Blue tie or red tie; Liberal or Labor, conservative or assertive. The colour of tie you choose - especially if you're an Australian politician this week - seems to say as much about you as what comes out of your mouth.
So just what does being one of the so-called "men in blue ties" mean? Colour experts say it conveys trust, calm, peace and dependability, and can be worn to establish trust and credibility. On the downside, it is also sometimes considered to be cold, predictable and - you guessed it - conservative.
Conversely, the red tie brigade are attempting to project power, energy, strength and assertiveness, in a bid to be noticed and appear authoritative. Red may also be construed as threatening, aggressive, stressful and dangerous.
Even so, the classic power combo of dark jacket, white shirt and red tie remains the choice of ambitious business leaders and politicians.
"This is the most powerful colour combination there is as it puts together high contrast with high-energy red, and immediately commands attention," says Bronwyn Fraser, a Melbourne-based colour consultant.
Colour is the first thing that others notice and recall. But although we react to colour, understanding its use and meaning is not instinctive. Men of power do not necessarily know what to reach for in their closets. They are most likely advised.
Colour can be learnt and it is an easy way to convey a message to the world and to create an impression. Powerfulness might not always be the appropriate image, even for the powerful. "Politicians are great examples of this," says Fraser. "When campaigning and out meeting and greeting you often see them wearing a blue shirt with a tie that has yellow in its print or design. This combination says approachable, trustworthy and friendly."
Fraser says another colour combination that many men who manage or work closely with women in the workplace is shirts and ties in pink or lilac tones. "These colours can send a subliminal message that the man is intuitive and understands women. I have had this confirmed by a client who says that whenever he has worn these colours, women have always commented favourably."
The darker the suit, the more authority and influence it has. A good choice for corporate men are shades of charcoal and navy. Black, while not technically a colour, is becoming more common in business. But, says Fraser, it should be avoided in the areas of law and finance. "Black suits still have that association with gangsters. The wearer - if he's male - may give the impression he's not trustworthy."
But black suits are seen as suitable and appropriate in the fashion, media, arts and hospitality industries. There's been a swing back to brown, long seen as dowdy.
"Young creatives in the media and advertising industries are wearing a modern take, with checked shirts, or brown shoes with dark suits," Fraser said.
But if you don't have an image adviser on hand, how do you learn to use colour to your advantage? "There are some great guys walking the floor of David Jones," says Fraser. "Hugo Boss and other specialty menswear stores always offer excellent advice."
The rule of thumb for men is the tie must always feature one of the colours of the shirt in a harmonising rather than contrasting shade.
Charcoal to dark grey and dark navy are universal colours that suit everyone and give a good base to create your own signature look with shirts and ties.
What the colours mean
■ Blue: Conveys trust, calm, peace, dependability, but also cold, predictable, conservative. Wear it to establish trust and credibility.
■ Red: Conveys power, energy, strength, assertiveness, but also threatening, aggressive, stressful, danger. Wear it to be noticed and appear authoritative.
■ Yellow: Conveys cheer, creativity, optimism, energy, friendliness, but also impulsiveness. Wear it to appear friendly, approachable.
■ Green: Conveys confidence, reassurance, restfulness, but also envy, stubbornness. Wear it to show dependability.
■ Orange: Conveys vibrancy, creativity, but also egocentricity, dominance. Wear it to show enthusiasm and energy.
■ Violet: Conveys peace, spirituality, regality. Wear it to appear calm and in control.
■ Pink: Conveys youth, happiness, thoughtfulness, but also weakness, immaturity. Wear it to show compassion and understanding.
■ Brown: Conveys stability, security, comfort, but also boringness, stubbornness. Wear it to show stability, dependability.
■ Grey: Conveys wisdom, efficiency, but also insecurity, indecision. Wear it to show confidence and efficiency.