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When choosing a necktie, is it true I should stay away from floral patterns?

The question

My friend says floral-patterned ties are always embarrassing. What is your verdict?

The answer

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Your friend lives a boring life. Pattern and ornament are what give texture to sober surroundings. Why do you think all the great religions decorate their temples with the most elaborate and intricate of motifs?

The curving patterns of floral motifs are useful to offset the straight lines and checks that adorn so much men's wear. And some of the most famous tie makers in the world specialize in flowers. Liberty of London, for example, provides gorgeous printed silks and cottons that look like garden thickets and make for elegant, understated ties.

Here's the way to wear them best: Stick to small, tight patterns. That is to say, small flowers. Giant blooming petals that fill the width of the tie can look like jokey statements. You should have to be quite close to the tie to make out that it has flowers on it at all. This way, the tie will not overpower your ensemble's other patterns.

Florals can be matched with solids, stripes or checks. Just make sure the tie is the only swirly thing you are wearing – in no circumstances attempt to match it with a paisley pocket square.

Novelist Russell Smith's memoir, Blindsided, is available as a Kobo e-book. Have a style question? E-mail style@globeandmail.com.

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