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Saturday, April 29, 2006

Primo Polyester

Following up yesterday's tie was a daunting task; even a great tie might seem dull in comparison. Clearly, my only available course of action was to go to the Permanent Collection and pull out a previously-worn but as-yet-unblogged All-Time Favorite. This is one of the CD-logo-embazoned polyester Christian Dior Monsieur ties I mentioned in passing last month. Every tie in that line that I've seen has a fantastic design, super-rich colors, and a complex jacquard weave providing a counterpoint to the print. Since I was raving about overlaps yesterday, this tie is a natural continuation of that theme: a melange of ovals, each with its own interior pattern, overlapping each other to create intricate new patterns in their intersections. Again, this tie provided a pick-me-up all day long, and is now tied with yesterday's tie for my favorite tie on the blog. I won't even try to match this level of exuberance on Monday; I'll use the weekend as a cooling-off period and start next week with a clean slate.

For some fun computer-generated geometric graphics, many of which are eminently suitable for neckties, here's a new link to (previously linked from my Verner Panton tie entry).

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Hawaiian Mod

Wow! I really love when patterns are overlaid on each other and their colors allowed to blend to form an additional combinatorial pattern, so it's no surprise that I love this tie! There's a basic grid of eccentric square spirals (which is a cool enough design on its own), then on top of that float two more layers of rounded lozenges which change the color of the grid in different ways. The printing is very precise in that the different colors of the square spirals all line up, which is no small feat. The only label on the tie is the fabric label (100% acetate, definitely vintage), so once again I cannot credit a tie maker. I was excited about this tie all day, and I'm still excited writing about it. I think this is my favorite tie on the blog so far; it may sound like sacrilege, but I find it even more engaging than Puccis. This necktie will now advance to the Permanent Collection.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Perry Ellis

This tie is a Perry Ellis "Handmade," most likely from the mid-1980s when the skinny ties of new wave fashion drove mainstream tie widths down to just 3 inches. Perry Ellis (1940-1986) was a fashion wunderkind, starting his own fashion house in 1978 and becoming the President of the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 1982 (and lauching the career of Isaac Mizrahi, currently bringing style to a Target near you). Tragically, Ellis died in 1986 of AIDS-related complications. He is commemorated by the CFDA's Swarovski's Perry Ellis Award for Best New Designer in menswear and womenswear. And of course the Perry Ellis company lives on, as a billion-dollar multinational corporation.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Sow the wind...

Reap the whirlwind. (Or as Ultravox has it, "Reap the Wild Wind." I've been on a mild Ultravox kick. I prefer the proto-cyberpunk John Foxx version to the more techno-romantic Midge Ure version, but I like that too. I'm leery of the latter-day Foxx-less and Ure-less incarnation, and have stayed away so far.) But is it wind depicted in this tie (from Peachick, hand made in Korea from 100% polyester), or water? Viewer consensus says water, and the swirl-ending flourishes do resemble traditional Asian representations of waves, the best-known of which is undoubtedly Hokusai's "In the Hollow of a Wave off the Coast at Kanagawa" (ca. 1831), a.k.a. "The Great Wave," number one of his Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji (which actually contains 46 prints). I'm not suggesting this tie is in Hokusai's league, but it has an interesting design that far outclasses its base material.

Absolute Monarchy

The colors in this tie are the same as those of the monarch butterfly (and its mimic, the viceroy), and they are arranged in roughly the same proportions, but the tie's pattern is more random than the geometric precision of the butterflies' wings. Since I first read about the viceroy in a Ripley's Believe It Or Not Sunday comic thirty-odd years ago, I went with the generally-accepted theory that the viceroy is tasty to predators, but achieved a degree of safety by mimicking the bad-tasting monarch. More recent studies, however, conclude that the viceroy tastes just as bad, so maybe it's just a fashion thing. Speaking of fashion, this necktie is a Stradivari by Park Lane, a label that usually promises a creative and original design.

Friday, April 21, 2006


Today's tie is from the Guggenheim Museum. I had hoped to identify the piece it's based on, but I've drawn a blank; it's not in their current (very limited) tie offerings, and I couldn't find it by browsing the online collection. If you know what it is, please post a comment!

Pat Argenti

Pat Argenti's route to the fashion world was a strange one. His first career was as a stockbroker; then in 1980, he founded Argenti, Inc. as a wholesaler of primarily women's clothing. Argenti is not a designer; as he tells it:
“Artistic” skills, such as sketching and painting, are not necessary to accomplish design success. What is crucial is the ability to come up with the next great idea to move the business forward. An idea born from watching fashions while sitting in a Paris café turned into a $70 million dollar business.
Argenti focused on finding innovative silk fabrics and patterns throughout Asia (and especially in China) , lowering his per-unit costs by keeping the factories busy year-round, and selling the end products at lower prices than competitors. Somewhere along the way he had some of the silk made into neckties, which show up on ebay occasionally (Argenti, Inc. folded in 1991). I have never seen a dull Pat Argenti tie. They consistently sport bright colors and bold designs, ranging from regular florals through more abstract batik-style designs (e.g. today's tie) to brilliant Pucci knock-offs (and I mean that in a good way).

Pat Argenti
is now the Founder/CEO of Silver Miracle, Inc., a merchandising consulting firm. There's a short video of him on this page.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006


This vintage tie from Giofer of Italy is unusually short, at just 50" long (today's standard length is 57"). I think it may have been meant as a boys' tie, but I was able to tie it into an almost-reasonable length (though the tail end did not reach as far as the keeper, so I had to use a handy-dandy pants clip to keep it tucked in). This tie will never be mistaken for a Pucci, but it probably wouldn't have existed without the Marchese's trailblazing designs.

In the absence of anything constructive to say about this tie (I know, that never stopped me before), I would like to address the two most common objections to the wearing of neckties:

1. "They're uncomfortable." That's ridiculous, a tie just hangs on the outside of your shirt, how could that be uncomfortable? The uncomfortable part is not the tie, but the shirt collar when buttoned all the way up. If that is uncomfortable, then you're wearing the wrong size shirt. Get one with a bigger neck size. Unfortunately that usually means every other dimension of the shirt will be bigger; if you end up swimming in the shirt, try on some "fitted" or "trim" or "athletic" sizes. Or if you like being enveloped in voluminous swathes of fabric, that's cool too. A collar extender will also do the trick (it fastens to the top button, then has another button that goes through the top buttonhole), though some are more discreet than others.

2. "It feels too much like a uniform." Not all ties are the same! They don't have to be boring! (I hope I have demonstrated that on these pages.) There's enough variety in neckwear that surely something will appeal to you. Check out ebay, there are 13,000 ties up for auction and another 33,000 for immediate sale, most for much cheaper than retail! Besides, if you're in a "business casual" workplace I think you will agree that the polo shirt is even more of a uniform these days. (And Pretty Lady hates them, by the way.) Let your freak flag fly!

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Spring!!! Is!!! Here!!!

The nasty weather went away and left us with a beautiful cloudless sky and temperatures in the 60s, so I now deem it safe to break out the lightweight, bright clothing. To celebrate the advent of "actual" spring (as opposed to "calendar" spring) I wore an airy Gene Meyer tie that is full!!! of!!! exclamation!!! points!!!!! There's really nothing more I can say about it, but if you wish to peruse my previous Gene Meyer entries, please click here.

Rain delay

I was all set for a week of bright spring colors and light fabrics, and then the weather turned rainy and chilly and completely dreary. There was nothing to do but dress darkly and warmly, with corduroy trousers, tweed jacket, and a Kandinsky-inspired Nino Cerruti tie. Nino Cerruti took over his family's fine-wool textile business in Biella, Italy in 1950, at the age of 20, upon his father's death. In 1957 he revolutionized the industry by making the company the first textile mill to launch its own clothing line, Hitman. In 1961 (or 1964, accounts vary) Cerruti hired a young Giorgio Armani to design menswear; Armani would remain with Cerruti until 1970. In 1967, Cerruti opened his own fashion house in Paris, Cerruti 1881 (after the founding year of the original company). Cerruti helmed the business (overseeing several offshoots) until 2001, when he sold it to Italian holding company Finpart, who subsequently licensed the Cerruti name to Rezidor SAS Hospitality (the European Radisson franchise holder) to create the Cerruti hotel brand. However, it appears that Finpart was declared bankrupt last year, dragged down under massive debt incurred by Cerruti France. These chains of holding companies, corporate licensing agreements, joint ventures, and other financial contrivances of modern business make my head spin. It shouldn't take that much to make a nice tie. It's when you want to make more than one that trouble looms.

Friday, April 14, 2006


If the eyes are the windows of the soul, then surely neckties are its curtains. (I have anticipated the arguments against this thesis: the eyelids are the blinds, and sunglasses are the shutters.) Even moreso if the necktie was homemade out of curtain material, as I suspect this one was (if not upholstery fabric). The fabric probably dates from the 1930s; at least that's what my father estimates, and I'll take his word for it since he lived through part of that decade himself (the latter part). Since silk is so sheer, the construction of a tie from it requires the silk to be wrapped around a lining or interfacing of a heavier fabric to give the tie its shape (unless using the luxurious and difficult seven-fold method). But with a heavy fabric with some stiffness to it, such as curtain fabric, the interfacing can be dispensed with, making for easier construction, as in today's necktie. I also like the color palette, which you don't see much on ties. I wish I could have pulled more of the magenta flowers through the knot, but I was already pushing the appropriate limit of tie length. At least there was enough for a nice accent.

Addendum: the Tie Yourself In Knots website has a page of instructions for making your own necktie here.

Thursday, April 13, 2006


From Bullock and Jones of San Francisco comes this heavy tie with a woven pattern of multicolored circles peeking through a red "surface" in vaguely amoebic swathes. Bullock and Jones was founded in 1853 by Frank Bullock and John Luther Jones, and survived until 2000 (after being bought by Saks) on its reputation for luxury menswear and its latter-day strong catalog sales. But this tale of corporate takeover and closure has a happy ending: the firm was bought back from Saks by the son of its former owner, and reopened in a new location. Hurrah for independent businesses!

Now it can be told

Why did I "have to" wear a Pucci tie a couple weeks ago? Because that's the day that the Greenbelt Gazette sent a photographer to my house to take a picture of me to accompany this article on Greenbelt blogs (or blogging Greenbelters). I wanted to wear a tie that would establish my credibility as a necktie connoisseur, and while there are wide differences of opinion about various collectible brands, I think everyone agrees on Puccis. The article is quite nice, not the "Local Weirdo Collects Obscure Junk" piece that I somewhat feared, so thanks to Sara Schwartz for a great story!

And speaking of connoisseurs, Mark Valentine's tales of "The Connoisseur" (collected in In Violet Veils and Masques and Citadels from Tartarus Press) are the most exquisite weird fiction of the last decade. The Connoisseur is concerned not with luxury consumer goods, but with esoteric arts and philosophies and historical anomalies, usually with a supernatural aspect. Seek out the books (both out of print) and enjoy them with a fine ale, such as my favorite, Weyerbacher Quad, for the ultimate in reading pleasure.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The Brown Whisper

The amazing period neckwear of the dapper gentlemen at Knot a Blog and Will's Vintage Ties piqued my interest in real vintage ties, i.e. from the "swing era" of the 40s and 50s when pants were high-waisted and ties were short, and men called women "dames" and "broads" and "tomatoes" and ogled their "gams." I was lucky to find this rayon tie on ebay; it's "The Brown Whisper" from Wembley, 1950. I know that because it was in unused, mint condition, with its cardboard sleeve-label still intact! I'm sure I've just torpedoed its resale value by wearing it (after 56 years of careful storage), but that's how committed I am to my calling. A popular catch-all key phrase on ebay for anything moderately funky from that period is "Eames era," riding the coattails of Charles and Ray Eames, who popularized the "playful-industrial" look. It's an overused phrase, yet I wouldn't hesitate to use it to describe this tie. "Atomic" works too. Now please excuse me while I go toss back a few with the guys at the Frolic Room.

Update: Here's the label from the tie, which includes such quaint phrases as "For the man in her life," and "Correct color for fall:"

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Italy -> France -> Japan

Emanuel Ungaro started his own fashion house in Paris in 1965, after working for the legendary designer Cristobal Balenciaga for six years. This tie's large label proclaims, "Emanuel Ungaro - Modèle Déposé," which means "registered pattern" according to this dictionary. There is a smaller label on the tail end indicating that the tie was made in Italy of 100% silk. Then there is one more label sewn into the opening of the tail end that says "100% silk, Mitsukoshi," which I take to mean that it was originally sold through a Mitsukoshi department store in Japan, probably in the 80s judging by its 3-inch width and modern print style. The Mitsukoshi chain traces its roots back to a single kimono shop that opened in Edo (now Tokyo) in 1673. How's that for provenance?

I'm back!

I took a few days off to entertain our guests from England (including a trip to Philadelphia for a great Josh Rouse concert), which was quite delightful, but now I'm back with more ties. It looks like an airbrushed geometric pattern was used as the basis of this tie pattern. I've always thought the airbrush is best suited for specific genres, such as monsters on van murals (now that "custom choppers" are all the rage, I'm eagerly anticipating a van mural comeback), or rippling muscles and bodice-straining bosoms on fantasy novel covers. But there's always an exception, and this airbrushed rendition of a jumble of overlapping shapes fits right in with the Burl Veneer aesthetic. This is a Modaitalia tie of Italian origin but unknown maker; it has an unusually stiff lining, but makes a beautiful triangular knot. Which leads me to address the issue of dimpling. To dimple or not to dimple? In my mind there are three reasons to dimple your necktie:
  1. The tie is insufficiently tapered to prevent bunching up as it emerges from the knot. In this case dimpling keeps the symmetry of the tie, instead of having unsightly bunches at one or both edges at the blade/knot intersection.
  2. To show off a particularly rich and lustrous fabric. Ties don't drape, they just fall flat, so you don't get the play of light and shadow (a.k.a. chiaroscuro) that shows off a really fine fabric. The dimple provides a little bit of that.
  3. You like wearing a dimple. That's a matter of taste. I try to avoid a dimple whenever possible, but I was unable to with the last tie.
If you ever look at tie auctions on ebay, you have probably seen a "dimpler tool" very prominently placed. You don't need a tool! All you need to do is this: pull the blade through the knot; as the knot begins to tighten, press into the middle of the blade with the index finger of the pulling hand to create a dimple; with the other hand, squeeze the knot; then continue pulling the tie through while continuing to squeeze the knot. That will preserve the dimple until the pull-through is complete. And voila!

(In case you're wondering what I wore to the Josh Rouse show, it was this Pucci-inspired Kenneth Cole shirt:)

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Homeward Bound

For my final day in Florida I brought along a tie that, while not actually from Florida, seems to fit in with the "Florida style" as defined by the three previous ties. You'll never guess where this tie came from, so I'll just come right out and tell you: The Men's Store at Sears! It's nothing recent, though, probably another one from the Apollo era. After a long day including early conferences, several bus rides, and a delayed flight, I am finally home. I won't have to be separated from my family again until next year's conference in Vegas. Totally worn out from my trip, I'm taking the rest of the week off, so no new ties until Monday (but perhaps one or two archival entries in the interim).

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Welcome to Space Station Five

This futuristic masterpiece is from "Pav's Resort Fashions, Palm Beach, Boca Raton." Wow, was there really a time when men wore neckties at resorts? Take me back there! The tie must be from the Apollo era (1963-1972), with Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey and its Space Station Five (where this tie would be right at home) coming on the scene right in the middle of it (1968). Check out the mod jacquard weave, too!

It's day three of the conference, I'm starting to wear down, and I miss Mrs. Veneer and the kids terribly. One more day until we are reunited, and I can't wait.

Men's Stuff

Here is the quintessential Florida necktie brand: Men's Stuff by Lilly Pulitzer of Palm Beach. Is it kitsch or high fashion? It's both, and no one does it like Lilly Pulitzer. Her colors and patterns are completely distinctive. Don't know about these pants, though. I only regret that I don't have the white shoes and belt that would really bring this ensemble to life. (And yes, she is one of those Pulitzers: she married the grandson of publisher Joseph Pulitzer, of the prize.) I'm halfway through the conference; two more ties to go.

Monday, April 03, 2006

A tie on a Sunday?

My conference in Florida began on a Sunday, so I figured I might as well put on a tie in the morning for the flight down and save myself the trouble of putting one on in the middle of the day. While the conference dress code is "business casual," I can't conceive of working without a tie; so I've chosen casual ties for the four days of the conference. Casual Florida ties, at that (and never mind that they don't look anything like the ties of bona fide Floridian Mike Segers; I'm more after the "concept of Florida," if you will). This is a hand-printed tie (silkscreen on cotton, I believe) from Key West Fashions. I knew I picked the right tie when I went to the check-in counter at the airport: I got my boarding pass, checked my bag, and the clerk said, "Welcome back to Orlando." Back? Now if that's not just a stock phrase that the clerks have to tell everybody (and I refuse to believe it is), then I can only assume she mistook me for a Floridian. Yes! Then one of the security screeners told me he liked my tie. Then, when I got off the plane in Orlando, who was sitting on the very first seat next to the door but... John Waters! He didn't say anything about my tie, though; he must have wanted to respect my privacy, so I returned the favor. Several more people complimented me on my tie throughout the day, so my trip is off to a good start. Oh yeah, I also learned stuff, too, and saw a motivational speech from Boston Philharmonic conductor Ben Zander, which was nice.