Recession's Fashion Must: a Purple Tie

Brown's rocking the regal color—but Mrs. Obama started it

By Jason Farago,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 8, 2008 9:30 AM CST

(Newser) – In the past, a male politician wanting to project seriousness would opt for the old standby of a red necktie. But in recent months Gordon Brown, the British prime minister and go-to guy of the global financial crisis, has conspicuously chosen purple ties, as have his foreign secretary and the chancellor of the exchequer. For Zoe Williams in the Guardian, purple is the new color of the political class, with Michelle Obama leading the way.

A purple tie has complex associations, writes Williams: While it mixes red and blue into a third "new-world-order shade," purple is also the color of royalty and can give a politician a regal air. If Brown is trying to capture those meanings, he is also capitalizing on purple's Obama connotations: The future first lady's dress at the St. Paul "fist bump" rally was an instant classic. But stick with darker tones, she recommends: "We're not talking about violet, which is a whole other story."

Gordon Brown went for solid purple at a meeting in Brussels. His foreign secretary, David Miliband, opted for a shinier version.
Gordon Brown went for solid purple at a meeting in Brussels. His foreign secretary, David Miliband, opted for a shinier version.   (AP Photo/Yves Logghe)
With Condoleezza Rice, Brown sported a purple tie with white polka dots.
With Condoleezza Rice, Brown sported a purple tie with white polka dots.   (AP Photo/Lewis Whyld, pool)
Gordon Brown does the robot while wearing a light purple tie.
Gordon Brown does the robot while wearing a light purple tie.   (AP Photo/Geert Vanden Wijngaert)
Michelle Obama closes in for the famous fist-bump, clad in an instant classic purple dress.
Michelle Obama closes in for the famous fist-bump, clad in an instant classic purple dress.   (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)
Barack and Michelle Obama in St. Paul. The future first lady's purple dress caused a fashion sensation.
Barack and Michelle Obama in St. Paul. The future first lady's purple dress caused a fashion sensation.   (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green)
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Purple's imperial connotations give it respectability and lineage— it's not like turning up in an orange or a yellow tie, or one with Homer Simpson eating a giant donut. - Zoe Williams

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