This was something I originally wrote for All The Rage magazine. Since writing it, I have bought a few more ties, meaning all of the statistics are now inaccurate, and the whole thing is even more worthless than before.
For a long time, I have wanted to catalogue my collection of ties. It seemed like the right thing to do. It is only now that I have got round to realising this dream.1
There are many ways in which ties can be arranged, many factors which could be considered. Some of these are entirely objective and some entirely subjective. Some would be useful, others not so much. Putting together the tie catalogue meant assessing these various factors and deciding which should be considered and, of these, which should be given priority. For example, I could consider the age of each tie (or at least how long it has been since I acquired the tie – many have come from charity shops or vintage boutiques and it would be difficult to date them accurately). While this age-based system may be of some academic interest, it is rare that I find myself saying “With this shirt, I’d really want a tie which I bought at least two or three years ago”. Therefore, I decided not to concentrate on such factors and instead think about the considerations I make when choosing a tie to wear.
The most important factor when choosing a tie is obviously colour, and to begin with, this was going to be the first column in the Excel spreadsheet I used to form the catalogue. However, as I separated them into piles, I realised I had overlooked something important: many of the ties consisted of more than one colour.2 And so, I moved “Colour Of Tie” into column B (renaming it “Main Colour”) and inserted a new column “Number Of Colours” in front of it (which became column A). Columns C to E were labelled “Second Colour”, “Third Colour” and “Fourth Colour” respectively.3 The next column,4 I simply labelled “Pattern” and I believe that is quite self-explanatory. Likewise the columns labelled “Thickness Of Tie”5 and “Fabric”6 shouldn’t require any further explanation.
The structure was in place. Now I simply needed to enter all of the tie information into the spreadsheet. I did this by hand, it seemed the easiest way.
Despite my aims for objective accuracy, some elements of subjectivity did slip into the spreadsheet. For “Thickness Of Tie”, I introduced three classes – “skinny”, “medium” and “wide”, however, I did not clearly define the boundaries of each class and it is possible that some ties labelled “medium” were actually wide, some labelled “wide” were actually medium, some labelled “medium” were actually skinny and that some labelled “skinny” were actually medium. It is however doubtful that any ties labelled “skinny” were actually wide or that any ties labelled “wide” were actually skinny. Similarly, the classes in the “Pattern” column were also rather broad and ill-defined. “Plain”, “striped”, “spotted” and “chequered” were easy to distinguish. Some other patterns were more ambiguous though. Ties with a graphic pattern featuring geometric shapes7 were labelled “graphic”. Ties with a more painterly, abstract pattern were labelled “painterly”. Some ties had a combination of patterns, and I can’t remember what I did about that. I think I just labelled them with whatever felt right at the time.
Once the catalogue was complete, it was possible to “sort” the information using Excel’s “Filter” function. This revealed some interesting insights into my tie collection.
Of the single coloured ties, those in the “blue” family formed the largest group,8 followed by white9 and pink.10 Black was the most common “base” colour for those ties featuring more than one colour,11 followed by various members of the “grey” family.12 White was the most common secondary colour13 and, unsurprisingly, was most commonly partnered with black14 or grey15 as the base. The vast majority of my ties consisted of either one16 or two colours17 with numbers dwindling further with each additional colour.18
The most common pattern found on my ties was no pattern at all; almost two fifths of my ties were plain.19 Of those which did have some pattern or decoration, the largest group were striped.20 There is a clear tendency towards skinny ties rather than wider ties21 and polyester is by far the most common fabric for ties,22 regardless of width – although there was some degree of correlation between a tie being leather and an increased chance of that tie being skinny.23
So what conclusions can we draw from all this?24 Is there a “typical” tie? One which combines all of the key traits of the tie catalogue? A tie which condenses the entire spreadsheet into a single piece of fabric? It would appear so. A skinny black or grey polyester tie with white stripes would most accurately reflect the trends shown here. I only have one tie like that, but maybe that is enough. Perhaps I should just burn all the others. I don’t need them anymore.
1 Ironically, I recently moved house and in the process thinned my tie collection by about half; the moment I finally have my tie catalogue in place is the exact moment my tie collection is at its least impressive (in terms of quantity, if nothing else).
2 It turns out that 54.5% of my ties consist of more than one colour.
3 I had considered adding an additional column here (“Fifth Colour”) but this proved unnecessary.
4 Column F.
5 Column G.
6 Column H.
7 Such as squares, triangles and circles.
8 28% of single coloured ties were blue (12.7% of all ties overall). Of these, 16% of single coloured ties were navy (7.3% overall) and 12% of single coloured ties were light blue (5.5% overall).
9 16% of single coloured ties were white (7.3% of ties overall). This is equal to the number of single coloured ties which were navy (see note 8 above).
10 12% of single coloured ties were pink (5.5% of ties overall). This is equal to the number of single coloured ties which were light blue (see note 8 above).
11 40% of ties with more than one colour had a “base” colour of black (21.8% of ties overall).
12 22.7% of ties with more than one colour had a “base” colour of grey (14.5% of ties overall). Of these, 13.3% of ties with more than one colour had a base of light grey (7.3% of ties overall). 6.6% of ties with more than one colour had a base of dark grey (3.6% of ties overall) and an equal amount had a base which was simply labelled “grey” and was considered to be neither light nor dark.
13 26.7% of ties with more than one colour had white as the secondary colour (14.5% of ties overall)
14 50% of ties with a secondary colour of white had a black base colour (7.3% of ties overall).
15 37.5% of ties with a secondary colour of white had a grey base colour (5.5% of ties overall). The secondary greys were equally split between “light grey”, “grey” and “dark grey”.
16 45.5% of ties consisted of one colour only.
17 30.9% of ties consisted of two colours.
18 14.5% of ties had three colours, while only 9.1% stretched to four colours.
19 38.1% of ties were labelled “plain”.
20 44.1% of ties which weren’t labelled “plain” were striped (29.1% of ties overall).
21 “Skinny” ties made up 50.9% of the whole tie catalogue. “Medium” ties represented a further 34.5%. Only 14.6% of my ties are “wide”.
22 A whopping 72.7% of all the ties in the catalogue were polyester.
23 63.6 % of leather ties were “skinny”, compared with 50.9% of ties from the general population (see note 21 above)
24 Not many.