Shortly after the election, I wrote about the ineffective pastel blue ties that currently permeate Washington. Both President-elect Obama and VP-elect Biden wore pastel blue ties for their first press conference after winning the election. The blog was entitled “Barack Obama States that CHANGE IS COMING. If Only He Meant That Blue Tie!” Two weeks later, Wendy Donahue wrote an article for The Chicago Tribune entitled “Obama’s Call for Change Doesn’t Extend to His Blue Ties.” Hmm…Although I don’t mind the apparent parallels in our choice of words, I am troubled when she deems “powder blue as the new power red”.
While there may be an art to style, there is a definite science to color, and to color psychology. It’s time to face up to the fact that the baby blue tie Bush made popular is not a good choice for a strong world leader. It is a pastel, and pastels suggest passiveness. It is wimpy! It might be an appropriate tie to wear if you were an insurance salesman calling on the widow of your client, hoping that she would choose you to invest the money she received from your insurance company. So a power tie would make you look too “businesslike” and less compassionate for her situation.
What President-elect Obama needs to project is strength to guide this nation through the tough times ahead. Just as young teens don’t really want their teachers to dress like they do for “identification,” neither do we need a president to dress sweet and kind given America‘s current situation. Teachers need to look big and strong so they can challenge bullies. Presidents need to do the same. The darker the color, the higher the authority, so a better “blue tie” would be a striped version with a small navy blue or black stripe alongside a wider stripe with a Chinese blue, for example, instead of the pastel blue that pervades the scene today. Chinese blue is super-friendly but not wimpy, and the dark blue stripe would give the blue greater substance and authority. I would also suggest Obama continue to wear navy blue suits; that would provide plenty of “blue for trust.” I salute his choice of a dark red tie, but true red ties are still appropriate for the Commander in Chief. Purple ties in classy shades are also a good choice, since purple is a regal color. Other good choices are the newer shades in the raspberry family, particularly those that are close to maroon.
Red needn’t be an aggressive color. Donahue’s article quotes several people saying red is bad, “bullish” and belligerent. One even said “I seriously doubt that he will need to drag out the red tie too often going forward, and hope that he chooses not to.” Red is not evil, the notion that it should be banished is impractical; colors have both positive and negative connotations. Obama is our President-elect, and so should look presidential. While pastel blue ties may be “in fashion”, they do not convey the authority, courage and assertiveness – traits we sorely need in our leaders right now – that are positively associated with red.
A tie is the only place where a man can make a statement. Pastel colors do not make statements, and are best kept for the country club or Palm Beach. Barack Obama has probably the most difficult agenda ever handed to an incoming president. He has already shown his self-confidence in his Cabinet choices: strong-willed, brilliant individuals that he must inspire with loyalty and conviction for his vision. Although a powder blue tie won’t doom those prospects, I guarantee it won’t help either.