British lawyers have a penchant for a particular suit/shirt combination that allows them to sport brightly coloured ‘fun’ ties. It’s an object of derision but holds lessons for all of us.

A while ago I wrote about the Italian background: the tendency of Italian men to wear a plain blue shirt and dark blue tie as a neutral support to more outlandish suits or accessories. This neutral, conservative combination is an easy fallback for the stylish man. If you’re not sure what will go with a particular suit, just opt for blue and blue.

The English lawyer’s background is similar, but transposes the blue/blue from shirt and tie to shirt and suit. This is practical combination to support a certain type of tie, namely that of a pale, light colour.

This tie is often from Hermès. It often has small characters printed on it (hippopotami, say, or squirrels). But most important is the fact that it is a light yet pale colour.

This is not an easy shade of any colour to wear. A white shirt makes the lightness of the tie too stark. The contrast is too great and both can end up looking cheap. A blue shirt is much better able to support such lightness, being a more muted colour itself and so creating less contrast.

However, being a pale version of this light colour, it could easily fade into nothing if worn with a pale or mid-grey suit. So a navy suit works perfectly – it provides a solid base for the tie’s colour, and also harmonises with the shirt to produce a single background block. There is little contrast, but still a solidity in support.

If you are ever stuck for what suit and shirt to wear with a pale-coloured tie, this is your answer.

I won’t comment at anywhere near the same length on the images used on these ties. Suffice it to say that there is a correlation between lawyers generally being dull, introverted people, and a compulsion to display childish animals. I will also mention in passing that some accuse these lawyers of wearing their entire personality around their neck.

Oh, and ref the image – don’t match your tie and handkerchief, please.

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Arctic Penguin

I’m having trouble believing that a company which seems to pride itself on sophistication prints ties such as these.


seem to recall reading somewhere recently (sorry I can’t recall exactly where) that frivolous ties are more popular in economic downturns. So maybe there will be a recession renaissance?


Hello Simon,
I am a Law student and soon I will start internships in Law Firms.
I did one in London and the environment was very casual.
I mostly wore suits and separates. Ties were practically banned.
I am italian and I am looking for some in Milano.
Do you think I should invest more on suits or separates for my future purchases (especially for summer which is very hot in Italy) ?

Thank you


Hi Simon!

I’ve found this and the italian background posts extremely helpful. With this, I know I have a jacket/shirt combo I can make work with virtually any tie. With the italian background, I have a shirt/tie background that can work with virtually any jacket.

Do you have a jacket/tie equivalent that can work with virtually any shirt? I personally was thinking navy jacket with a brown or black knit tie, but would love to hear your thoughts.

Thank you for your consideration- love the site!