Richard Branson on Office Ties and the Company Dress Code |

29 05 2012

I like Sir Richard. I really do.

I like the way he started business in a phone booth (to get a free phone number) selling vinyl records. I like the way he made a brand name worth more than any product associated with it. I like the way he had a line of condoms called Virgin Mates. I like the way he took on the big guys like BA, and redefined whole markets.

But I was a little saddened to read this article. In it, he talks of his own self-confidence at not wearing a tie in the massed presence of others who were. Kudos. No problem with that. Anyone who’s seen the types of socks I wear could never believe I thought otherwise when it comes to expressing individuality.

But it was his assumption that others could not like to wear ties that bothers me. Others that choose to be as individual as he by wearing a tie when nobody else is. Is this invalid just because he doesn’t like ties?

Je pense pas, mes amis!!

And just for the record, does anyone have a photo of his socks?


Richard Branson on Office Ties and the Company Dress Code |


20 12 2011

I love rules. Rules and convention. Without rules and convention you’d not be able to be a subversive. There’d be no point really. Once there are clear rules, boundaries and lines though, one can start bending them, stepping over them and generally crossing them. Much more fun.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have been offered a decent education in my youth, and so have managed to hold down what is euphemistically called a “professional position” in later life. School uniform prepared me for the adult convention in such circles of wearing a dress shirt and tie. It also taught me how to not quite follow the rules in such sartorial games. Being quite a strict school, the rule bending was relatively minor. Top button left undone, wearing the tie “backwards” so that the skinny bit was at the front (I note with some amusement that skinny ties are coming back in fashion), that sort of thing.

My first job had equally strict dress code, and a suit and tie was expected. I maintained the rule bending by wearing a V-neck jumper instead of a jacket, but complied with the tie rule. My rebellion was more around what was ON the tie. This was the mid 80’s. Say no more. Duran Duran, Simple Minds, U2. New Romantics. I seem to recall a whole collection of skinny leather ties too. Heavenly scent. I could have been in the Pretenders or Blondie, no problem. Well – except for the complete lack of musical talent obviously…

Anyway, it was all about how to get as close to not wearing a boring old business suit and tie as possible while not being scruffy enough to be worth anyone’s trouble to correct. Infantile is a word often used in sentences describing me, by the way.

So – wind on the clock a few decades and I find myself in BC where “smart casual” is de rigeur. Perfect, you might think. Absolutely no expectation of wearing a tie. So guess what? Naturally I am now a religious wearer of formal attire including tie. I delighted in being the only person in the entire company wearing a tie, in fact. Later, I was pleased to be joined by another tie-wearer, who I have to say does it with so much more class than I. He’s a lot younger and plainly didn’t have 20-odd years of trying NOT to wear one behind him. Practice that is hard to unlearn.

But then (and this is the point of the posting), I learned something.

Striped ties are like cars. Really. There’s left hand drive and right hand drive ones! Personally I go for dodos or other oddities, but if you’re into stripes, there’s actually a handedness. Honest guv – I shit you not.

Dodo Tie

English Heritage: Dodo Tie

This from the hallowed pages of Wikipedia:

“The most common pattern for such ties in the UK and most of Europe consists of diagonal stripes of alternating colours running down the tie from the wearer’s left.

… Typically, American striped ties have the stripes running downward from the wearer’s right (the opposite of the European style). However, when Americans wear striped ties as a sign of membership, the European stripe style may be used.”

So basically the stripes on a tie follow the seat belt of the front passenger in a car. Left down to right in the UK, and right down to left in the US.

Feeling educated now? Get a tie! They really are quite versatile. You can use them to staunch flowing blood, support a broken arm, replace a broken fan belt, restrain an errant hound, obviously hold your collar in check and if your little girl likes dress up, stand in as a feather boa.