the first and third shirt-buttons.
Civilians can experiment with tucking it lower.
The required knot specified in regulations was a four-in-hand. This is a slightly asymmetrical knot, so a tucked tie may sit differently depending on which side the fat part of the tie was when the knot was tied.
Another thing to experiment with! Or use a symmetrical knot such as the full-Windsor.
A bit of trivia: The four-in-hand knot is actually a buntline hitch. This, in turn, is a variant of a clove hitch. Remember this any time you need a reminder of how to tie a four-in-hand.
The Placket Stripe
Some police departments evidently think the centre of a shirt needs to be made more interesting. Officers in shirtsleeves are made to wear untucked ties.
A more practical alternative to a tie was used on the TV show “Space Precinct”.
As can be seen, the placket of the shirt has been made as a stripe of a contrasting colour.
It is rather surprising that the fashion, law enforcement and military world has not made greater use of this idea!
If you want to be minimalist, you probably only need two ties:
As I grow older, my list of friends decreases. Black ties are the ones that I have worn the most often in the past few decades.
You will be wearing your black tie for funerals, so it should be suitably sombre and conservative.
On an additional minimalist note. If you own only one suit, have it a dark colour such as charcoal or black. This will be suitable for funerals. With a different tie and accessories it can be used at weddings and most other occasions.
When wearing a suit, avoid putting you hands in the trouser pockets. This ruins the look you should be aiming for.
The burgundy tie is my go-to tie when I want to look good. Burgundy is a rich, dignified colour that goes well with a wide range of other colours.
A useful style rule of thumb: If your burgundy tie does not go with your shirt, change the shirt!
Given how useful and versatile a burgundy tie is, it is worth spending a little extra and getting one that you think looks really good.
If you wear a tie regularly, you may wish to add a few others to your wardrobe.
A dark blue or navy tie is a good solid choice, if not as snazzy as the burgundy.
Being neutral colours, grey and silver ties will go well with many other garments. A colleague of mine had a grey tie with needle-thin diagonal stripes of silver. It appeared to glitter in pubs with low lighting. I wish I had brought one back then.
A grey-blue, such as RAF-blue, is another useful neutral shade for a tie.
With bright or primary colours, exercise a bit of caution. Some politicians feel obligated to wear ties in their orange or red party colours. This often looks harsh.
While sand-colour is a useful neutral, most brown shades should be avoided for ties.
Patterns and Combinations
There are just too many ties in different patterns and colour combinations to deal with in any depth.
When in doubt, remember that subtle and understated is often the safer path.
Personally, I would to avoid horizontal lines and checks.
If you often appear on camera or video conference, bear in mind that some patterns will cause interference on the image.
Sadly, in many workplaces the tie is still the symbolic corporate dog-leash. Boldly coloured and jokey ties are often a token gesture of defiance while in actuality rigorously conforming.
Like a baseball cap worn backwards, the joke tie or similar is often a sartorial warning sign that the wearer is trying a little too hard.
If you have to wear a tie, make it work for you so that it actually does make you look smarter.
I have three white pocket squares. One has dark blue trim, one has black trim and one has burgundy.
I have one shirt that needs cufflinks. I have one pair of cufflinks, which match my best burgundy tie.
If you use a tie-clip, ensure that it is as wide as the tie at the level where it is worn. A paper-clip on the narrow end of the tie has a similar effect to a tie-clip.