Why the tie ?

Why the tie

Why does the tie leave people in so many knots, figuratively and metaphorically ?


They refuse to take a person’s status seriously, if he is not wearing a tie. The list of followers ranges from Winston Churchill and James Bond with the propah black blow-ties, to Donald Trump with his elegant pink versions.


Mark Zuckerberg has been compared to ‘a college student, not seeking to impress a girl’. President Barrack Obama has been condemned as ‘ being incapable of choosing a tie, like many other decisions’.

There are many more in the business and professional  world, who see it as a symbol of submission and slavery, being a ‘noose around the neck’ (aka Richard Branson).

But, there they go ……. blazing trails of success, and ignoring dress codes.

I like to imagine a feminist  fashion designer, who laid down the “black and white” dress code for men. Obviously, because the beautiful ladies were born  to shine, while the men served as ‘perfect counterfoils’ for them. And there was this rebellious, young man, wanting an identity beyond being a gallant escort to the lady, who stole a piece of colourful silk fabric and invented a new tale for his knighthood. This rectangular piece of fabric evolved from the cravat, to the necktie in its present-day avatar. The width, knots and patterns  have kept fluctuating, and been a subject of fashion research for several decades. Women do flirt with this piece for a while, but quickly move on to their own varied styles. Interesting ?

The origin of the tie

From 1800 to 1860, this accessory was worn in the form of a cravat or bandana. Tying it in different ways was an art form.  The bow-tie, scarf and neckerchief versions were invented in 1860. The necktie in its present version has been around  for almost a century, since 1920.

ascot tie  jabot cravatBow tieslow contrast tie

But, why the tie ? The rectangular or tubular piece of fabric, does not have an utilitarian aspect in male attire. Hence, it has to serve a ‘higher’ purpose than that.

  1. The Professional Identity

A gentleman in a suit and tie is seen as a person, who has reached a certain level of success in his professional field. The shirt and tie of a young man, also  displays his affiliation to a certain profession, club or corporate. Dress codes are viewed as a symbol of respect to the organization and employers.

  1. The Authoritative Edge

The tie creates an aura of authority. Wonder why the dress code was relaxed for the meeting between President Barrack Obama and Vladimir Putin ? The intention may have been to eliminate intimidation, and conduct the talks in a congenial atmosphere. The move drew a fair share of criticism from several sections, who saw it as a dilution of image of the President’s office.

Picture your boss take off his jacket, and loosen the tie after a meeting. He is sending out a message, that he is now, open to informal discussions.

  1. The Aesthetic Perspective

The suit has been voted as the most elegant attire for men,  equally by both the genders. The magic lies in the Jacket. The jacket creates a triangle ( in a buttoned jacket ) or a rectangle ( in an unbuttoned jacket ), close to the face, drawing attention upwards. The face is the most attractive part of the body.  This also moves the eye away, from other variations or imperfections in the figure.

The tie adds a dash of color and interest, to this triangle or rectangle, thus, keeping the eye fixated on this part. The pocket square, the tie and collar pins are all worn around this part of the outfit. The scarf in a woman’s outfit serves the same purpose.

  1. Color coordination

The color of the tie  either provides a contrast to the shirt, or the jacket. The colors in a well-chosen tie should bring all the colors of the outfit together, giving it a coordinated look.

It is the accent piece in the entire outfit.

See the play of different elements in the pictures below, and notice where does your eye travel .

shirt and tie unbuttoned jacket without tie black tietie and pocket square contrast tie

  1. The Pattern Play

Classic patterns such as various kinds of stripes, plaids, paisleys, pin dots and polka dots are acceptable in formal  wear. Of these, the solids and stripes have an authoritative air, while the paisleys and polka dots indicate approachability. The nursery prints and human faces are best left for your get-togethers with bum-chums, or a kids’ birthday party.

  1. Beauty in Symmetry

Research has proved the attraction quotient of symmetry in a person’s appearance. The tie is a vertical strip in the centre, that creates symmetry.

If your facial features are perfectly symmetrical, try creating a slight imbalance with the pocket square. It creates interest in a quirky kind of way.

  1. Innovation

Innovation distinguishes a leader from a follower – Steve Jobs

Without tradition, art is a flock of sheep without a shepherd. Without innovation, it is a corpse – Winston Churchill.

The extra edge that you wish to add comes from innovation with this piece of art in your wardrobe.  The knot of the tie, the pattern, the structure can all be elements of added interest. Take your pick.

grey innovation innovative tiestriking tieblack bow

Is there an alternative to the tie ?

Yes. The button placket of the shirt will be the ground, for designer imagination to flourish. Buttons in a contrasting color, collar and plackets in a contrasting color, pin-tucks on both sides of the placket, ruched/ruffled/embroidered /hand-painted plackets for evening wear, can all create the same effect as that of the tie.

The libertarians can heave a sigh of relief.

The different types pf patterns and knots are beyond the scope of a blog. Those interested may refer to the following websites :




I enjoy writing on both internal and external aspects of the personality. Your engagement in the form of likes, comments or following will be encouraging.


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