Necktie Colours – Does It Really Matter?

ties 2In contemporary society it is likely that men are required to wear a necktie as part of professional or festive attire. The tie is often very noticeable as professional suits have a tendency to have a dark solid colour.  Considering the tie colour there is no choice that is considered totally wrong, but there is a common notion of what is appropriate according to the situation.

The tradition of wearing neckties has been around for many centuries, from the ancient China where neckerchiefs were worn 200 B.C to the Roman Empire where the men wore an ancient version of the four-in-hand knot. Archaeologists have even discovered that a primitive version necktie was worn in ancient Egyptian.

It was during the war between Croatia and Turkey in 1660 the neckties achieved position as decorative accessories for the “modern gentleman”.  Croatian soldiers travelling to Paris to celebrate the Croatian victory wore colourful neckerchiefs, a trend the French king Luis XIV found irresistible. As the tie-fashion was adopted by the king the style was spread throughout Europe like wildfire and British aristocrats took on the trend and began wearing neckerchiefs as part of their casual attire. In the upcoming years, the neckties varied in fabrics, colours and rigidity. In 1875 British lords began to standardise the terms for necktie shapes, sizes and fabrics. This was the birth of the modern tie. So the neckties that are worn by men in western-civilisation today carry strong similarities to those worn by British aristocrats in the 17th century.

When considering a tie, you should see the word “tie” as in “tie the outfit together”. The tie often is used to highlight a darker suit and it is important that the tie does not appear as out-of-place or an element that disrupts the harmony and balance created by the suit. Today the majority of neckties are about 130 cm long and the widest point is rarely wider than 10 cm. Even though the necktie sizes and shapes are limited, it is the most versatile part of professional and festive attire for men. You can find ties in any colour, pattern or texture imaginable and after all it is all up to your personal preferences.  A well-chosen necktie in combination with a good-looking suit gives an outfit that literally exudes professionalism and buoyancy. This article will have a brief look at how to choose the right tie colour for you.

White shirt

A plain white shirt opens for a vast array of different tie colour combinations to choose from, but the most common colours are blue, navy blue, red, burgundy and a diverse selection of lighter colours. If you are unsure about the right tie colour for the occasion, there is one basic rule – you cannot go wrong with blue or red. Look at presidents and statesmen around the world. From President Barack Obama and President George Abela to British Prime Minister David Cameron – they all tend to wear ties in either solid-red or solid-blue on a frequent basis. The two latter individuals have also been seen wearing yellow and purple ties at several occasions.

Striped ties match very well with a white shirt, but you should be aware that in certain some such as the United Kingdom, some tie colour combinations shows membership or affiliations to certain groups such as universities and unions.

Patterned ties may function as a great way of highlighting a relatively monotonous attire, but beware – the tie is not suppose to be a novelty garment. I would strongly recommend that if you use neckties at work, refrain from using ties with novelty-patterns or an extravagant textures or fabrics.

Coloured shirt

As festive attire many men tend to wear a colourful shirt. When wearing a colourful shirt the tie should be a contrast to the shirt, but still matching. You should avoid combinations with colourful patterned ties and combinations where shirt and tie carries a very similar colour such as pink shirt and red tie.

If you choose to wear a striped shirt it should be combined with a solid-coloured tie matching the less dominant shirt colour. For instance: a white shirt with thin red stripes and a red necktie.  If your tie has a lot of pattern you should wear a shirt with a solid neutral colour.

If your shirt has a more aggressive and noticeable colour such as red you should choose a darker tie that matches the suit in order to decrease the shirt’s highlighting effect.


Today the most popular version of the suit is the two-piece single-breasted lounge suit which gained global popularity in the first decade of the 21st century. Choosing a suit is a different story but you will see that single-breasted suits (the type of suits that have only one string of buttons) come with different amount of buttons. For a business environment I would recommend to have a suit with less than four buttons. Single-breasted suits with more than three buttons are basically only worn by celebrities and people wanting to make a shameless fashion statement. So if you want to look professional, stick to wearing a solid-coloured suit with no more than three buttons. As long as you wear one of these standards there will be no difficulties in matching your outfit to any necktie.

A patterned multicoloured suit such as a black suit with grey vertical stripes will make necktie-matching more difficult. A patterned tie in combination with a multicoloured suit with an untraditional texture or fabric will have a “suit wearing you” effect and it will probably be a clothing faux pas in a business environment.

If you want to be a “fashion rebel” in a business environment I would recommend a dark single-breasted suit with traditional fabrics and a more “rebellious” necktie.

Harmony and balance

The final conclusion is that there are two keywords when it comes to choosing a tie colour – harmony and balance. Those are the major factors when you are trying out unexplored colour-combinations. When in doubt, choose a solid-red or solid-blue tie to avoid an unintended clothing faux pas or uncomfortable situations.

Some people even say that the tie accentuates the personality of the bearer, so it is all up to you how you want to be portrayed. A humourous individualist with a necktie patterned with yellow ducks or a black suit/red tie conservative person with the aim to exude certain importance. It is all up to you. The combinations of suits, shirts and ties are endless, but remember that your necktie should “tie-the-outfit-together” and assist you in your aim to look professional and elegant.

Whether you are in-between jobs, or are to attend an important meeting remember that ‘Clothes don’t make the man, but clothes have got many a man a good job.’ ~ H.H. Vreeland

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