The Tie as a Giant Arrow


Tie = Giant Arrow

When we run a presentation skills training event at New Tricks Training we are amazed at how much time is taken over the “Tie, or No Tie ” debate (considerably more time than the “Trousers, or No Trousers” debate, I can tell you.) The opinion as to whether you should, or shouldn’t (wear a tie – not trousers) is divided – probably 50:50. Even doesn’t join that particular debate.

A point we always make is that presenting is about “Distraction Management.” If your audience expects you to wear a tie – then do so! (This point clearly isn’t just confined to ties. You can substitute the word tie here with suit, jacket, skirt, trousers, etc.)

If your audience expect you to look smart then, if you don’t, they will be distracted – probably to the point of not listening at all. They will become fixated on the fact that you don’t look smart. I remember one presenter (a very senior manager of a bank’s Franchising outfit) not for what he spoke about but because, I noticed, he had on scruffy shoes that had huge holes in the sole. I was livid. Surely on his salary he can afford a decent pair of shoes? “Sorry, what was it you were  talking about?”

Leave it!

Of course you could argue that, “This is who I am and this is how I choose to dress,” that’s absolutely fine (I defend anybody’s right to wear what they want) but be prepared for an uphill battle to win over the audience. If you’re brilliant you can wear what you bloomin’ well like – look what Eddie Izzard gets away with.

There’s something that says that if you adopt a quirky dress-code then you’ll be remembered. That’s absolutely true – but be careful that you’re not known only for your whacky dress-sense.

Before you go on to give a presentation look yourself over in the mirror to check for malfunctions in the wardrobe department. If your flies are undone, or your skirt is tucked into your knickers, then it’s doubtful that anyone will pay much attention to what you’re saying. (If your tie is tucked in your knickers, you’ll really set tongues wagging.)

So, Gents, please make sure your tie is tied to the CORRECT LENGTH, and ladies you can get involved here by making sure the tie-wearing men in your life take heed. Whilst our friends at show you how to tie a Four-in-Hand or a proper Windsor knot they make no reference to the length of the tie.

You see, the tie is a giant arrow that points at one of the three B’s. Your Belly (yes, I know it’s a status symbol in some countries, but we don’t want to see it), your Buckle or your (and whilst it points at exactly what you’re thinking – we’re in polite company here so we’ll say…) Boots.

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For “Distraction Management” purposes it’s much better that the arrow stops at the buckle on your belt – it draws a line under it. Now you know this piece of presenting etiquette you’ll know it can take quite a few attempts to get it tied the right length – a major contributing factor as to why I personally fall into the “NO” camp –  the 50% of people who reckon it’s best NOT to wear a tie!

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9 Responses to “The Tie as a Giant Arrow”

  1. David Burn Says:

    At the risk of being laughed off the page I have to say that I was deeply disapointed not to see any mention at all, anywhere, of the wearing of bow ties. Surely their inherent flamboyance deserves some thoughtful reference. Or, it can be argued, that they form a useful ironic mid-point between the ridiculous appendage that is the dangling tie and the casual (if not slovenly) appearance of the gaping collar.

    However I am quite relaxed about your perceptive exclusion of any mention of the cravat. Maybe theatrical types could sport one with confidence but most gentlemen, chaps and even blokes surely only look absurd with their head poking out of an effloresence of Paisley’s finest.

    I look forward to your more thorough re-visiting of this fascinating topic. Not that I’m biased of course.


    • Ken Norman Says:

      The Bow Tie or Dickie Bow as it is oft referred, is only occasionally (but increasingly) seen on the speaker circuit. After years in the wilderness and having been consigned to formal occasions only, the Dickie is making a comeback. A great way of drawing attention to one’s self it is much easier to wear one than to carry a sign that says “Watch Out! I’m a bit of an eccentric.” Adopted by flamboyant, yet frustrated, dandies its reputation is somewhat tarnished and it therefore takes a braver (and ironically more Alpha) male than I to take to the podium to deliver a keynote address whilst sporting such attire.

      Here then are my top tips for speakers who insist on wearing the Dickie:

      – it should always be tied in a horizontal position
      – never wear a pre-tied Dickie Bow on an elasticated band
      – it should never be set to spin or flash during a presentation
      – wait for the gasps to abate and for the audience to settle down before speaking
      never explain why you came to wear Dickie Bows it undermines any claim to eccentricity.

      Thank you for drawing to my attention this omission from the above post. Of course there are others – you mention the cravat but there’s also – fishnet stockings, A-line skirts and V-neck sweaters to consider for future posts.

  2. Tim Says:

    Ah, the cravat. I actually own a couple of cravats one of which is, indeed, a rather charming shade of yellow enhanced by a joyous paisley pattern.

    I must agree with David about the unpleasantness of the open gaping collar. Unless the shirt is of exceptional quality, so that the collar stands correctly without its collar stud in place, the appearance can be very untidy. What is worse, this affectation can all too often allow the display of more chest hair than is decent or desirable.

    If one must omit the collar stud or top button (perhaps because of an excessively thick neck) then surely the cravat offers the perfect solution. It both conceals any unsightly neck wrinkles and body hair, whilst allowing the wearer the opportunity to display something of their personality in its colour and design.

    It must also be said that a cravat is very popular with the ladies. The legendary Leslie Phillips habitually wore one to great effect and a gentleman of my acquaintance, despite being well established in his sixth decade, is a renowned seducer of the fair sex almost certainly because of the cravats that he has worn on a daily basis throughout his life.

    It seems that if wearing a tie is the new not wearing a tie, then the bow tie and cravat may well be due for a resurgence.

  3. Ken Norman Says:

    Just found this very informative blog post about the cravat – it’s Tip Top.

  4. David Burn Says:

    Maybe I was too censorious in my earlier comment. It occurs to me that an oft-unsung benefit of wearing a tie is that other people can admire the different tide-marks of soup, tea and coffee etc indictaing how low the wearer has stooped when directly over a restoring or nourishing beverage.

    The upper reaches work in a somewhat similar way except that here the spatter of bird-dropping like smears show what more solid foodstuffs the less-than-fastidious wearer has been consuming. Reverting, if I may, to the quite exceptional advantages of the bow tie, this item is only ever likely to be besmirched with lipstick rather than food. And should any comestible fail to reach the required orifice intact the resulting stain will only mark the shirt which, of course, will be laundered after a single wearing in any case.

    (Could Jan Jack be prevailed upon to pen one of her inimitable ditties in honour of the bow tie?)

  5. Ken Norman Says:

    There once was a man named Richard Head
    Who to his friends was plain Dickie
    And one morning on arising from his bed
    Found tying his tie awfully tricky.

    He flung it aside and rummaged through drawers
    And on finding some of his wife’s frillies
    He knotted the knicks around his throat
    And stepped out despite looking silly.

    Young Dicky enjoyed the attention they drew
    As he strutted around London’s fair City
    And as a practicing barrister at law
    Found the comments and asides somewhat witty.

    And so Dickie’s Bow as it became known
    Was a sign of mad eccentricity
    And was adopted by other boring young men
    Seeking love, attention and pity.

  6. David McCarthy Says:

    Having read and considered all comments so far, I must commend the wearing of something around the neck (as opposed to nothing), but it must be tied or fastened correctly.

    I’m with Tim on the scruffiness of a man wearing a suit and shirt, but no tie – if you must wear a shirt without a tie (rightly considered casual attire), then for goodness sake don’t wear a business suit. In my humble opinion, not wearing a tie with a suit isn’t casual … it’s scruffy.

    How is it that leading business and political figures can appear on television with a badly knotted or skew-whiff tie? This is also scruffy, and my wife wouldn’t let me out of the house like that!

    If a tie isn’t properly tied or positioned, I think that person should just be throttled with it, and be done with it (and away with them).

    Not that I get hot under the collar about things like that!

  7. The A-F of Time Management « New Tricks Training’s Old Dog Blog Says:

    […] you’d like to see what we have to say about “Tie Management” then that’s another blog! LD_AddCustomAttr("AdOpt", "1"); […]

  8. Presenting is Distraction Management « New Tricks Training’s Old Dog Blog Says:

    […] clashing colours; flamboyant ties; trailing threads; ties tied to the wrong length (click here to find out the right length); frayed cuffs; dangly, jangly jewellery. In a similar vain […]

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