A couple of years ago I was in France for a business meeting. I met up with a colleague to go see a client.

We greeted one another and then she stepped back and looked me up and down. Her gaze came to rest on my chest. She frowned.

She reached out and gripped my tie between her thumb and forefinger. She tugged it and then shook her head.

“Ça ne marche pas,” she said with a certainty that I found alarming.

“What’s wrong with my tie?” I asked.

I had put on my best tie, an orange and blue stripped affair. It was bold and colorful. I thought it suggested confidence.

She told me otherwise.

It was too loud, too bright, too American.

On the way to the meeting she pulled me into a small boutique to rectify the situation.

The shopkeeper asked what we needed.

She silently pointed to the offending tie.

“Ohh, I see,” he said, nodding. He gave me a sympathetic look.

“You could start here,” he said, pointing to a wooden farm table covered with dark blue and rich purple ties.

They were thin, as was the style, and speckled with subtle dots.

My colleague nodded approvingly.

I selected a blue tie with white pin points.

“Should I wrap it?” the shopkeeper asked.

“No,” my colleague said. “He’ll wear it.”

And wear it I did.

I realized that, as with many things in life, ties are relative.

Later at dinner another colleague complimented me on the tie.

He went on to say that he had seem someone new in the office that morning, a visitor, sporting a hideous orange and blue stripped cravat.

He clearly didn’t realize it was me.

“I cannot imagine what that person was thinking,” I told him.

**Published by Ted Merz Nov 21, 2014**