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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 May, 2005, 10:41 GMT 11:41 UK
What your tie says about you
By Tom Geoghegan
BBC News Magazine

Liam Fox
The ties are off...
You can't just show you're modern-minded by not wearing a tie, says one politician. But in workplaces all over the country, people's neckwear is saying something, say experts. So what's the message?

A string of senior Conservatives have been putting their necks out on television talk shows to push their leadership credentials. And their naked ambition clearly irked Tim Yeo, a former shadow minister, who said: "The idea that you are a moderniser just because you can appear on television without a tie is wrong."

It wasn't just the Conservatives who have got hot under the collar. Tony Blair also let loose on occasion while on the campaign trail. And in business, showbusiness, sport, and offices all over the country, the politics of neckwear have never seemed more complicated.

So what are the subliminal messages emitted from the neck? Fashion pundits explain.

FAT TIE - SELF-IMPORTANT

As seen on: Gianluca Vialli, Sam Allardyce, Italians, City whizzkids.

Fat is no longer phat.

Gianluca Vialli
Italian or self-confident? Both
Ties are either fat or thin, says Charlie Porter, associate editor of GQ. And right now, he says, they're not fat. "At the moment, ties are skinny or not worn at all."

"But fat is quite a statement and it's showy and self-confident. You could say it's the same as women's hemlines rising meaning that it's good for business. When ties are fat, business is good, but right now they're skinny."

The Windsor, as it's also known, could mean a City job, says designer Marc Wallace, because fat ties are more of a fashion there.

"This is the 'Look at me tie'", says a Burton spokeswoman. "Probably silk and quite expensive as the City's a place where men find it hard to portray their individual identity due to the stiff constraints placed on work wear."

SKINNY - RETRO COOL

Franz Ferdinand
Skinny and happening
As seen on: Franz Ferdinand, anyone on Channel 4's Popworld.

Plenty of bands are wearing very skinny ties and it's the look of the Dior catwalk, says Catherine Hayward, fashion director at Esquire. "It's had a huge impact on younger men and boys who otherwise might not wear a tie at all. It's become quite cool, even with jeans and trainers."

In the late 70s and early 80s it was also apparent in bands like Kraftwerk.

MEDIUM - RESPONSIBLE

Blair and Howard's ties
Blair and Howard: Middle ground
As seen on: Any politician.

The traditional four-in-one knot.

"A man in a responsible job like banking or politics has to wear it," says Ms Hayward. "You're being seen and you have to look smart."

OPEN NECK - CREATIVE

As seen on: Liam Fox, Tony Blair, more and more businessman, all Dyson staff.

David Ginola and Ben Elton on Parkinson
Ginola and Elton flaunt their creativity
It's less of a statement than it used to be.

"This is entirely generational, says Charlie Porter. "Most 21-something men work in an industry where they don't need to wear a tie. Dress Down Friday is now the whole week, especially in creative or internet entrepreneur industries."

"Lazy people like me, who can't be bothered to put on a tie in the morning," says Jeffrey Doltis of Savile Row, although he adds a smart suit with an open-necked shirt sitting "modestly" on the neck is a great look.

BOW TIE - FLAMBOYANT

As seen on: Sir Robin Day, Heinz Wolff.

BBC broadcaster Robin Day
Big characters carry it off
Fine at a dinner and dance, says Ken Lock of Toye, Kenning and Spencer. "But for the rest of the time, I'd say they want to be noticed, because it's so unusual. They tend to be more flamboyant, like Robin Day. Or they may feel they're more up-market."

Ms Hayward is a big fan if it's part of a black tie outfit. If not, you have to be a big character or it looks like you're trying too hard.

But Mr Porter has one word - ridiculous.

CRAVAT - FASHIONISTA

Alan Partridge
Long before Jude Law donned the neckerchief...
As seen on: Robbie Williams, Jude Law, Martin Freeman.

"Cravats and neckerchiefs have been on the catwalks for a couple of seasons and they're coming to the fore at the moment," says Mr Porter. "There's a preppy school thing happening."The neckerchief is not as flowery so easier to carry off.

"It used to be stuffy but it's become a bit more fashionable now, since Jude Law wore his pink, spotted scarf," says Ms Hayward.

"This is Alan Partridge," says a Burton spokeswoman. "Bit of a maverick and is willing to drive 35mph on motorway when in a hurry."

TOP BUTTON DONE UP - RARE

David Hasselhoff
Buttoned up
As seen on: David Hasselhoff, Alan Hansen (in the past).

This is weird, says Charlie Porter. "Some men get neck rash from wearing a tie, so you need to open a shirt up. I don't know who would want to do this but it's slightly repressive."

Needs to be a skinny-fit shirt or with button-down collars to work, says Ms Hayward.

BUTTONS UNDONE - ONLY ON THE MED

Silvio Berlusconi
One for the sun

As seen on: David Hasselhoff, Silvio Berlusconi

"It's OK if it's a polo shirt or it's summer but right now in the UK, no, it's too cold," says Mr Porter. "People think 'Oh that's Mediterranean, but it's about what works in Britain."

Never, unless you're tanned and on a yacht in San Tropez, says Ms Hayward.


Over to you. Send us pictures of necks around your office - tied, half-mast, or open-necked.




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