When Joshua Blue, a vice principal at the Kennedy School in Hong Kong, hosts an assembly for his students, he wears a light violet-coloured pastel tie to give him an edge.
The bluish-purple tie is “colourful yet muted”, he said, which Blue believes keeps students from being as bored when listening. On the other hand, he avoids brighter purples and pinks when standing up in front of students.
“You don’t want so many bright colours that the kids will get distracted,” said Blue, 35.
It might sound a bit like hocus pocus, but experts say that no matter the audience — clients, staff or even children — picking the right tie colour can help get your message across.
“Colours give off very specific signals,” said David Zyla, New York-based author of Color Your Style. “The same suit can be transformed with different tie colours, each with a very different impact and message.”
Wondering what colour tie to wear to your next meeting? Here’s how to choose the perfect tie colour for every occasion:
All powerful reds
It’s not a coincidence that many politicians wear red-coloured ties with light shirts and darker suits.
“Red is the power tie,” said Mark Woodman, a trend analyst who studies colour in Laurel, Maryland, in the US. “There’s something about red that always comes back to strength and passion.”
But the tone of your reds matters, too. Darker reds, such as a burgundy, can help build trust, while lighter red and pink ties can be more of a statement about your personal style and be associated with creativity. In the last decade, a pink tie can sometimes signal “solidarity with women,” added Woodman.
When you are taking the lead on a project or want to convey a sense of ambition, consider a bold shiny red. A matte or printed red tie can be a more subtle way to convey power.
Ross Znavor, an executive in financial services in New York, wears purple ties rather than red to business meetings because the colour shows a bit of self-confidence and helps him create lasting first impressions.
Wearing a tie in a hue that’s less traditional shows clients, he is “comfortable in my own skin and someone with whom you want to build a relationship”, he said.
Lindsay said purple, traditionally a sign of royalty and wealth, is becoming more acceptable in the workplace.
“Men are wearing shades of lighter purple shirts and darker purple ties,” she said. Wear one of these shades if you want to stand out from the crowd with a slightly bolder look that’s not distracting.
While you might not wear them to executive meetings on a regular basis, wearing black ties to a cocktail party or even an upscale dinner gives off a sophisticated vibe, said Zyla.
But beware: the formal black colour can feel arrogant or overdressed in many situations. “Avoid it if being one of the ‘boys’ at work is necessary as you climb up the ladder,” Zyla said.
It’s often smarter to stick to grey shades, added Woodman. A grey tie can help give you a more sophisticated look without seeming pretentious, said Woodman.
“Grey is kind of edgy and it can look very modern,” he said. To pull it off, pair it with a lighter, pastel-coluored shirt. Look for lighter grey shades and shiny finish for a more polished look.
Shades of the garden
Green can signal several things, from rebirth to the colour of money in some countries. But, surprisingly, it can be too loud for the workplace.
“Do you want to be remembered for the tie or who you are as an individual?,” Woodman asked. Choosing the right green can be tough. A bright green is often too distracting, and it can also be difficult to find matching suits or shirts, he added. Still, a light green tie with a subtle print can pair well with a neutral-coloured shirt.
Yellow is a traditional tie colour in countries, including England, which can signal assuredness, along with radiance and vitality, he said.
Yellow ties can make you more approachable to colleagues because it’s a vibrant colour that’s symbolic of the sun. For many, wearing a yellow tie, “can show optimism and a positive outlook on life,” added Eve Roth Lindsay, an image consultant in Hong Kong.
Be careful of committing cultural faux pas when it comes to colour. For example, a yellow tie in India can signal that someone is a merchant, said Zyla. Wearing a white tie in China signals a period of mourning.
Fifty shades of… blue
Afraid of sending the wrong message with your tie colour? Consider blue as the all-purpose tie hue.
Blue ties are a good investment because the colour reminds people of the sky and ocean, which has a calming effect, said Lindsay.
“Blue is the safest colour to wear,” she said.
Patterned blue ties tend to give off a classic professional feel and can be worn in a global business environment without sending the wrong message. A subtle blue can be “soft and introspective” while a cobalt or royal blue can help you stand out just the right amount, she said. “Dark blues are often reminiscent of well-respected pilot uniforms. Navy blue is a trusted colour and gives us confidence,” Lindsay said.
Be one with nature
“A more relaxed wardrobe of friendlier colours such as tan, brown, earthy colours, salmon and yellow works for people dealing with other people such as sales, teachers and the service industry,” said Lindsay.
Make sure the brown tie does not look too plain, because it can signal a dull personality. A beige tie can sometimes come across as too relaxed, she said. Avoid pairing earth tone hues with similarly coloured shirts. And if you are eager for a promotion and want to stand out in the workplace, skip these colours altogether.