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Tuesday, February 28, 2006


Here's a standard pattern you've never seen here before: plaid! Plaid (or properly, Tartan) has been worn in Scotland for thousands of years (possibly), though the first written records of it come from the mid-16th century. According to this history of Tartan, the different patterns were originally simply regional, and not claimed by particular clans. The notion that Clans had their own Tartans appears to have been promoted after the Jacobite revolution was put down (1746) and Highland culture was abolished by the Crown. Instead, new Highland regiments of the army were assigned specific Tartans; the fact that each regiment was composed primarily of members of a particular Clan gave rise to the common wisdom of the Tartan/Clan relationship, and the Clans went right along with it. An authoritative article on the correct wearing of the plaid can be found at the Scottish Tartans Authority website (naturally).

This tie is not really an "authentic" Tartan, having been woven in Como, Italy (for Sacha) in iridiscent silk, but it is not a far cry from the MacPherson pattern. Donaldson's of Crieff has a nice Tartan Finder on their website, as does the venerable Lochcarron of Scotland.

Jimmy Pike

I've displayed a couple Desert Designs ties before (here and here), but this is the first with a design by Jimmy Pike (1940-2002), the "first internationally known Western Australian artist". In fact, Desert Designs was born out of the recognition of his talent, founded by his art teachers Steve Culley and David Wroth in 1984 to promote his work. The figure repeated on this tie looks like Djungarabaja, the Little Chicken Hawk, who stole fire from a camp of women in the bush. (I've discovered there is actually no such bird as an Australian chicken hawk; it's a generic term for just about any bird of prey, but most commonly the brown goshawk and the collared sparrowhawk.) A bunch of Jimmy Pike ties can be seen on the neckties page of the Rainbow Serpent website (scroll down). A large sample of his prints can be seen here; and a more colorful selection here.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

J. Blades

I call this style of tie "heavy scribbles:" scribbles because that's what the lines resemble, and heavy because it evokes the work of Modern sculptors such as Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth (sculptures being heavy). The tie is by J. Blades and Co., about which I can find nothing except a page of deco nightmares for sale at ABC Neckties.

In a first, I'm including a picture of a tieless shirt as well. Mrs. Veneer and I took our three older kids to see Duncan Sheik at the Birchmere tonight. While I've worn a tie to a concert before, this one would include dinner, so I changed into a casual shirt after work. It's one of the saucy Kenneth Cole shirts I mentioned a few days ago. Wouldn't that make a great tie? The concert was marvelous, slightly marred by a woman at the next table who thought that we had all come to hear her repartee; on the plus side, she did badger Duncan into playing the rarely-performed "Serena," which was nice. We took the kids to meet him after the show, and they were very impressed, so much so that they've been listening to Duncan's CDs instead of Green Day since then (thank goodness!). He's such a great guy!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Marja Kurki

Chances are, when you think of necktie designers from Finland, Marja Kurki is the first name you think of (if any at all). Probably the only one, too (but who hasn't wished that Marimekko made ties?). Marja Kurki started making scarves in 1975, and in 1976 founded Marja Kurki, Ltd. After a brief period when the company was owned by the aforementioned textile powerhouse Marimekko (1988-1991), the Kurki family bought it back, and it now has offices in Sweden, Denmark, and China. An article from 2000 mentions a New York office, but that must have closed since then. Like her German counterpart, Anne Surkamp-Kramer, Marja Kurki appears to do a thriving business designing corporate and "affinity" neckwear in addition to the fashion lines.

You might think this an unusually tasteful and restrained design for me, and you'd be right, but I find something very appealing in the repeating image of birds in scrub, and I like the colors. I especially like the yellow-green accents in the otherwise blue pattern, which I have tried to bring out by matching them with the shirt. The ensemble did pass the only test that is important to me: Mrs. Veneer liked it!

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Flat bottomed ties...

You make the rockin' world go round. (Determining the source of that slightly off-color reference will be left as an exercise to the reader.) Rooster is another vintage brand with great name recognition (see also Wembley), its claim to fame being popularizing the square-tipped tie in the 1960s. Most of them were skinny and made of cotton; while this is cotton too, at about three inches wide it has more timeless dimensions. I'll describe the pattern as an abstract expressionist batik mosaic, if there are no objections. The Rooster brand is still around, and available online through Boardroom Ties in patterns that largely ignore the marque's storied past. Square-tipped ties are still around too, but they are mostly solid-colored knit ties, whose method of construction necessitates a square end. (Occasionally a designer will make a real statement with a flat-bottomed tie, I had a fantastic psychedelic floral by Alexander Shields, if I still have a picture of it I'll post it someday because it is guaranteed to make you smile.)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Kente cloth

The traditional kente cloth of Ghana is instantly recognizable by its warm hues and strong patterns. As with the batik fabric of the Pacific islands, kente cloth was originally the garb of royalty. Genuine kente cloth is woven in narrow strips on a small loom; the strips are then sewn together into full garments worn for ceremonial occasions. The patterns in the cloth have symbolic meaning; the "pinwheel" pattern on this tie symbolizes "resistance against foreign domination, superior military strategy." (The other parts I'm not so sure of.) Kente cloth should be worn with a vertical-horizontal orientation, not diagonally as on this tie. But then this is just a printed imitation of kente (by Gianno, cotton) and not the real thing. Real kente ties are available (at surprisingly low prices) from and Gold Coast Africa, to name just a couple that came up at the top of a Google search.

Monday, February 20, 2006


If you look closely, you may be able to make out the fine houndstooth check pattern of this tie. Hahahaha! What you see here is an example of "supergraphics," the pop-art era practice of simplifying designs and blowing them up to gargantuan proportions. It really worked well for things like signage, and you can still see it some places. There's a convenience store along route 83 in Pennsylvania that still stands out by virtue of its supergraphic-emblazoned facade:




Or something to that effect. Of course, houndstooth is not really a printed design, but a woven design. My efforts to find the origins of the houndstooth weave pattern were stymied by a complete void of relevant information on the internet coupled with my own refusal to go to an actual library (full of "books") to research it. Thankfully, another blogger was after the same thing, and a thoughtful visitor left a plausible (though unverifiable) explanation in the comments section of this page. But it's good enough for me.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Pucci, sort of

Yesterday I wore a Leonard-inspired tie, so today I chose a Pucci-inspired tie to continue in the "influenced by" vein. The bold color contrasts and intense angles of the patterns in the various "windows" of this tie would simply not have existed without Emilio Pucci's pioneering explorations of line and color; and the oval grids (one at each edge) are straight out of Pucci's repertoire. Even so, this tie does not achieve the same panache and unlikely balance as a genuine Pucci; Pucci himself was a true artist with a singular talent, often imitated but never duplicated, as the cliché goes. I can't attribute this tie, as it has no labels left on it. It is extra long (60+ inches), but I am not extra tall, a discrepancy easily resolvable by tying a Full Windsor knot. (If a Full Windsor still leaves the tie too long, give it one more wraparound before tucking the blade through the knot.)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Leonard of Paris, sort of

I can't find a history of the Leonard of Paris luxury necktie marque anywhere online, but from what I have gleaned from various ebay listings over the years, Leonard himself began his career as a protege of Emilio Pucci before striking off on his own. The classic Leonard tie design features a dark background and one or two bands of thin stripes (one of them usually containing the text "LEONARD") with flowers emerging from them; see the bottom row of ties on this page for examples. The second category of Leonard ties is the Hermés/Ferragamo style, with a small, clever motif repeating throughout the fabric (as in the top two rows of ties on that page). The third and final category of Leonard designs is the whole-tie picture, usually with a floral motif and often including other iconic images, such as lyres or chivalric horses. This American-made Montage by Belle tie, then, is almost certainly "inspired by" that third category of Leonard ties, though a bit less subtle, perhaps. The quality of the silk is nowhere near the fine Leonard fabric, but then look at the price of a Leonard tie! With a copy you get a similar visual effect at a fraction of the cost. Thanks, Belle. Thelle!

And a-one, and a-two...

What do they call those people who follow musicians around? No, not groupies... Drummers! Ouch! Drummers are much maligned, inspiring page upon page of drummer jokes, such as this one and this one. But of course players of any musical instrument have their own foibles to be made fun of, as on this all-instrument jokes page. All of which is just a roundabout way of getting to, look at all the drummers on this tie! It's a classic drummer silhouette, with a basic drum kit and sticks in the air. He has short hair and appears to be wearing a suit, he's probably a drummer in a swing band. The tie has a very busy jacquard weave and is by Bagutta of Italy, or so the label says.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Kenneth Cole

Kenneth Cole was born into a shoemaking family, his father Charlie having originated the Candie's line of women's shoes. He started his own company in 1982 with a line of women's shoes, and has since branched out into just about every category of clothing through his own designs or licensing arrangements. I like the clean lines of his menswear, and I've recently acquired a couple casual shirts with particularly saucy prints for those rare occasions when a necktie is inappropriate. His ties are pretty good, with many of the Reaction line (of which this is an example) bearing some strong similarities to Gene Meyer's bold geometrics. I got this one a couple years ago when I was building up my "retro lounge" category: the diamonds are reminiscent of 50's ties (think L.A. Confidential) with off-kilter crisscross lines added to modernize it. Kenneth Cole trivia: he is married to Mario Cuomo's daughter, Maria.

Another fabric marbler has popped in for a visit! Check out the beautiful designs over at

Off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush...

Monday, February 13, 2006

See the pyramids along the Nile

Most Egyptian-themed ties confine themselves to hieroglyphics or figures from Egyptian epic artworks. But here is one that includes a bit of architecture, namely the pyramids (alternating with Nefertiti and a hieroglyphic stele in the band just under the yellow stripe). (The pyramids are one of the world landmarks you can roll up onto your katamari in We ♥ Katamari, along with the Taj Mahal, Angkor Wat, Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament, the Great Wall of China, the Easter Island stone heads, etc. Now that's fun!) The tie is polyester by Oleg Cassini (like Marchese Emilio Pucci di Barsento, a bona fide aristrocrat; a French Count!), and bears a "Morey's Man Two, Boulevard Mall" label/keeper, which hearkens back to an era of independent menswear boutiques.

I've accumulated enough Egyptian ties for a theme week, but there is a certain sameness to them that contraindicates wearing them all in a row, as they say in physicians' lingo. But it reminds me that the excellent worldbeat Nile Song by Eric Random and the Bedlamites, from the mini-LP Ishmael, has yet to be issued on CD. Their earlier material has recently been issued on CD by LTM Music as Subliminal (1980-82), so maybe the 1986 material is on the way!

Friday, February 10, 2006


What look like abstract geometric patterns on this ocean-blue polyester tie turn out to be monkeys! I know they're monkeys because of the tails. But their mouths are oddly round, like fish mouths, and what's with all those circles? Are the monkeys juggling, or are they underwater and the circles are air bubbles? And are those fins on the monkey's heads? Or is this a modern depiction of Ozomatli, the monkey who symbolized the eleventh day of each month of the Aztec "sunstone" calendar, and was always depicted with a mohawk? Maybe that's it. No labels on the tie (but the fabric is obviously polyester), so no attribution possible. But it's more fun than a...barrel of monkeys!

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Gino Pompeii

Bridging the gap between Mod and Disco is this handmade Italian tie from Gino Pompeii (an arm of the neckwear giant Randa/Wemco). I actually got it out to wear with a black and yellow ensemble about a year ago, only to discover when I got it out of the stygian murk of the bedroom that it was not black, as I had thought, but navy. Then there was the problem of the disconnected keeper, which I have now happily solved. So here it is in all its near-primary-color glory, with appropriately-hued shirt and pants. The vaguely Pantonesque pattern is of woven polyester; Terytal polyester, to be exact, a polyester so rare that a Google search turns up only one entry, and that's a translation of a Russian article about surgery!

On a different note altogether, you know what make great computer screen backgrounds? Contemporary rugs! Check out all the cool rugs at; find a rug you like, look at the largest available picture of it, save it, rotate it, then set it as your wallpaper in stretched mode. You could even use your browser to set it as wallpaper, but I like to fill the screen while keeping some semblance of the original dimensions. Rug photos have the advantage of having more texture and softer edges than most graphics of electronic origin.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The tie bar problem solved!

The reason it took me so long to wear this x'Andrini tie is that it has no keeper on the back, so I would have to wear a tie bar to keep the tail end from swinging out and showing, which it shouldn't. However, the tie is too thick for my tie bar. And I don't like wearing a tie bar anyway, as it breaks up the flow of the tie's pattern. (Even my eight-year-old daughter thinks so; once when I was wearing the tie bar, she said, "What's that line on your tie?" I told her it was a tie bar, to keep the tail end hidden. She replied, "It looks...bad." Exactly.) But last night, I chanced across a solution in the form of this seemingly worthless piece of packaging material:

I found it in my room; it's a plastic clip from a new dress shirt, one that holds the shirt onto the cardboard. Or it might be the clip that holds the front of a pair of pants together in the store. Anyway, the seam of the back of a tie has widely-spaced stitches, so it's no problem to slip the longer end of the clip underneath the seam, then the tail end of the tie will slide right in. It's on the tie in the picture; you can't tell, can you? And it stayed in place all day! Hallelujah! So next time you get a new shirt or pair of pants, keep the clip, it could come in handy. (I have several ties missing a keeper, and for the blog I've been cheating: Mrs. Veneer takes the picture, then I put on the bar and go to work. But no more!)

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Nina Ricci

This tie from Nina Ricci of Paris is so sophisticated, with its solid block of deepest navy framed by just a bit of dazzling woven silver stripe-boxes, it doesn't belong on a middle-class guy like me, it really belongs on a European billionaire with a dark blue double-breasted suit, sterling silver cuff links, and a chateau in every canton of Switzerland. Perfect for a night at the casino, it also adds a little bit of vicarious élan to a day job of, say, systems analyzing. (I had to wear it a little long to get enough silver to come through the knot and be visible.) The crease down the middle indicates an overzealous pressing at some point in its history, and thus serves as an object lesson in how not to iron a silk tie. Don't press down hard! Just go over it lightly--barely touching--on your iron's lowest steam setting. A little steam won't hurt silk, it was most likely steamed to set the dyes in the first place. You can press down on the edges a little if they're getting rounded, but be careful not to bunch it up and introduce new creases. A non-stick iron works best; I am quite pleased with my T-Fal Ultraglide.

André Jacques

While not an actual theme week, I am making an effort this week to wear some of the ties that have been hanging in my bedroom for over year (or two) that I haven't gotten around to wearing yet. This vintage polyester tie by André Jacques (probably not the same Andre Jacques who owns this Battlestar Galactica fansite) comes from England and has a very unusual pattern, evocative of terraced stone retaining walls viewed from above, or perhaps sidewinder rattlesnake tracks. I've been seeing this tie at the start and close of every day for so long that it's going to feel odd not seeing it anymore as it's consigned to the "worn" closet. But it will leave space for a new tie on the bedroom rack. Yes, neckties are not just fashion accessories, they can also be room decor!

Saturday, February 04, 2006

(Post)Modern art

I'm not sure if the design on this Salvatore Valeriano tie counts as Modern or Postmodern, so I'm hedging. The colorful, abstract forms are reminiscent of the paintings of Modern greats Miro and Kandinsky, though they seem to have been simplified even further (and from what I can tell, Postmodernism is all about combining and simplifying historical forms to the point of cartoonishness--see Memphis Milano). The background is all multicolored dots similar to those found in Australian Aboriginal art, or a color blindness test pattern. Or, it could just be 80's New Wave.

Friday, February 03, 2006

Moth Marblers

From Moth Marblers of Sausalito, California, comes this double-marbled necktie: one layer of traditional peacock pattern overlaid with...well, some other pattern which seems to be some sparse, long swirls. Marbled ties usually have enough colors in them to complement a" shirt such as this one; I'll remember that for next time, I have a lot more marbled ties stored up. (The marbled ties I've displayed here so far are just the tip of the iceberg!)

Incidentally, I just found the Cynscribe Calligraphy Directory, which includes the most comprehensive collection of marbling links I've seen. It's an old page with a lot of dead links (including the Moth Marblers link), but if you keep clicking you'll find plenty of active marbling sites to dazzle your eyes, and kits if you want to try it yourself.