Look into their ties

Times Staff Writer

There has been little dissent in Boston: Blue is the consensus color for neckties, the new power hue. From Bill Clinton commanding the podium Monday night wearing a swath of shimmering aquamarine around his neck to Patrick Buchanan sniping on the sidelines Tuesday in a patterned sapphire tie, shades of blue have been the most visible choice, across the political spectrum. On the campaign trail, candidates frequently go tieless, but blue-tinted formality has reigned at the convention this week.

The red power tie has had its day, and regularly returns. But red has always been a Donald Trump favorite, and who’d want to look like him? Early in his presidency, George W. Bush swerved from the red column to the blue. He wore a blue tie to deliver his inaugural address, and for every major speech since, except when he declared war with Iraq. On that occasion, he chose red.

“Blue is now the color of confidence and dependability,” says Laurie Nenortas, a trial consultant with Courtroom Sciences Inc., a litigation research and consulting firm based in Dallas. “Since it’s the opposite of screaming red, blue gives the appearance that the person speaking knows what they’re talking about.”

In a book about his career as a successful trial lawyer, co-written by John Auchard, vice presidential nominee John Edwards revealed that he always wore blue ties when appearing before a jury, because he learned that women found the color friendly and attractive. He was wearing a royal blue tie when he arrived at Logan Airport on Tuesday night and still had it on when his mike check was televised late in the evening.


Gayle Hearde, a CSI consultant with a doctorate in human communication, says, “Blue sends a nonverbal message of confidence and coolness under fire. Deeper tones of blue are more powerful. A pale shade can convey wimpy and washed-out.”

Bill Clinton’s blue eyes overcame any intimations of wimpiness that his choice of neckwear might have suggested. “Think of the color of his eyes,” Nenortas says. “If a tie reflects the color of his eyes, that would make it work.” Clinton wears a cerulean blue tie in his official presidential portrait, unveiled last month.

In his new role as bestselling author, Clinton has crisscrossed the country and traveled to England on a book tour, so it isn’t surprising that the tie he wore in Boston was purchased at an airport tie store. Despite its mundane origins, its color spoke of vacations on a romantic island, of balmy Miami evenings.

According to Pantone Inc., a marketing and consulting company that advises designers, manufacturers and advertisers on color communication, “the psychological association of color is often more meaningful than the visual experience. Red has been shown to stimulate the senses and raise the blood pressure, while blue has the opposite effect and calms the mind. While a light blue-green appears to be tranquil, wet and cool, a brilliant turquoise, often associated with a lush, tropical ocean setting, will be more exciting to the eye.”


It’s the land of the free when it comes to wardrobe at the DNC. Speakers and performers choose their own outfits, but the convention’s official wardrobe stylist, Elizabeth Shein, has veto power. A costume designer based in New York who regularly works on commercial shoots and televised events like the Kennedy Center Honors, she’s been on duty backstage this week, with two assistants, a sewing machine, spare buttons, irons and clothing steamers, ready to make instant repairs.

“Blue is probably the No. 1 color tie that men wear,” she says. “It’s a versatile color, a four-season color. It goes with everything, so it’s definitely the tie color of choice. Blue isn’t just blue anymore, it’s a range from aquas to navy. A blue tie, depending on the shade, connotes a certain level of sophistication. It’s traditional, but it doesn’t make the person look traditional. It’s classic but versatile. It’s a smart choice. All men probably have blue ties. It’s one of the building blocks of a man’s wardrobe.”

It’s Shein’s job to watch out for any TV faux pas, a pattern that will strobe or be otherwise distracting on camera, for example. “I haven’t had one fashion problem since I’ve been here,” Shein says. “Everyone has come in looking fantastic. We have a very stylish group here.”

That would include Chris Heinz, who wore diagonal blue stripes, and Howard Dean, whose tie was the deep blue of the Vermont night sky. Ron Reagan addressed the convention in midnight blue, and Barack Obama chose a celestial blue that’s much better for a tie than a tuxedo. Missouri Rep. Dick Gephardt picked a patriotic solid blue, and Sen. Jon Corzine of New Jersey rallied the delegates in patterned indigo. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts appeared daytime casual in a yellow tie but dressed up later and tied on a navy print.


The press hasn’t been immune to the wave of blue. ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, CNN’s Jeff Greenfield and Fox’s Chris Wallace have worn blue ties at least once. MSNBC’s Lester Holt manned the anchor desk in patterned periwinkle Wednesday.

But not everyone got the blue tie memo. Jimmy Carter, Al Gore and Al Sharpton wore shades of red. Jerry Springer held a news conference wearing a tie as purple as Barney. And for his televised address Wednesday night, Edwards wore a plain red tie.