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Saturday, December 31, 2005

Pauline Trigere

This week's ties have been heavy on the red scale, so I decided to mitigate the reds today with a cream and marine blue vintage number from Pauline Trigere (1909-2002). Pauline Trigere was born in Paris to Russian Jewish parents, and was assisting in the family business as a seamstress by the age of ten. In 1937 she emigrated to New York and began working in the fashion industry; in 1945 she debuted her own line. She became a very successful designer, winning many major awards (including the French Legion of Honor) and being inducted into the Coty Hall of Fame. The information I have found contains no references to menswear; I imagine her neckties were an outgrowth of her women's scarf designs. Like last week's Tutto Uomo tie, this one starts with a very basic pattern--two colors of stripes overlaid with hollow circles--then tweaks the basics (making the lines wavy, varying the size and spacing of the circles) to heighten the visual appeal. Outtasight! Pauline Trigere's complete fashion sketchbooks from 1944-1994 (and several garments) are now in the collection of The Fashion School at Kent State University, where many are available for online viewing.

So much for 2005. After a week off of work, I am looking forward to wearing ties again, starting Tuesday! Have a safe and happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2005

Cosby sweater

Coogi of Australia was founded in the 1970s by Mr. Jacky Taranto (originally as Cuggi) and rocketed to international prominence in the 1980s, as Bill Cosby regularly wore their multicolored, scultped-knit sweaters on The Cosby Show (so much so that they became known as "Cosby sweaters"). As with all great design innovations, Coogi spawned legions of imitators, the best of which is Tundra of Canada, whose wares are virtually indistinguishable from genuine Coogis. Coogi also made neckties; most of them were simply plain silk ties printed with a Coogi sweater pattern, but the top-of-the-line ties, like the one featured today, were actually woven from colored silk threads into intricate sculpted patterns, and stand as a high-water mark in necktie design. Declining sales and some shady financial dealings by Mr. Taranto threw the company into bankruptcy in 2002; it was bought by an American investment team in 2003, which launched five new Coogi fashion lines (manufactured by Samsung!).

Efforts to extend the Coogi sweater look to other articles of clothing have produced mixed results. The Coogi golf suits in pastel tones worn by Jack Black and Ben Stiller in Envy are especially silly-looking, and I saw some matching sweater-pants suits on ebay a couple years ago that I can't imagine anyone wearing. In a continuation of a troubling trend, neckties seem to have been dropped from the lineup.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Landscape

There are no attributtions at all on this tie, so I can't credit the designer. (I can't look for more, either, darn it!) The design reminds me of a 70s-era abstract landscape, particularly of the type found in layered candles of that decade. We had a remarkable one in our house, with an orange sun set in a white sky at the top, and then layers of wax going down to the bottom, progressing from yellow to gold to deep orange. Maybe it's still there; it was much too pretty to burn. If you are adventurous enough to melt wax on your stovetop, you can make a layered candle with these instructions.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Executive Fashions

Believe it or not, the brand name on this polyester barkcloth necktie is Executive Fashions. Oh, for the days when executives exhibited such mod designs! I'm doing my part to bring those days back, but I need your help: wear wild ties! Even if you don't have to! Bring sartorial wit and whimsy back into the workplace! Make it your New Year's resolution! We shall overcome corporate drabness and conformity!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Londonderry


You can't go wrong with circles and spirals, as in this tie from Londonderry. Others don't share my enthusiasm, though; it took several listings on eBay before someone bought this tie, and then for just 99 cents. On the plus side, at least it will get worn again to brighten another corner of the world.

Friday, December 23, 2005

The Last Tie Day of the Year

(With a nod to Cousteau.) What happens if you take a regular square grid, and then squiggle the lines, then fill in the spaces with bright, contrasting colors? Psychedelic magic! That's really all there is to this Tutto Uomo tie, but the effect is totally awesome and a great way to close out the year. It even inspired me to try my hand at a barely-remembered grade school craft: construction paper weaving. I made a squiggly grid in three colors, and an op-art "globe." Nothing as fantastic as this, but my kids were impressed. I won't be working or wearing any ties next week, but I will post some beauties from the archive. Happy Holidays to all!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Fake quilt

I like bold, simple designs, but I am also a sucker for colorful, intricately detailed patterns as well. Here's another Saint Michel tie (see my 9/1/05 tie) with a printed pattern that mimics a patchwork quilt, albeit on a smaller scale. It's a great mix of tiles featuring flowers, leaves, and general shapes with a nice distribution of colors. Like yesterday's tie, the basic layout is a grid, and tomorrow's tie will be yet another grid, with a twist (literally)...

Prochownick

In 1880, Hermann Prochownick left his home in Leipzig for the textile-manufacturing city of Milan to make neckties. The company he founded survives to this day, one of the oldest tie makers in existence, and boasts perhaps the best logo of all of them:


(Presumably the red tie is a Prochownick, while all the others are not.) This tie starts with a multicolored grid, a simple but fun design, and then overlays another grid with a hand-drawn look at a 45-degree angle. Hand-drawn images always tend to look whimsical, so the overall effect of this tie is festive indeed, as befits the season.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

New Moon on Tuesday

(Yes, that is a Duran Duran reference, modified to fit the occasion.) The moon is perhaps mankind's second-oldest symbolic image (the first being the sun), serving as calendar, providing a metaphor for the cycle of birth, growth, decline, death, and rebirth, and representing the nighttime and all its attendant mysteries. The moon has been deified in countless cultures, and consequently reviled in some quarters as a symbol of Satanism (Procter and Gamble was forced to retire its 130-year-old moon-and-stars logo in 1985 due to false allegations of Satanism). "Moon" was one of the first words spoken by each of my kids, and I suspect that holds true for many others. Maybe it has something to do with the immensely popular children's book Goodnight Moon, written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd, first published in 1947 and in print ever since. That's an unlikely source for a swirling controversy, yet there is one swirling about it right now: for its new hardcover (non-board) edition of the book, publisher HarperCollins has altered the photo of Hurd, which has appeared on the back cover for over 50 years, by digitally removing a cigarette from his right hand. So as not to encourage kids to smoke, you see. What's next, putting hair on Shel Silverstein to discourage kids from becoming skinheads?

But I digress. The moon being such a powerful image, it was inevitable that it would find its way onto neckties, such as this one from Perry Ellis. The traditional man-in-the-moon motif has been markedly feminized in this depiction, giving it a vaguely art-nouveau feel. I like it. Clever tie designer Josh Bach has designed an exceptionally clever moon tie called Moon Phases; I think I'll get one one of these days.

Monday, December 19, 2005

How do you like them apples?

One more holiday party, one more holiday tie. It never occurred to me before to use apples as Christmas decorations, but with their red skins and green leaves, they're perfect. And I owe that revelation to this unattributed tie from the Modaitalia Store.

In my house there is an ongoing debate over which variety of apples to buy. My daughter prefers the green Granny Smith apples (a fixed-mutation variety originally found in Australia), but they are too hard and tart for me and give me a headache. Mrs. Veneer likes Gala (developed in New Zealand from Golden Delicious and Cox's Orange Pippin) and Fuji (a Japanese hybrid of American Red Delicious and Ralls Janet varieties) apples; their skins are sprinkled with yellow, they have a nice, sweet flavor, and the meat of the fruit retains its crispness for a good while. They both look down on the Red Delicious (not bred but discovered in Peru, Iowa in 1874, and orginally called Hawkeye), the workhouse of the apple world, but too common for them, and prone to mushiness. But I think it's the best of them all; its skin has a rich, full flavor that is lacking in other varieties, and at its freshest is even crisper than the fancy-pants apples without being too hard. Some say the Red Delicious is not the apple it used to be, as in this Washington Post article. On the other hand, there is evidence that Red Delicious apples provide more health benefits than other apples. But in the end, any apple is better than no apple.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Georgina von Etzdorf

If "Tino Cosma" is the coolest men's name in neckwear, then Georgina von Etzdorf is a strong candidate for the female title. The British von Etzdorf is an alumna of the Camberwell College of the Arts, and founded her textile firm with two associates in 1978. Their textile workshop building in Salisbury, a reconstructed antique barn, has won awards for innovative construction and renovation. Von Etzdorf was elected to the Faculty of Royal Designers for Industry in 1995, which entitles her to add "RDI" after her name. On a personal note, she likes to eat fried quail's eggs with serrano ham. (That sounds good to me, but the local supermarket doesn't stock quail's eggs, yet.)

Georgina von Etzdorf fabrics are invariably praised for their "sensuality," which I think means that they drape well and have exceptional printed patterns and/or fancy weaves. I'm quite happy with this tie, with its colorful polka dots and swirls and multipatterned jacquard weave, but it's marred by that bane of necktie collectors, the pulled thread. Silk is so fine that if it gets snagged, a thread will pull right out. All it takes is a fingernail (and just try to put on a tie without touching it with your fingernails!), and zoop--pulled thread! Sometimes it's not noticeable, but when there is a lot of contrast between the thread color and the print color (or, in the case of a woven pattern, between the threads themselves), the absence of a single thread can be glaring. This tie has two long threads missing, forming a giant X across the middle of the tie. It's too fine to show up in the photo, though, and maybe too fine for anyone else to notice in person. I'm very picky, apparently (according to a certain Mrs. V.). This tie was made in England, but the latest batch of Georgina von Etzdorf ties was made in Italy. I don't know if that says anything about the state of British manufacturing, but it seems vaguely forboding.

Party

Today was the day of my departmental holiday party, and that means-- time to break out the brilliant crimson Levi's cords! (A 1993 thrift store find.) Red pants necessitate a green shirt, and to top it all off, a Gene Meyer Christmas tree tie, which in turn dictates a blue jacket. And so, voila! Unfortunately the party, which was to be held offsite at the historic Riversdale Mansion, was cancelled due to inclement weather, so my outrageous holiday duds did not get as large an audience as they deserved. Until now, that is.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Definitive Gene

This tie is quintessential Gene Meyer: a very few simple shapes in a bold color scheme. I was happy to have the bluest of blue shirts (by DKNY) on hand to match the intense blue square. Suit you, Sir! Oh!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The Happy Goth

Here's another tie by Claude Montana, featuring some green flowers and a seemingly-random orange flourish. But it's the background that is most intriguing: it looks sort of like batik, but not quite; sort of like raku, but that's a pottery finish that I don't think translates to silk; and sort of like cobwebs. (Cobwebs + bright flowers = The Happy Goth.) (Yes, that's another Divine Comedy reference.) I'm guessing it was produced using a photographic process, but that's as close as I can figure. Whatever the method, the result is a necktie unlike any other I've seen, and a worthy addition to the tie blog.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Living dangerously

When I put on this Gene Meyer satin tie this morning, I had no idea that this was the day of my office holiday potluck luncheon. So not only did I attend the luncheon without bringing anything, I had to do it without getting any food on my expensive tie! There's office daredeviltry for you! And guess what-- I made it through the meal unscathed! Granted, I didn't hot-dog it; I avoided the most saucy dishes (having a saucy dish of my own at home-- ba-dum!) and did not have a drink. For a more extreme challenge, I might try wearing a tie to Cactus Willie's next time I take the family. Not a Gene Meyer, though, that would be foolish.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Snow day

We got a few inches of snow last night, so they closed the schools and the kids had a snow day. You could do worse for family movie fare than Snow Day, which has a pretty trite storyline but a couple nice touches for the grownups, namely comedian (and now novelist!) Chris Elliott as the kid-hating snowplow driver, and unlikely rock'n'roll survivor Iggy Pop as the Lawrence Welk-loving ice rink DJ. And Chevy Chase phones in another goofy dad performance. (At least his bank is thriving.)

So check out this tie (I only got half a snow day), I managed to wear one that's not only representational (a rarity for my abstract aesthetic proclivities), but topical as well. Snow-covered rooftops! Exotic ones, at that: Russian and Eastern European, by the looks of them. It's the onion dome and helmet dome, particular to Eastern Orthodox churches, that give it away. I wondered why anybody thought to make roofs in that shape in the first place, and it turns out it's to keep snow off the roof. And sure enough, the helmet dome and onion dome depicted on the tie have very little snow on them! So chalk one up for the designers at Andrew's Ties for verisimilitude. Now click here if you're interested in learning all the symbolism behind the coloring and placement of onion domes.

Move 'em out

'Tis the season to sell neckties, so I'm working on getting some of the high-end ties off of my racks, around my neck, onto the blog, and subsequently onto eBay. Here's another Gene Meyer tie; rather than repeating all my Gene Meyer info, here's a link to an earlier post that contains most of it. More Gene Meyer ties coming next week!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Keith Haring

During his tragically short life (1958-1990), Keith Haring created a unique body of work that became universally beloved for its messages of love, tolerance, and inclusiveness. This "Haring Vision" tie from The Museum Company features several of Haring's recurring motifs on high-quality jacquard silk. His legacy lives on in the Keith Haring Foundation, founded in 1989 to assist AIDS-related and children's charities, and his artwork can still be seen all over the place, including a website just for kids.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Emilio Pucci!

Once upon a time, corporate uniforms could have some pizzazz, such as the flight staff uniforms designed by Emilio Pucci for the Braniff International airline. Pucci (Marchese Emilio Pucci di Barsento, to use his full name) was more responsible than anyone else for shaping and guiding the wild styles of 1960s psychedelic fashion, having already produced glorious printed clothing throughout the 50s. This tie's label reads "Emilio Pucci for Pistons Asso" and includes such telltale Pucci-isms as the stylized "EP" logo in a white oval on the front of the tie, and his signature repeated in a white band on the tail end. (Pistons Asso, as far as I can tell, is a manufacturer of pistons for small engines.) This is a minor Pucci, with little of the brilliant colors and flowing designs that characterize his best (and best-known) ties, but there are hints: the magenta highlight stripes, the fine mosaic work inside the larger stripes, and the freeform waviness of the stripes themselves. I can't afford major Puccis, but I have a couple fixer-uppers that I hope to display in due time. Stay tuned!

Clean Gene

There's something about stripping a design down to its most basic forms that is quite appealing, hence the lasting influence of minimalist art. Gene Meyer is a master of the minimalist necktie, without getting too minimal (i.e. a solid-color tie, which is to be avoided at all costs!). In the spirit of minimalism I will now conclude this entry.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Glen Baxter

I will now interrupt my regularly-scheduled programming to bring you a bit of necktie humor:

This cartoon appears in Glen Baxter's 1999 collection Blizzards of Tweed (Bloomsbury Publishing), though to call his works "cartoons" unjustly minimizes the grand scale of their drollery. And many of them are actually paintings or prints, exhibited in galleries worldwide as capital-A Art. They have been collected in a score of books which are readily available from just about every online bookseller. (Yet another thing for me to collect!) Better yet, there's plenty of stuff available for free viewing on Baxter's own website (in the Gallery). His primary subjects are eggs, amateur science, modern art, cowboys, and the tweed lifestyle, and his books are self-indexed by subject. This particular work is indexed under "Dishevelment, confessions of" and "Knitwear, unwise choices of". Though I personally find that tie pretty sporty-looking.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Tino Cosma

This Tino Cosma tie is another great score from the Modaitalia Store. The Cosma family has been making ties since 1946, and launched the fab Tino Cosma line in 1969. Even the name is cool. Say it out loud: "Tino Cosma!" The company branched out into fragrances in 1989 (ho-hum) and shirts in 1999 (they look spiffy). The mod flowers in sea green, cornflower, and wisteria (on the Crayola color scale) serendipitously matched the stripes in this shirt perfectly! They look sort of like non-slip bath decals, and they're overlaid with black outlines of arrowhead leaves, which could be either the climbing houseplant kind (Syngonium podophyllum) or the wetlands kind (Sagittaria latifolia). It's hard to tell, but it's just a drawing on a necktie, after all. There's also a geometric jacquard weave adding a third aesthetic level to the tie.... ... ... ... Which was nice.

(Yes, that is a Fast Show reference.)

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Modaitalia

Where does Burl Veneer get such a glorious array of ties? Ebay, mostly. One of my favorite eBay vendors is the Modaitalia Store, in Italy. They have an amazing assortment of ties (mill surplus? store deadstock? probably both), with about 300 up for auction at any given time, most of them starting at just 99 cents! With such a low starting price it doesn't pay to add gallery pictures, so you have to look at each auction to see the tie, and most of them are rather plain, but there are enough imaginative ones to go on a shopping spree. Shipping is reasonably priced, and if you buy ten or more ties the shipping is free (if you don't mind surface mail, which takes a month or so). There are many premium ties available as well for $9.99 and up, with gallery pictures for easy browsing. Sometimes a tie doesn't have a maker label, in which case it is listed as a "Modaitalia tie," like this splendid modern-art fantasia. If I knew the maker I would add it to my Favorite Searches list in a flash; as it is, I'll just keep combing the Modaitalia listings, searching for more.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Wrong angles

Here's another mystery tie: it's silk, and was made in Italy, but I have no idea by whom. Its right angles are 45 degrees out of sync with the shirt's right angles, hence "wrong angles." But with a tie so festive, who cares?

Why do so many ties have diagonal designs? Ah, there is a good reason: the pattern is usually woven or printed horizontally on a roll of fabric. But in order for the tie to hang properly (i.e. not twist around from the torque of the knot and display its backside), the tie material is cut out of the roll at a 45-degree angle, or "on the bias." And thus the pattern is tilted, and thus endeth today's lesson. Class dismissed.

Hyperbole

This is tie by Stone Shine; the label proclaims it to be "The Greatest Tie Ever Made." I beg to differ; the construction is rather inexpert, to say the least. The lining is folded over inside the tie, and the tail end is totally wonky. That said, it looks all right from the front, IMO. I have a few other Stone Shine ties (all from the same eBay lot), and I speculate that they were homemade from whatever fabric was at hand. Nothing wrong with that, more power to them! It's certainly better than I could do; I'd try it if I thought I could sew without puncturing every inch of my body. This is the only one with a design I like, and I'm still not crazy about it, but I don't like the shirt much ("permanent" press--yuck!), so it's fitting in that respect. And it still beats a "normal" tie hands down.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Gail Mackenzie

Master (and alas, former) marbler Gail Mackenzie was kind enough to visit the Tie Blog last week, and there I was without one of her ties on display! So here is one from the archives, a highly distinctive marbled pattern (that I don't know the name of, I can't find anything like it in Galen Berry's list of marbling examples; a modified fishtail, maybe?) in black and white and wonderful blues. Feast your eyes!

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Garden camouflage

Regular camouflage is okay if you're hunting for deer or ducks, but what if you're hunting for hummingbirds or gnomes? Wear a regular camo suit in a flower garden and you might as well be wearing a sequined jumpsuit. That's where this tie from Montagu of Paris comes in handy: the colors will blend in perfectly with lupines, marigolds, tulips, pansies, and other flower garden stalwarts, while the jacquard weave gives off a dappled-sunlight effect for even better concealment. I won't tell you how many gnomes I bagged today; I'll just say my freezer is now full. (Just kidding! I'm strictly a catch-and-release gnome hunter.)

Happy Thanksgiving! I won't be wearing a tie on my days off from work, but check back on the weekend for a special tie from the vault.

The bats have left the belltower

Today's tie had to do double duty: work, and the Bauhaus concert! This 60s-era tie by Elite of Venezia (that's Venice, It'ly) is suitably versatile, with plenty of funereal black complemented by a putrescent green. The pattern looks like wrought iron, in a mode that could be either gothic or decadent art nouveau, either of which would be appropriate. A green shirt and black pants and sportcoat completed my Business Gothic outfit. But the concert--amazing! Having seen all the band members separately (Peter Murphy solo, Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins in Tones On Tail, and... well, I guess I'd never seen David J. before), this was my first time seeing them all together. They played all the old favorites (no surprises, they're doing the same set on every date of the tour), they played them excellently--they have not gotten sloppy at all, in fact they play better now than ever--and they looked incredible! All four guys are fiftyish now, but they look the same as always, with not even a spare tire in the bunch. I hope I look that good at fifty! They are as timeless as their music. After they left the stage we all knew they would be back, since we were all wondering, "Is Bela Lugosi dead?" After a few minutes they came back out and confirmed that yes, indeed, he is dead, to our collective rapture. And after leaving the stage again they came back for three more songs! What joy! What an evening!

Monday, November 21, 2005

At long last: Paisleys!

Japanese-born Kenzo Takada moved to Paris in 1964 to work in the fashion industry, opening his own Jungle Jap boutique in 1970 , which evolved into his own fashion house, Kenzo. His clothing designs were notable for incorporating Japanese styles and motifs. Like many other designers, he sold his business to LVMH (Moet Hennesy Louis Vuitton) in the 90s, staying on as a consultant. He "retired" in 1999, but returned to design work in 2002. This Kenzo tie is a real masterpiece: the fabric is woven from a multitude of different-colored silk threads (including a brilliant magenta that really stands out when viewed from above) and a variety of textures, leaving clear, smooth, cream-colored paisley shapes which were then overprinted with colorful paisleys. The whole thing has a fun 1960 rec room/tiki bar feel. Would that all paisley fabrics were this festive! (The paisley pattern itself originated in Persia and spread to India, from whence British soldiers brought home cashmere shawls, whereupon the pattern was then produced en masse by the weavers of Paisley, Scotland, hence the name. Just so's you know.)

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Tron

Early attempts at depicting the inner workings of a computer resulted in a lot of planes (the two-dimensional kind) floating through space, like those in this Zylos by George Machado necktie, which reminds me of Disney's classic computer movie Tron (starring Jeff Bridges--that's two Jeff Bridges-related ties in a row!-- and SciFi Channel fixture Bruce Boxleitner.) While computer programs had been anthropomorphized in the movies before (HAL spoke with a human voice in Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey, in 1968), Tron was perhaps the first to actually show them as people. Other notable computer-programs-as-people (or creatures) are in the computer-animated cartoon series Reboot, and of course the apotheosis of the genre, the Matrix trilogy. This is an unusual design for a Zylos tie, most of which are in unimaginative but unoffensive geometric patterns, generally classified as "art deco." But this one says, "Welcome to the retro future!"

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Big Lebowski

"That rug really tied the room together." Thus spake The Dude (Jeff Bridges), slacker extraordinaire (or "uberslacker" in the parlance of the hour) in the Coen brothers' 1998 comedy The Big Lebowski, referring to the rug stolen from his apartment by debt-collecting goons in a case of mistaken identity. And thus it is with this iridescent, multi-hued, rib-woven necktie by knitwear innovators Missoni. What to do if you want to wear forest green pants, a purple shirt, and a blue sportcoat together? Wear a tie with all those colors in it, to "tie the room together," as it were. Even so, the yellow in the tie went unmatched; a yellow pocket square would have remedied that, but that's a little extreme (even for me). Or perhaps yellow spats... Alas, photographing shiny, color-shifting ties is a skill that still eludes me; I can offer only the pale rendition at right, only a hint at its true vibrancy. (The problem is not unique to me; in 1998 I wore a shiny plaid silk-blend sportcoat on Jeopardy! It played havoc with the TV cameras, appearing as if it were constantly in motion, and leaving a nasty burnt-looking afterimage whenever the camera moved. So I'm in good company.) (I lost that game, but at least I already had one win under my belt.) Later, dude!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Enigma of an Autumn Afternoon

Some of the shapes in this tie look like the mannequin heads that are so prominent in the "metaphysical" paintings of Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico (1888-1978), such as The Disquieting Muses, Hector and Andromache, and The Prophet. But I have chosen to title this entry after the mannequinless painting of the same name, because this was an enigmatic autumn afternoon: it went from 70 degrees and sunny to a blustery 45 degrees with downpours in the course of a couple hours. De Chirico abadoned this surreal style after 1918, preferring to work in a classical mode and even condemning much of modern art. He lived and painted for another 60 years, but none of those works (including many "new versions" of his famous paintings) ever received the acclaim of his groundbreaking early work. The Giorgio de Chirico Foundation website has a selection of these later works online (links at the bottom of the home page). Now the "mushroom-TV-eye" shapes on the tie look like they're straight out of a Tim Biskup painting. If you want to buy any of his art, you'd better do it soon: his latest print, Black Helium, was priced at $1,000 and sold out instantaneously. On the other hand, this tie (maker unknown) will soon be available for much less...

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Culture Club

Ooooohhh... I am now a member of the Culture Club, now that I have a genuine Cultural Tie. In 2000, London art dealer Kapil Jariwala commissioned 77 artists to design one necktie each for an exhibit called "Cultural Ties" at his Westzone Gallery. Each tie was produced in a limited edition of 300 and sold through selected retail outlets, with the proceeds benefitting UNICEF. There is a book that contains pictures of all the ties; there used to be a website with all the ties on it, but danged if I can find it now, it must have disappeared down a memory hole. These fabulous ties have always been out of my financial reach, but-- my dear expatriate sister-in-law and her poker-shark husband sent me one all the way from Old Blighty for my birthday! Yippee! It even has a numbered certificate of authenticity! This tie by UK artist Noel Forster has overlapping curved lattices in four different colors on a bright white background, a great melding of traditional geometry, industrial design, and festive colors. Right on! Some of Noel Forster's other artworks can be seen here, here, here, and here. One down, 76 to go... ;-)

Monday, November 14, 2005

Mymsical tie

This necktie is at once mystical and whimsical, hence mymsical. (I decided against whystical because it's too close to wistful, which this tie is not.) The background is the color of a midnight sky, alternating between black and deep purple, and is populated with a galaxy of small spirals, squares, triangles, stars, and flowers along with a few large, weird planetoids. The glyph-sized shapes remind me of a magickal alphabet, such as the Enochian alphabet of Elizabethan mage Dr. John Dee. So that's why it's mystical; as for why it's whimsical, well just look at it! (Preferably the larger picture that you can get by clicking on the small one at left.) Somebody had a lot of fun drawing it, and it's fun to look at. The whole mymsical effect puts me in mind of the works of Marc Chagall; like this one, for example. The tie is from Maison Imperial of France, it's a little on the narrow side and probably from the '80s. I don't recall a lot of whimsical mysticism from those years, but maybe I wasn't looking hard enough. So let that be a lesson: don't forget to look for mymsy!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Retro

"To do then now would be retro. To do then then was very now-tro, if you will." So said the Folksmen's Mark Shubb (a.k.a. Harry Shearer, a.k.a. Derek Smalls of Spinal Tap) in Christopher Guest's masterful take on the 60s folk-music scene, A Mighty Wind. Retro Design Studios is (was?) all about doing then now, and thus this tie is "retro" and not "vintage." I'd say this marriage of mod geometries and brutalist textures is flippin' sweet! (And not a combination you're likely to find in a vintage tie! "Retro" is not the same as "historical," after all.)

Yes, a mighty wind's a blowin’, 'cross the land and 'cross the sea,
It’s blowin’ peace and freedom, it’s blowin’ equality.
Yes, it’s blowin’ peace and freedom, it’s blowin’ you and me!

Batik

This is a cotton batik (or faux batik) tie from Banana Republic. The batik process involves covering parts of the fabric with a resist (usually wax), then dyeing the fabric. The areas covered by the wax remain the original color ni the midst of the dye color. Often the whole fabric is coated with wax, balled up, then dyed, leaving crinkle-like streaks of the dye color throughout the piece. Indonesian batik can be very complex, with the wax applied in thousands of tiny dots with an instrument called a "canting." The thin white lines on this tie are actually series of dots (click picture for enlargement). I don't know if this fabric actually came from Indonesia, as the color scheme is more American Boardroom than traditional batik. But if not, the allusion is there, strengthened by traditional curving flower and frond patterns.

Does Banana Republic even sell ties like this any more? Remember when it was mainly a travel-themed clothing catalog business, before The Gap bought it? Do they sell anything other than rebranded Gap clothing now? Remember when the Gap was primarily a Levi's retailer? And when they brought out their own brand of jeans, it was a cheaper alternative to Levi's? How times have changed!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Homegirl

Maryland native Jhane Barnes is responsible for some of the most innovative textiles I've ever seen. Heck, she even invented a new process for printing them (OK, co-invented, but still) and is an expert weaving programmer. Her fabrics for menswear are nothing less than exciting. In recent years they've been a little heavy on the earthtones for my taste, but she's back with some incredibly vibrant colors and patterns for this season's shirts. At $200-$300 each it's doubtful I'll ever own one, but there's always ebay... Her current interior textiles are pretty awesome, too; she even designs furniture! The new ties are a little on the tame side (perhaps catering to the Ike Behar crowd) but are still some of the best designer ties around. This one is one of my favorites: the wavy bands of color, looking something like a polygraph or seismometer output, are actually composed of hundreds of vertical "spindles" of colored thread woven into the tie in two different weave patterns. There are even navy spindles at the bottom, which don't show up so well against the black background in the photo but do stand out in person due to the reflective qualities of the thread. You can get lost in the details of this tie (well, I can), it's a real tour de force. This is the first Jhane Barnes tie I have featured; there will definitely be more.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Quilt

How's this for novel tie construction: it's a real patchwork quilt, in the "log cabin" pattern (which is essentially a square spiral). This tie comes from Rag Merchant of Des Moines, Iowa. The pattern and fabric pieces are available as a kit for $8.00. I am especially impressed with the way the four different fabrics in this tie all contribute to the undersea theme: one has fish, two have waves (too small to see here in the green section, but they're there), and the blue fabric is full of bubbles, like an effervescent ocean. Lucky for me, I got this one already assembled, and quite professionally so.

I was going to write that it's interesting that a craft born of necessity, i.e. the reuse of fabric scraps in lean economic times, has become such a popular hobby today, with hundreds of bolts of brand new fabric, made specifically to be cut apart and sewn back together, stacked on the racks at fabric stores such as Jo-Ann's. But it turns out that I was wrong in my initial assumption; it has always (since at least the sixth century!) been about creating works of beauty, and not about recycling scarce material. There's a great deal about quilting history at this History of Quilts website on womenfolk.com; especially on the page entitled Facts vs. Myths About America's Quilting Past. Some of the most stunning "new" quilts I've seen are constructed of marbled fabric; they display a glorious riot of color!

Friday, November 04, 2005

National Trust

This tie is from England's National Trust, a non-profit organization founded in 1895 to preserve properties of natural beauty and historical significance from the rapidly encroaching tentacles of industry. In 1937 the Trust began its Country Houses Scheme, enabling it to receive and preserve palatial country manors and their associated estates, which might otherwise have been sold off piecemeal and (gasp) developed, as many were. It now includes 166 manors and 19 castles in its custodial care. This tie is entitled "Upton House Tapestry," and was designed by "Katrina". Upton House, near Banbury, Warwickshire, was built in the late 1600s, and is notable for its gardens and its art collection, which includes works by El Greco, Bosch, Bruegel, and Hogarth, among others. The vintage of the tapestry is unclear, but I'll guess that it's from the Arts and Crafts period (1870-1900). It's a pleasant jumble of fruits (cherries, grapes, pomegranates, and whatever that yellow one right in the middle is), flowers (no idea what) and leaves, larger in scale and less formal ly structured than the floral textiles of William Morris and Liberty of London. This is the only National Trust tie I've ever found, I hope there are more out there somewhere. There apparentely aren't any new ones, though, as the National Trust online shop doesn't list any.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Sears

This tie is from The Mens' Shop at Sears. It's fitting that a department store best known for its exclusive Craftsman tools would sell a tie with a design that looks like buzzsaw blades. This tie has three popular features of ties of the 1970s: a brown color scheme, polyester fabric (not woven but knit!), and a massive width. The width used to be even more massive: the tie was narrowed at some point in its life, hence the off-center tip. Sears still sells ties, but there's nothing exciting on the website. They do have a number of pretty nice Lands' End ties since buying that company (in 2002, before Sears itself was bought by Kmart to form Sears Holdings Corporation), but you're better off shopping for them at the Lands' End website.

Mongolian harlequin leopard

I'm a big fan of the movies of writer/director Wes Anderson. While the individual scenes are rarely laugh-out-loud hilarious, they are usually funny (and often touching) on some level, and the cumulative effect of a whole film of gently comic scenes among a large cast of intertwined characters is one of great enjoyment. In his most recent film, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, Bill Murray stars as Zissou, a Jacques Cousteau-like marine biologist, adventurer, and filmmaker. He seems to focus more on the adventuring and filmmaking, though, and displays highly questionable scientific skills. His identification of marine species is especially suspect; it's never clear whether he just makes them up on the fly, or if they really do exist in Anderson's alternate film world. The movie centers on Zissou's quest for the "jaguar shark" that ate his partner. In honor of Wes Anderson and Bill Murray, I have christeneed the pattern of this tie with the Zissouvial moniker, "Mongolian harlequin leopard." It's by Pierre Cardin (maybe; when all you have to go on is the keeper, it's not a certainty), and its 3-inch width indicates a 1980s vintage.

I've just noticed that I'm about three months into the tie blog, and I haven't worn a paisley tie yet. It's not that I don't like them, it's just that I don't like most of them. Paisley fans take heart, I'll get to one eventually; watch this space!

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Funky but chic


(Yes, that is a David Johansen reference.) Luckily the Indian Summer held out for one more day, so I could wear off-white pants, a pink shirt, and finally, this enormous tie by Funky of California. Was ever a brand name so right on? Unlike so many ties of its size and vintage, it is all silk. Very nice! I'm thinking of taking it apart and making it into a parachute, then using the leftover material for a tent.

Everyday is Halloween

(Yes, that is a Ministry reference. Personally, I always preferred the dance-y, "sellout" version of the band to the angry noise version. I saw the angry noise version at Cignel in Baltimore; all I remember is that they played behind a chain-link fence, and I got kicked in the head (while standing up!). And they didn't play "Work For Love"! :-( )

OK, not every day is Halloween, but today was! Not having a bona fide Halloween tie, I chose this one since it has the two colors of pumpkins in it. (Orange and green, you know.) The tie is "Le Chevron, all silk," from 1972 plus or minus five years. The variably-spaced parallel lines have a bit of an op art effect, but a little more tame. Maybe I'll find something more scary for next Halloween. (You might find tomorrow's tie scary...)

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Paul Klee

Paul Klee is probably my favorite artist of the twentieth century, so I was excited to learn about the opening this year of the Zentrum Paul Klee in Bern, Switzerland, near Klee's home town of M├╝nchenbuchsee. It has logged over 100,000 visitors in its first three months of operation! Now I know where to plan my dream vacation. Klee was a member of his friend Wassily Kandinsky's Der Blaue Reiter artists' collective in Munich before World War I; after the war he taught at the renowned Bauhaus school of art and architecture. I greatly admire Kandinsky's art as well, and both Kandinsky and Klee sometimes exhibit similar whimsicality and optimism. But Klee's work has a more organic feel than Kandinsky's largely mechanistic designs, and some of his paintings (especially his later works, after being denounced by the Nazis as "degenerate") explore darker themes. The Artcyclopedia has a page of links to Klee works in museums around the world, and the Zentrum has an online database of over 300 of Klee's works. This tie is from the Gallery Collection by Christina Desiree, and is based on Klee's work "Aeolian," which I have not been able to find a picture of, unfortunately. This is one of several Paul Klee ties I have in my permanent collection.

Speaking of Bauhaus, the band of the same name, the godfathers of Goth, has regrouped for a "The Resurrection Tour," and Mrs. Veneer and I are going to see them at the Strathmore Music Center in Kensington, Maryland, on the 22nd! We were fortunate enough to see singer Peter Murphy with his new band earlier this year, and now this! Bauhaus comes to the suburbs! WOW!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Dippy birds

Do you remember "dippy birds" from the 1970s? They were a popular desk toy to rival the Newton's Cradle bouncing balls. They would rock back and forth, going lower and lower, until the beak dipped into a glass of water, then they would spring upright, gradually start rocking again, and repeat the process over and over. Don't the white birds in the rust-colored bands look like those? As for the other creatures on this tie, your guess is as good as mine. Dinosaurs? Lizards? Sometime in the early 1970s, something tragic happened to neckties. Designers started taking the garish colors of mod design and applying them to more traditional and antique patterns. The result was a multitude of weird brocade ties: classical and baroque motifs in diagonal bands of downright ugly color combinations of woven polyester. (Ted) Sturgeon's Law states that "ninety percent of everything is crap" (though he actually said "crud"); but on the other hand, ten percent isn't. Even among the ugly brocade ties there are some gems, and I consider this to be one, truly inspired in its whimsicality if not its hues.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

And the Oscar goes to...

Me! Oscar de la Renta was born in the Dominican Republic in 1932; he went to Spain to study painting at the age of 18, but soon began working for the legendary designer Cristobal Balenciaga. He went on to work for Lanvin in Paris, then Elizabeth Arden in New York, before launching his own clothing line in 1965. And he is still at it, counting among his private clients Laura Bush and her twin daughters. (I don't hold that against him, though, a man's go to eat. ;-) Moreover, he still retains financial control of his company while so many other designers have sold out to corporations. This tie is from the Oscar de la Renta Studio collection, probably from the late 1970s, and is characterized by the signature on the front of the tie, a big, leafy jacquard weave, and a fabric composition of 97% polyester and 3% silk (one of the more perplexing fabrics I've encountered). The designs and colors on the Studio ties are mostly bold and wonderful, this one being my favorite. The shapes remind me of ceramic flowers.

Heeeeere's Johnny!

Johnny Carson was not only the quintessential late-night talk show host, he was also a clothing designer. Well, sort of--he had his own line of clothing, but he didn't actually design it. The Johnny Carson line was known for its sportiness, and the turtlenecks were especially popular. There were scads of neckties as well, with no discernible unifying style, except that Johnny liked them. The Elkhorn Valley Museum and Research Center in Johnny's home town of Norfolk, Nebraska, houses a Johnny Carson exhibit, and the gift shop has several neckties personally donated by Johnny for sale (at the bottom of this page). My favorites are #2 and #13. At $100 apiece they are quite pricey, but the proceeds benefit the museum. Of course, you can find Johnny Carson ties much cheaper on ebay. This particular tie has pleasant rust and cream colored flowers with like-colored "stems" (in quotes because they're not actually connected to the flowers) on a rich blue background, which is covered with black "crackling" somewhere in between batik and mosaic in appearance. (This is another detail that you'll have to click on the picture to see, in the larger version.) Celebrity neckties are a mixed bag, but there were some winners in Johnny's line.

Friday, October 21, 2005

Not what it looks like

Update 6/29/06: Chris Coleman never worked for Gene Meyer. This is according to Gene Meyer himself (see comment #2 attached to this post). Chris Coleman ties are nothing more than Gene Meyer knock-offs. My original post follows.

You will be excused for thinking this is a Gene Meyer tie. It's not, but the designer, Chris Coleman, used to work for Gene Meyer, and obviously absorbed some of his design sensibilities (even down to the polka-dotted tipping). Coleman's line of ties was produced by the Harmony Ball Company, whose primary business is cutesy figurines and home decor. They had a good thing going with these ties, though, too bad they stopped making them. Their Shakatiki vessels are pretty cool, at least.


Thursday, October 20, 2005

Plain or subtle

My boss saw this tie this morning and said, "You look plain today." I was going for "subtle." What's that? I said, "subtle." Subtle. Yes, subtle, as in HEY EVERYBODY, LOOK HOW SUBTLE I'M BEING!

This tie is branded I. Magnin, and thus must be over 10 years old, as that chain fell victim to the Great Department Store Consolidation of the late 20th century (still ongoing). I. Magnin began in San Francisco in 1876 and expanded throughout the west coast. During the Golden Age of Hollywood, I. Magnin catered to the top stars, and wowed everyone with their opulent art-deco stores. They eventually went nationwide; in the Washington area, there was an I. Magnin store at the high-end White Flint mall in Kensington, Maryland. When the chain was bought by Macy's in 1986, most locations continued under the I. Magnin name; but when Macy's merged with Federated Department Stores in 1994, the Magnin name was scrapped. And now that Federated has bought out May Department Stores, they're scrapping my beloved Hecht's as well. Boo, hiss!

But about this tie: in its red field, light black vertical lines, and even lighter ovals, I see trees, viewed through a mist, on Mars.

And now for something completely different: a good slogan for Google would be, "No, you didn't just make that up." Because if you ever come up with a clever phrase or idea, just Google it, and you will learn that no, you didn't just make that up, about fifty people before you already thought of it and put it on the internet somewhere. But--when I began this tie blog, I found no such history, and so believed this to be the first. However, I have just discovered that over at flickr, bjohnson has been posting photos of his daily neckties since May, 2004. D'oh! No commentary, though. And I don't want to sound catty, but I think my ties are better. ;-)

Pucci Alert-- Check out all the sweet vintage Emilio Pucci ties on ebay right now, somebody has a real treasure trove! (The link should last forever, but the auctions I'm talking about here end on October 25.) With starting bids of $99.99, these pictures are as close as I'll be able to get to them! (I will accept donations if anyone is so inclined.)