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Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Boomerang Gang

Bulurru of Australia is the self-professed "market leader in the production and distribution of authentic Aboriginal Art based products," including...neckties! This tie's label says it's polyester, which surprised me because it really does feel like silk.

I could go on about Aboriginal Art here, but instead the boomerang theme of this tie has prompted a reminiscence about a 1985 trip to London (because I saw the band Boomerang Gang at the legendary Marquee Club, where the Rolling Stones had played in their early years; too bad I didn't see a band with more staying power, but I was only there for a short time). My family and I (which at that time meant me, my parents, and my brother, though now it means me, my wife, and our kids) went to London after a week in Germany; my college-radio buddy Ira was going to be in London at the same time. Before we left the States Ira told me to meet him at the Alien Sex Fiend concert. Well, that turned out to be the night before we got to London. So I picked up the music papers to scour the concert listings and figure out where I could find Ira. I figured he would probably go to see Nik Turner's Inner City Unit (and I would have gone to that anyway), so I went. I walked into the hall and there was Ira, waiting for me. "I knew you'd be here," he said. So we met up after all and spent some quality hanging-out time in London. Other musical highlights of the trip included seeing the Red Hot Chili Peppers' first UK show ever (at Dingwall's in Camden), and Jayne County (née Wayne County, whose signature song is "Man Enough to be a Woman") in Croydon. I bought so many records on that trip my luggage was over the airline weight limit! Ah, that was fun. (Incidentally, you can download almost all of Inner City Unit's catalog on Dead Fred's website!)

Off the bias

Well, I managed to find a tie pattern with a perpendicular orientation to match the perpendicular orientation of this shirt pattern (and colors in the same ballpark, roughly), as opposed to my previous "wrong angles" post. But, the tie is perpendicular because the silk is not cut on the bias, and sure enough, the tie was twisting below the knot all day. So kudos to Jesse Langsdorf, who patented the on-the-bias "Resilio" necktie construction method in 1924; it really does make a difference. This tie is from Mark Chrisman of Florida, made of "imported English silk foulard." The print style on the labels indicates it's of some vintage; I'll stick with my usual guess of 1970. Construction aside, I love this tie, but I'd like to see the pattern on something big enough for it to repeat more, like a shirt. I won't hold my breath, though.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Tundra: Canadian Coogi

Tundra of Canada has been making clothing for over 70 years, but I'm not sure how long they've been making Coogi-style sweaters. From what I have seen, they're every bit as good. Also like Coogi, Tundra has made some neckties as well, mostly with a printed design, but some, like this, with a phantasmagorical weave of a whole rainbow of silk threads, somehow stitched and sewn into a three-dimensional, almost topographical, texture. This is hands-down the most incredible fabric I own. The only reason this tie is going to show up on ebay in the near future is that I have another one just like it, which I will be keeping.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Todd Oldham

I know what you're thinking: "Oh no you di'ent wear that tie with that shirt!" Oh yes I did. And no one said a word. Either they're used to it by now, or they thought I must have finally snapped. Sometime during his tenure as a high-end fashion designer and MTV style guru, Texas-born Todd Oldham managed to put out a line of neckties as well. I've only ever seen two of them, and they both exhibit a near-flawless melding of retro and contemporary design influences. This example hearkens back to 1970-ish "kitchen-sink" scarf designs, but avoids the baroque intricacies that I feel mar so many of those period pieces. Oldham has forsaken fashion design for interior design, bringing mid-century modern to the masses through DIY books and his line of furniture and accessories for La-Z-Boy. He may even be La-Z-Boy's savior, having found a way to make their furniture appeal to the under-50 demographic. In fact, his line is so successful that an entire Todd Oldham by La-Z-Boy store has just opened in New York. The furniture looks great, but won't work in my house; having four kids dictates super-durable (and heavy) This End Up furniture, beside which Oldham's line is positively dainty.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Beau Brummell

George Bryan "Beau" Brummell (1778-1840) was the O.D. (Original Dandy), a man whose fastidious and stylish dress sense (dark suits with fancy neckwear) set the course of modern gentlemanly fashion. As such he is the spiritual godfather of this blog. And he inspired a namesake tie maker; today's tie is a "Mr. John by Beau Brummell" with a little bit of flower power, a little bit of art deco, and a whole lot of polyester. Here's another one; wow! It was all I could do today to keep from grabbing everyone's hand and shouting, "What will it take to put you in a brand new Pacer today?"

I've just discovered a couple great web resources: the most comprehensive essay on the history of neckties I have yet seen, by Willy J. Spat; and, a website celebratory of all things dandy, which I will spend the next few hours reading. And coveting.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Oh, well, a touch of grey...

Kind of suits you anyway. (Yeah, Grateful Dead. True Deadheads turn up their noses at the band's hit single efforts, but I've always enjoyed them: "Touch of Grey," "Alabama Getaway," "Shakedown Street"... That's all that come to mind right now, but they're real toe-tappers.) It seems like just a couple weeks ago that I was heaping scorn on gray, and here I am today in gray from head to foot. (Literally! I wear a gray hat outside, and I wore gray socks.) I just can't stay mad that long. It helps that Cosette of Austin, Texas, has imbued this gray hand-marbled tie with a sense of mystery, with two layers of marbling and faint wisps of brighter colors mixed in among the murk. And no, nobody splattered glue on it, be nice!

Monday, January 23, 2006

Architect Superstar

This tie was "made exclusively for Rice University, designed by John Outram." The connection to Rice University is not immediately apparent; it doesn't seem to refer to the university's athletics mascot, the owl, except for maybe in a late-onset schizophrenic way a la Louis Wain's cat paintings. It's actually a ceiling mural (properly, the Steve and Sue Shaper Ceiling of Martell Hall) from Anne and Charles Duncan Hall, a remarkable buidling designed by British "philosopher-architect" John Outram for Rice's departments of Computational and Applied Mathematics, Computer Science, and Statistics, and completed in 1997. (Those in the fundraising business will note the abundance of "naming opportunities.") According to Outram, Rice's own architecture faculty has thoroughly denounced the building, but everyone else quite likes it. There is a wealth of information about the project on the John Outram Associates website, which can make your mind reel after a while if you're not a regular consumer of architectural theory. Is there a meaning to this bizarre pattern? You bet there is! While Outram has not yet posted it to his own website, some of his explanations of it are transcribed on this page of the "unofficial" Duncan Hall website, which also includes more readable summaries of Outram's design theories.

This reminds me of another new whiz-bang buidling for computer types, Frank Gehry's Stata Center at M.I.T., where my brother has an office. To me it looks just silly, and my brother isn't thrilled with it but doesn't hate it either. What does John Outram think of Frank Gehry?
Well, well, well! Still, for all his implications that he is the greatest architect alive, Outram's buildings look pleasant and seem to be highly functional. I'll have to make a point of visiting one someday. And I haven't seen such a great tie design from an architect since Boxelder's architect lines, which now include a Santiago Calatrava design! And not only that, you can now buy single ties directly from Boxelder!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Dad's Ties Week, Day 4: Crossword Puzzle

Once upon a time in "downtown" College Park, there was a menswear store, where one could actually buy a suit, or a sportcoat, or a necktie, and it was at that store that Mom bought this tie for Dad sometime in the early 1970s. Dad balked at it at first, thinking it was just too much; but when he wore it for the first time people admired it, so it got added to his wardrobe. The design captures the zeitgeist of the era, and thus has a lasting appeal; however, the materials are not quite up to the task. The polyester fabric will undoubtedly last forever, but the colors retain just a fraction of their original brilliance, especially the green and purple squares. I've punched them up a little in the picture, but they are still noticeably faded. The maker label has also been lost, so the designer will have to remain anonymous until someone can clue me in.

I know the color coordination between the tie and shirt is less than ideal, but to paraphrase Donald Rumsfeld, "As you know, you go to work with the clean shirts you have. They’re not the shirts you might want or wish to have at a later time." So this is the best I could do with the resources at hand. Next week will be a different sort of theme week. Nearing the end of my 30-shirt rotation, I will have to choose ties to match the shirts, rather than the other way around, which is my normal procedure. But I am up to the challenge!

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Dad's Ties Week, Day 3: Random House

Dad calls this Pierre Cardin tie his "Random House" tie, because of the resemblance of its repeating buildings (woven, not printed) to the Random House logo:

(This is a modernization of the original logo, designed by artist Rockwell Kent in 1927.) We had near-constant exposure to that logo, as it graced the cover of the massive dictionary that was the standard reference book in our house. Later on, I lived for a couple years within view of the gargantuan Random House distribution center on Bennett Cerf Drive in Westminster, Maryland.

A few years ago my parents were off on one of their world trips, and I got the notion to wear this tie to work one day. So I looked through Dad's tie rack for quite some time (believe it or not, he has a lot of ties), but I couldn't find it. It turned out that it was the one tie Dad took with him on the trip! Great minds think alike.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Dad's Ties Week, Day 2: Liberty Skulls

Dad calls this his "skull" tie: inside some of the powder-blue areas are shapes that look like human(oid) skulls. (Click on the picture for a larger rendition.) Of course, as a child I thought that was really cool; as an adult, I still do! A Liberty of London tie is the last place you'd expect to find skulls, but there they are. Dad bought this tie at Hecht's in Landover Mall right after it opened in 1972. Landover Mall was the shining star of retail in Prince George's County, sitting right on the Capital Beltway and boasting 1.3 million square feet of space, the second-largest mall in the Washington area (Tyson's Corner being first). It was worth driving farther than our neighborhood theater to go to the movies at Landover: I saw first runs of Star Wars and Dino De Laurentiis's King Kong (no match for Peter Jackson's amazing remake, which I just saw over the weekend) there. But in the 80's the mall fell into disregard, and then into a long, painful decline, chronicled through some personal reminiscences and recent photos at (And yes, while the mall is a shuttered, empty hulk, the Sears is still open!) But about the tie: it's cotton, as Liberty's most popular floral ties have been, probably of their special Tana Lawn cotton. You may notice that the tie is quite narrow for 1972; it didn't used to be! Dad had it tailored down to a reasonable width when wide ties became unfashionable, and thereby got a couple more decades of wear out of it (and counting).

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Dad's Ties Week, Day 1: Arts and Crafts

(If you've clicked over here from 52 cupcakes, you might like this tie; not cupcakes, but the closest thing I have!)

One factor in my passion for neckties is probably having grown up with a father who wore fabulous ties. Dad, a retired botany professor, has graciously lent me some of my favorite ties of his, all of which made an impression on me in my formative years, to feature on the blog this week. Several years after Dad's retirement, I now work at the same university where he worked, and this week his ties will liven up the campus once again. He bought this one from a vendor at a sidewalk arts & crafts fair in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in 1967. He would wear this tie to deliver his biannual lecture on induction of flowering. Which wasn't nearly often enough, if you ask me (as if I have room to talk). The tie is hand made of a heavy cotton fabric, with a single label reading "B.C.S." But we don't know who that is! If you can put me in touch with the enigmatic B.C.S., please do, I want more ties like this.

One of the fun aspects of doing this blog is hearing from other necktie enthusiasts and artists. My latest crafty visitor is Catherine Gutsche of Ottawa, who uses neckties as a starting point for wonderful paintings, which can be seen here. And while you're there, check out her other art, too!

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Wembley: not just a stadium

Wembley Stadium in London seats a whopping 127,000, and was the site of such era-defining concerts as Live Aid, Queen, and the Freddy Mercury Tribute. I understand it is also used for sporting events. New Orleans-based Wembley is also a necktie maker of long standing, one of a select few brand names that carry some cachet in the vintage market. Many Wembley ties, including this one, were made of "Wemlon" polyester (launched in 1962, discontinued in 1979). If they're all like this tie, they are virtually indestructible, and it's no wonder so many are still in circulation. Then again, it may simply be the sheer number of ties they've made over the years. Founded in 1925 by brothers Sam and Emanuel Pulitzer, the Pulitzer Brothers Neckwear Company company rose to prominence in 1935 when they started making ties out of worsted mohair, which had the appearance of silk but didn't wrinkle. At that point they changed the company name to Wembley, after the mill town that supplied much of the fabric they used (now home of the stadium). In 1968 Sam Pulitzer's heirs took full control of the company and changed the name to WEMCO. WEMCO was bought by the Randa Corporation in 1997, but continues as a business unit. Depeonding on whom you listen to, WEMCO is either the largest or second-largest manufacturer of ties (or men's accessories) in the US (or the world), with rival company Superba (Los Angeles, founded 1873) vying for the top slot. The two companies manufacture or distribute just about all the ties you see in department stores ("This is the guy behind the guy behind the guy," as Joe Mantegna says in Things Change):
  • WEMCO: Tabasco, Save the Children, Geoffrey Beene, Countess Mara, Van Heusen, Dockers, Slates
  • Superba: Arrow, Bugatti, City of London, DKNY, Format, Jones New York, Nautica, Tommy Hilfiger, Zylos, Perry Ellis, Ike Behar, Perry Ellis, Valentino
It looks like Superba produces more brands, but it could be that they just list more on their website. And both companies produce scads of store-brand and corporate ties as well. So if you're wearing a tie right now, chances are it came from WEMCO or Superba.

Incidentally, Lee Allison is having a sale right now on select (that is, discontinued) ties, I think it runs until the end of the month. Ties that regularly sell for $90 can now be had for just $55, some even less. That's still a lot more than I pay for my ties, but if you don't have the time to sift through thousands of ebay listings, this might be a good deal. (You won't find Lee Allison ties on ebay anyway.) There's a link to the website at the right. I'm a bit concerned about some of the new designs, it looks like they're reviving some 70's styles that should remain buried, specifically the "ugly brocade."

Coming up next: a very special theme week!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Boy Blue

(E.L.O., of course.) I've always wondered why blue is supposed to be the color of sadness, when it's such a beautiful color. How can one be sad while regarding the blue of lapis lazuli, or the ocean, or the sky on a glorious high-pressure day, or the various blues of this Maison Imperial tie from France (whose broad brushstrokes may resolve into a floral pattern when seen from afar)? I nominate gray as the color of sadness. Being a blend of all the colors of the visible spectrum, it has the vibrancy of none of them, nor does it have the conviction to be either black or white. It is the color of rainy days and dust. I don't get the blues, I get the grays. But not today!

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Pucci Pucci Poo

Here is a better example of an Emilio Pucci tie than the first one I displayed, which was a corporate design for Pistons Asso. Pucci designed a line of ties for Saks Fifth Avenue (this is one of them), which are easily identified as Puccis by the labelling (the Emilio signature repeats in the tipping, and an Emilio Pucci label on the tail end) and the Emilio signature that repeats throughout the design itself: there's only one on the front (in a green square on the right--that's your right, my left), but they're all over the back. This necktie incorporates the brilliant colors typical of Pucci's best-loved work, but the grid pattern is still more subdued than his trademark sinuous lines and shapes. It also illustrates the difficulty in transforming a pattern designed for a scarf (a big square) into a necktie (a narrow strip): the border, which would run all the way around the scarf, is limited here to a cameo appearance at the bottom of the tie. Also, the scarf from which this tie was made has a contrasting pattern in the middle. Normally that would not show up on the tie at all, but in this case the fabric was very carefully aligned and cut so that the central pattern gets to show, just a little bit, on the outside of the knot. Bravo! I have a few more Puccis in store, so check back!

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

I ♥ Katamari

Or, as I proclaim by wearing this tie, I ♥♥♥♥♥♥ Katamari! Hmmm, this one feels kind of...hearts-ish! What could be more fun than rolling up everyday objects, food, small animals, large animals, people, cars, trucks, buildings, trees, and finally, world landmarks on a giant sticky ball? Nothing, that's what! Everywhere I go I find myself devising strategies for rolling up everything in sight: at first you can only pick up small objects, then as your katamari gets bigger, it can pick up bigger objects (which stands to reason, as greater mass = greater gravitational force). But doggone it, I still can't get all 1,000 cranes! (Snowballs are the meta-katamari. Scroll down this page of masterful paper art for an ingenious snowball piece, and an incredible snowman as well.)

Gene Meyer couldn't have had We ♥ Katamari in mind when he designed this tie, because it didn't exist yet, but it is oh so apropos! It is also apropos for Valentine's Day, hence the timing in getting it off my rack, onto the blog, and then onto the auction block.

Monday, January 09, 2006


You're probably thinking, "Haven't you worn that tie with that shirt before? Why the repeat?" No, that was a different psychedelic floral freakout tie. That one was silk, while this one (designer unknown) is made of Trevira polyester, a polyester so special it has its own brand name. Trevira is made of fibers of polyethylene terephthalate (PET), the same material used to make soda bottles, which is 100% recyclable (its resin identification code is 1 -- that's the number inside the triangular recycling symbol). Trevira was developed in 1956 in Bobingen, Germany, its namesake company being a branch of pharmaceutical conglomerate Hoechst AG. I can't tell who owns Trevira today, as the company has been bought and sold several times in the last decade by different corporate consortia, but they're still manufacturing it by the ton (130,000 per year at full capacity). I haven't seen it used in any neckties lately. Surely recyclability could be a selling point? (But really, any necktie is recyclable via that greatest recycler of all, ebay.)

(You may have noticed that the angle of this photo is different from most of the others. That's because this picture was taken by my eleven-year-old son, who is a foot shorter than my wife, who usually takes the pictures. This is his first published photo; I am so proud of him!)

Update (1/13): I just took that other floral freakout tie out of the closet, and guess what, it's not silk after all, it's... Trevira! D'oh!

Friday, January 06, 2006

Marblesque Redux

Here's another splendiferous hand-marbled necktie from Marblesque, presumably by Brian O'Malley although it doesn't say so. In this tie the marbler has foregone the fine detail of traditional marbling patterns in favor of large swathes of single colors manipulated into grand, sweeping swirls. The ink is still spattered onto the size resulting in a very fine texture, which finally produces a three-dimensional effect that looks a little like bread rolls, or rocks (such as the "hamburger bun" rock formations in the Squaw Flat area of Canyonlands National Park in Utah).

Since my first marbled tie post, I have discovered another silk marbler's website, SoLace of Virginia, which will be added to the links section at right shortly.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Integrated circuit

The dichromatic pattern on this tie by Hubert (probably Hubert of Milano, though it doesn't say so) looks like an integrated circuit, the revolutionary invention that made personal computers (and by extension, this very blog) possible. Jack Kilby and Robert Noyce are both credited with independently inventing the integrated circuit, which combines transistors, diodes, and their connections (millions of 'em!) on a single chip of semiconducting material. Apart from their functionality, integrated circuits are visually fascinating, evoking comparisons to complex systems of pipes or roads, which in a manner of speaking they are. And though it's been about fifteen years since I read it, I think the similarity between ICs and the veves of Haitian Vodoun played a significant part in William Gibson's Neuromancer trilogy. A good tie can keep my mind racing making these connections all day. (But not when I'm working, of course.)

Wednesday, January 04, 2006


Silk, for all its delicacy, is actually quite a durable fabric. Even more durable is that fabric made from flax stalks, linen. This tie from Kolby of Rome is 70% silk, 30% linen, and 100% suave, and is yet another example of a basic design-- stripes-- nudged into distinction by making them curvy instead of straight. The natural qualities of both fabrics produce a lustrous sheen, and the brown and teal threads are woven to give the stripes rough edges for an artisanal, textured look. In the context of this page (given its company) it looks rather subdued, but it's actually quite striking. Or so I tell myself.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


This entry marks two milestones: the first necktie of 2006, and the 100th tie displayed on this blog. So to mark the occasion, I'm celebrating with--fireworks! Crash! Boom! Kapow! On the other hand, the starbursts on this tie might be exceptionally spiky flowers, but I'm sticking with explosions. The fine detail on the blue background doesn't show up here, but it looks like tiny, complex pictographs. The tie is a house-branded tie from Isaac Zelcer's Isaco company. Zelcer was born in Cuba and emigrated to New Y0rk in 1960, where he worked in a tie factory, eventually working his way up to company president. He moved to Miami and started Isaco Ties in 1980. Isaco International is now a major manufacturer of men's underwear, sleepwear, and accessories (collectively known as "Men's Furnishings," per Mrs. V.), producing John Henry and Perry Ellis brands, among others. (Just try to find any neckties on the website, though. No, don't, you won't find any. But I think Isaco produces Carlos Santana's line of ties.) In 1996, Zelcer was elected President of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, the first Cuban to hold the post. Babalu!

Monday, January 02, 2006

Newsflash! Another tie blog!

I am delighted to report that another tie blog has come online! Michael Segers of Lakeland, Florida, has just started blogging his daily neckties at Knot a Blog, providing commentary that is informative, thoughtful, and at times deeply personal. In his first post he very eloquently expounds his interest in neckties, putting into words feelings that are quite similar to my own. Best of all, he has some great ties! While my vintage tie selection only goes back to 1960 or so, Michael has ties from the fabulous forties, considered by many to be the Golden Age of neckties. And if this is the Hermès of tie blogs (as the kind Mr. S. flatters me in his links sidebar), then Knot a Blog appears set to be the Ferragamo: equally prized, often preferred. I salute Mr. Segers, and all who embrace and promote Necktie Culture!