Beyond The Pale


A gentleman wakes on an average, overcast morning. He performs his toilet, selects a suit from his wardrobe and flicks through his shirts for a suitable choice. White is the colour of choice for our hypothetical gentleman, simply because it is the default of the masses; were he to select a French collared check shirt, he would have no relevance to the majority. Then he sets about choosing a tie. He opts for a pale yellow plain weave silk, completes a Windsor knot and then turns from his mirror toward the door.

What is wrong with this? Well, not a lot. Something which the masses would echo, en masse I have no doubt. However, when he catches a reflection of himself in a shop window on his way to the office, he notices something rather peculiar; he doesn’t appear to be wearing a tie at all.

His tie is so pale, that from a distance, and in low light, it simply merges with the white; this contrasts sharply with the darkness of his charcoal suit (again, the choice of the masses) and creates a rather odd separation of the ensemble; the suit and the shirt and tie are not in concert, indeed they are not even in the same society. This, I have noticed, is a common problem.

As a style touch, when shopping for neckwear a man should always know there is life beyond the pale.

Darken your tie

If a white shirt must be worn, darker ties will always look smarter than paler ties because they are more restrained, more ‘Monday morning.’ It is possible to pick up some very attractive and discreetly patterned darker ties that flatter not only the white shirt, but the charcoal suit it is worn with; the ensemble appears connected, sober and mature.

A little pattern

When wearing a plain shirt, a little pattern goes a long way as far as neckwear is concerned; don’t follow the politicians with their PR-friendly Lego ties, go for a polka dot, a club stripe, or a foulard.

Go shirt shopping

There is nothing wrong with pale ties. They are certainly brasher than darker ties, so you must be careful where and when you wear them but also, what shirt and suit you wear them with. A cornflower blue is a better companion for a yellow or a pink tie than a white, so stock up on some saturated shirts.

A warning about matching

Resist the urge to match the pocket square to the pale tie. This creates a ‘modern morning dress’ effect and destroys the seriousness of an ensemble; not ideal for client meetings where dignified concern is required. The tie shouts loudly enough on its own. Lower the volume by selecting a more subtle square.


  1. Gustave said:

    “something the masses would echo”…
    “the choice of the masses”…
    1) This kind of rhetoric about “the masses” has very embarrassing connotations.
    2) The masses do not wear, and probably do not care about, suits and formal shirts!

    August 18, 2010
  2. Gustave,

    I’d be interested to know what embarrassing connotations it has.

    Secondly, there are a considerable number of people who are required to wear suits and formal shirts in the city in which I work, and in countless cities around the world.

    Were you to group together all the suit and shirt-wearing workers on this planet, it may not constitute so gigantic a number as, say, the population of India but it would still represent a large enough group to merit being called a ‘mass.’

    August 19, 2010
  3. Derrik Ollar said:

    WIth fair skin and very dark hair, I found that my darker ties along with my dark hair framed my face handsomely. Thus, I gave all of my lighter ties to my 3 blond haired sons and have been all the better looking for doing so.

    August 19, 2010
  4. monoculus said:

    I cordially despise the vomitous style of wearing a dark suit and white shirt with a pale tie, a style that has become so predominant over the past few decades. It is particulary offensive when it involves a point collar and windsor knot thrown together.

    August 19, 2010
  5. Gustave said:

    Winston- Thanks for your reply and sorry it took me a while to see it. My contention is that a term such as “the masses” is so heavily loaded in Western culture that, even if the person using it has no reactionary leanings -which you might have anyway, but probably do not-, it will remind the reader of very, very unsavoury political views.
    As to your second point: you are perfectly right if, as in your comment, you use the term “a mass” (meaning nothing stronger than “a large number of people”). But in the body of your otherwise enjoyable article you speak of “the masses”, which is an altogether different thing. There might be a mass of people who wear a suit and tie to work, but they are not what we think of when we refer to “the masses”- in my opinion.

    August 21, 2010

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