The traditional necktie evolved from the older cravat during the Industrial Revolution. At that time, men were looking for a cravat replacement that was easier to tie, less likely to come untied and more able to withstand the rigors of the industrial environment without looking worn and ratty. Ties are still in vogue today, which brings us to the topic of this post: tie color. Believe it or not, the color of your tie says something about you.
Different colors are believed to have different psychological effects on those who observe them. For example, the color red is often associated with power and aggression. Purple is a color associated with royalty. The prevailing theory is that when we see colors, we react in certain ways.
As you read this post, bear in mind that the psychology of color is not settled science. Our culture tends to associate certain emotional responses with specific colors. But it’s not cut-and-dried. People may perceive color differently. Moreover, each person has his or her preferences. The combination of both factors suggests that a given color doesn’t always say the same thing about every person, although it is the case more often than we realize.
Most other posts discussing tie colors start with red. We will start with black. Black ties are generally reserved for the most formal of occasions. They are commonly seen at weddings, funerals, graduation ceremonies, retirement dinners and the like. Black evokes a sense of sobriety and seriousness.
Wearing a black tie at anything other than a formal event could be considered pretentious. You could be viewed as a person who thinks very highly of himself. You could also be seen as someone who doesn’t pay attention to fashion trends. The one exception here is wearing a black tie with a black suit and white shirt. This is a completely acceptable look, even for informal occasions.
Gray is a more subtle cousin of black. It still denotes sobriety, but not pretension and formality. This is why gray is an oft recommended color for business presentations, sales meetings and meetings with your attorney or doctor. These days, gray is also considered cool and stylish.
You might be the ideal candidate for gray ties if you like modern and sophisticated design. Is your home decorated in different shades of grays and whites? Are you a big fan of neutral color schemes featuring gray as the base? If so, a gray tie might be exactly what you need to complete your ensemble.
The one downside to gray is that it doesn’t go with just anything. Gray ties work very well with gray, blue and black suits. But you really need to match shades. A light gray suit with a dark gray tie will probably look mismatched to most people. This could give others the impression that you either don’t have a lot of ties or you aren’t sure how to pair different shades.
Blue ties say different things based on their shades. For example, police officers and politicians tend to prefer darker shades. A nice navy blue speaks of authority. It evokes a certain sense of seriousness and sobriety. On the other hand, lighter shades of blue seem to be more approachable.
A light blue tie says you are stable and intelligent. It says that you have confidence in yourself and what you do, and that you can be trusted as well. Blue is believed to be an especially attractive color because it reminds people of either the ocean or sky. Science hasn’t proven whether or not that’s true.
At any rate, blue is considered one of the safest colors for neckties. Blue offers one of the widest varieties of shades and tones. It works quite well with most modern business suits in black, gray and blue. You can even get away with some shades of blue paired with tweed.
Green is a color often associated with vitality and self-assurance. It is a very confident color. And in some countries, like the UK for example, green is a fairly common tie color. We don’t see it much in the U.S. Perhaps that’s because it’s difficult to pair a green tie with just any suit.
If you can pull green off, you’re likely to give people the impression that you are high-energy and full of life. You are more likely to evoke smiles with green than black. However, don’t expect others to take your business presentations seriously if you’re wearing a royal blue suit with a bright green tie.
When jackets aren’t involved, green ties are perfectly appropriate with neutral shirts. Perhaps you work on the sales floor of a local clothing boutique that doesn’t require a jacket. Pairing a green tie with a white or gray shirt would work very well. Even green with black could be exciting.
Yellow is often associated with the sun. As such, it’s considered just as approachable as green. Wearing a yellow tie tells people that you are alive and vibrant, and that you enjoy life for its simple pleasures. In many cultures, yellow is a color of optimism and positivity.
Yellow ties work very well with earth tones. Perhaps you’re wearing brown slacks and a tweed jacket. Throw on a white shirt with a yellow tie and you’re in business. Yellow can work with black and dark blue suits, just as long as the shade isn’t too bright. Remember that you want to be approachable rather than pretentious.
As previously mentioned, purple is a color often associated with royalty. As such, a purple tie tells people that you are confident in yourself. It also suggests you possess class and dignity. These are important traits for creating a good first impression. They are important for making connections you hope will evolve into long-term relationships.
Purple is a color that can get you noticed without being as aggressive as red. Some politicians and businessmen prefer purple for that very reason. They want to be remembered. They just don’t want the impression people have of them to be one of high-powered dominance.
That brings us to the classic red tie. Red is considered a power color in the business world. It’s no surprise that business executives and politicians like to sport red every now and again. Red says you mean business. It says you won’t be manipulated or led astray. It can also convey that you have a dominant personality.
The nice thing about red is its fashion sense. Modern business suits are generally black, gray or blue. Red works with all of them. A bright red tie paired with a black suit and white shirt stands out nicely. It gets your message across at first glance.
A lighter shade of red with a gray suit still sticks out, but it doesn’t contrast so distinctly with the gray that you are only remembered for your tie. The only time red gets dicey is when you pair it with blue. Red ties only work with royal or navy blue. They don’t work with lighter shades.
Orange is to red what gray is to black. It can be more subtle than red and not quite as aggressive. An orange tie says you know what you want but you’re not willing to run people over to get it. Moreover, orange tells people that you are willing to think outside the box. You are willing to try colors that don’t necessarily get a lot of play in professional settings.
Orange ties work best when paired with white shirts. You can get away with gray or black just so long as the shade of your tie isn’t too bright. Do not pair an orange tie with a blue or brown suit. The contrast in colors will be too much. Indeed, you will look more like the head of your local booster club.
White is a lot like black in the sense that its uses are limited. White is a color that evokes calm, security, and tranquility. It also denotes wealth in some cultures. Wearing a white tie says that you are serious about your wardrobe. It also says that you are careful and calculating.
Unlike black, white is not limited to formal occasions. But it is limited seasonally. Just like women are advised to not wear white dresses during the winter months, men should not wear white ties. White is more of a spring and summer color. Most men take white ties out of the equation by virtue of the fact that their dress shirts are white and offer no contrast.
Teal is not the most popular color for neckties, but it is out there. Teal is an unusual color that gets noticed for its uniqueness without necessarily begging for everyone’s attention. As such, a teal tie tells people that you are a unique personality. It says that you are comfortable in your own skin but not looking for accolades.
Lighter shades of teal work especially well with black and gray suits. Darker shades, closer to blue, are more suited for blue suits. The key to making teal ties work is choosing the right shirt. If you’re going to go with teal, you have to consider all three elements simultaneously: suit, shirt and tie.
Brown is another color we don’t see very often in neckties these days. It used to be quite popular back in the 1960s and 70s, when earth tone suits were the norm. It’s less popular today due to our preference for black, blue and gray suits.
A brown tie suggests you are conservative and reserved. It denotes a certain amount of intellectualism and pragmatism in a shared space. Brown says that you are down to earth and practical. You don’t need flash or bling to be comfortable with who you are.
Who knew the color of a necktie said so many things? That’s the nature of fashion. Certain colors say certain things to certain groups of people. Red says power and aggression. Black says formality and sobriety. It’s all about how we perceive color and its place in our world. Remember that next time you’re standing in front of the closet wondering which tie to pick. Choose the tie that sends the right message for the coming occasion.