Business Tie Selection

The men's tie market is more like a minefield. What to purchase? The wrong necktie worn damages (usually quietly) the wearer's image, especially at work. When and how to wear a tie is based on workplace expectations and what's expected for the particular job level (not above or below it). Here are guidelines that will apply to most places of business where ties are required at least sometimes.

Patterns

Solid
- okay for virtually all situations

Striped
- stripes needed throughout the tie
- horizontal stripes too casual
- in the UK, some versions associated with clubs (therefore risky at work)
- three colors the usual maximum, two bright colors (orange with yellow) might be too much

Dot
- dot-nots (for example, large size, multiple bright colors)

Plaid
- rather casual and sometimes difficult to coordinate with dress shirts
- reddish too Tartan for almost any business
- brown, wooly version too "earthy" for most workplaces

Floral
- not for interviews
- often too "loud" for other work-related situations and excessive if featuring large, easy-to-see flowers

Paisley
- not usually seen on junior employees

Patterns to avoid
- "novelty," "fun," "geometric," "abstract," etc. not for business
- pattern not of a well-known type usually not okay at work
- no crests or emblems
- not a pattern that draws much attention to itself, nothing "weird" or "loud"

Grid
- diamond-like pattern, often too strange-looking
- should have few colors

Colors (as solids or virtual solids)

Brown
- dark brown is too "earthy" for some business

Blue
- navy a basic, almost required necktie color
- works well with most blue eyes

Red
- usually not okay with red hair or reddish skin

Pink
- has various associations that might not be right for business

Green
- dull often better than bright

Gray
- classic in medium or dark gray

Purple
- rather showy for many work environments

Yellow
- dull and not light-colored work-appropriate, if the wearer's skin is not particularly yellow

Orange
- rarely okay for conservative business

Non-business colors
- light colors are summery (not conservative business) or ceremonial (white and light gray/silver, especially if shiny)
- ties containing more than a little black not okay in most businesses

Fabrics

Silk
- the standard for business, but not the satin or washable kind

Satin
- too shiny for most work situations

Cotton
- probably okay in warm months if blended with silk
- the seersucker version acceptable only for the Southern gentleman's business

Linen
- probably okay in warm months if blended with silk

Wool
- not for interviews, usually fine in cold weather
- 100% version possibly out of place on younger employees

Cashmere
- not for interviews, only an option in cold weather
- the 100% version safer on older, successful people

Other Fabrics
- no leather or polyester, caution with any other fabrics, probably only blends of them with fabrics above

Miscellaneous
- it is best if a solid color tie not match the suit or jacket's color
- knit ties (typically square-ended) are not for standard interviews or very conservative workplaces
- skinny ties (less than 3 inches wide) shout "I'm young," which usually is bad for business
- bow ties are sometimes okay for business in the American South and rarely elsewhere
- a job involving wearing a tie about 5 days a week requires at least a dozen ties (for any season), some solid and some patterned, of several different colors (unless the business is ceremony-related)
- the same tie should not be worn two days in a row or several days a week

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