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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.


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


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


"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!


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


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


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; 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


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...)