website stats

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

I'm Rainbow F@#&in' Randolph!

In Danny DeVito's Death to Smoochy (written by Adam Resnick), Robin Williams plays children's show host "Rainbow Randolph." But off the set he is a crass and greedy man, who justifies every bad thing he does by saying, "I'm Rainbow f@#&in' Randolph!" Which is what I can't help saying whenever I put on this shirt! It doesn't get as much wear as my solid-color shirts because it's hard to find non-solid-color ties to go with it. This recently-acquired floral tie by Bernard Chaix of France (with a little touch of Peter Max) goes pretty well; or close enough for government work, as they say. (Did I mention I am a state employee?)

Disclaimer: That "close enough for government work" quip is just a joke; my actual work is performed to the highest standards of accuracy and quality. CMA!

Episode 200: Origins

This entry marks the 200th tie I have displayed on this blog! For this special occasion I've dipped into the Permanent Collection for my first fabulous tie, from International Passport. I bought it at Raleigh's in White Flint during their going-out-of-business sale in 1990 or '91; I wore mostly conservative ties at the time, but this playful item evoked the cartoon Paris of Pepe le Pew and the Pink Panther (and, more recently, Shag), so I splurged. (At half price it still cost $40.) The tie got a great reception; everyone loved it, and it's probably what set me on a course to become the necktie maniac I am today. Two hundred down, and I'm just getting started!

The twelve-store Raleigh's chain was a Washington-area fixture for fine clothing; the chain was bought by clothing manufacturer Hartmarx in 1988 during a period of acqusitory expansion. The takeover resulted in the immediate loss of 40 jobs in Raleigh's distribution center, and later, as Hartmarx failed to succeed in the retail business (shedding all its retail divisions except for Kuppenheimer), the demise of the chain itself. (The 90s
were to see several more bankruptcies of beloved area retailers, such as Garfinckel's and Woodward & Lothrop.) The Raleigh's story has a happy ending, of sorts: it was bought out by a group of employees who turned it into Boardroom Ltd. Clothiers, with a single location at White Flint Mall.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Boxelder Week, Day 5: Book of Kells

The final tie of Boxelder Week reproduces artwork from the Book of Kells, one of the world's most renowned manuscripts. It was completed around 800 A.D., the work of at least two Irish monks in the monastery of St. Columba on the island of Iona, off Scotland's west coast. The book contains 680 pages of calfskin vellum (an additional 30 have been lost), all but two of which are illustrated, and without any repeat of patterns. Transcribed therein are the four Gospels in Latin and some miscellanea (Hebrew names and the Eusebain canons). The book acquired its name after being moved to Kells Monastery in Ireland in the 9th century, as protection from Viking raids. That didn't stop it from being stolen in 1007, however, though the book was quickly recovered, minus its bejewelled cover. The Book of Kells was given to Trinity College of Dublin in 1661, and remains there today. I'm afraid I couldn't find what the fish and fabulous tracery on this tie depict; Boxelder's Kells line is no longer available, and is not displayed on the website. So if you know, please leave that information in a comment. (I have a feeling the incredibly knowledgeable Mike S. will know...)

But the big news of the day is, new clothes from Lands' End! Why am I always going on about Lands' End, you ask? (Or not.) Because it's the only place I can get pants that actually fit! You see, the clothing manufacturers have decided that mens' legs are sized in increments of two inches, or that men will be happy with their pants if they are within two inches of the correct length. If you need a 32½ inch inseam, for instance, you are fated to walk around with your pants just a little too short (or worse, if they shrink), or to be walking on your pants hems because 34 inches is just too long. But with Lands' End, you can specify your inseam to the quarter inch! What a luxury, to wear pants with a hem that just breaks over the instep and hangs straight down in back to the midpoint of the shoe.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Boxelder Week, Day 4: Dreamings

Given the success of Desert Designs ties based on Australian Aboriginal art (by Jimmy Pike, Doris Gingingarra, and Clifford Possum), it was not unexpected to see other tie makers enter that market. Boxelder's version is the Dreamings series (they're down to just one design now, Snake Dreamings). Today's tie is Fire Dreaming by Chloe Amanita, who is not actually Australian (I think she is French), but she has lived in Australia. As opposed to the Klimt ties which exclude the main subjects of Klimt's works, this tie focuses on the central images, a lizard (probably a goanna) and bird (a malleefowl, I believe). The design is more formal than the Desert Designs ties.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Boxelder Week, Day 3: Gustav Klimt

Gustav Klimt (1862-1918) (Flash site here) is practically synonymous with fin de siecle arts, though I like to point out that he was working at the fin of the *last* siecle; we have just lived through another one, so the phrase could use some disambiguation. Klimt was accomplished in portraiture and eroticism, but it is his backgrounds that are most often reproduced in textiles: expanses of canvas (or stucco) packed with patchworks of off-kilter, multicolored rectangles, trees with myriad spiral branches, brilliant jewels with organic forms (or vice versa, flowers made of gems), mystical symbols (lots of eyes in pyramids), flowing waves and tresses, glowing scales, everything suffused with the brilliance of gold. Printed on this tie are background patterns from Klimt's 1907 Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer; the gold tones of the original have been transmuted to blues in this colorway. The spirals are too fine to show up in the picture at right, but if you click through to the large version you can see a hint of them. A couple of Boxelder's other Klimt neckties can be seen here; note how they deal only with the backgrounds, as opposed to the Ralph Marlin approach of reproducing the central subject. I have several other Klimt-inspired neckties, which will appear on the blog in due course.

Boxelder Week, Day 2: Frank Lloyd Wright

Judging by the number of ties I've seen for sale and actually being worn, I would say that Boxelder's Frank Lloyd Wright line of ties, produced under license from the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation, is their most popular. Today's tie, Ferns, is based on a 1956 screen design by Wright's protege Eugene Masselink for the master bedroom of Elizabeth Gordon's house in Dobbs Ferry, New York. The fronds of the ferns are finely delineated in gold on the tie; too finely to show up in this picture, unfortunately.

In college I took a course in modern architecture. The professor had it in for Wright and favored more stark practitioners such as Mies van der Rohe, Richard Meier, and Helmut Jahn. I liked his contrarian viewpoint, so I adopted it myself. But in the intervening years I have discovered for myself that I really like Wright's designs! And not just his buildings, but his furniture and decor as well demonstrate a masterful synthesis of traditional and modern elements. I've been to Fallingwater, and I hope to visit more of his buildings in the indeterminate future.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Boxelder Week, Day 1: Paul Klee

Boxelder, Inc., of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, is the industry standard for the tasteful reproduction of fine art and design on neckties. Paul Klee returns to the blog with Boxelder's rendition of his 1922 painting, Unstable Equilibrium. (I have further destabilized its equilibrium by wearing it with a multistriped London shirt.) They've played with the original colors; the purist in me shouts "Bastardization!", while the aesthete shouts back, "Nice colors!" The arrows pointing in all directions make this another good candidate for a "Pointless Forest" tie; maybe writing about that last week is what made me think of wearing this tie in the first place.

This tie is part of the Moderns Series One line. Other works represented in the series are Klimt's The Kiss and Water Serpents I, Matisse's Fleurs de Neige and Les Bètes de la Mer, and George Valmier's Decors et Couleurs.

The big news, which is unrelated to neckties but will spill over into this space anyway, is that I am now a blood uncle! I've been an uncle for years, but only on my wife's side of the family. Saturday my brother's wife had a baby, their first, and what a cutie he is! I'm in Maryland and they're in Boston, I've got to find a way to get up there and see the little guy!

Saturday, May 20, 2006


Today's tie comes from Serica's Elite line, which boast the rather luxurious feature of self-tipping: the fabric on the back of the point of the tie is the same as the fabric on the front. This is luxurious because it uses more premium silk than regular tipping, which is generic and drab. Serica is owned by Gentry, Inc. of Providence, Rhode Island, and that is the totality of Serica information I could find. Serica ties are offered as a component of custom tailor J. David's Gold and Platinum plans, and I suspect they are sold through other high-end outlets as well. The design on this tie is botanical with a psychedelic bent, in muted pastels on black. It reminds me of...well, I can't actually put my finger on it, but it has pleasant associations for me for reasons known only to my subconscious.

Friday, May 19, 2006

The Pointless Forest

In Fred Wolf's 1971 animated feature The Point (story and music by Harry Nilsson and narration by Ringo Starr*), little Oblio is born with a round head in the Land of Point, where every person has a pointed head, and every building has a point on top, and every animal, and so on. It's the law. Oblio is allowed to live in the Land of Point with a pointed hat on his head, but when he embarrasses the evil Count's evil son, he is banished to the Pointless Forest with his trusty dog Arrow. But Oblio discovers that everything in the forest is pointed; the Pointed Man, who appears at of thin air at opportune moments, has three faces and lots of points, all over his body and outfit. But "having a point in every direction is the same as having no point at all," he says. So this is my Pointless Forest tie, with a point in every direction. The maker is the mysterious Creative Company, and the fabric is Microfil. There are several products called Microfil on the market; one is for preserving post-mortem tissue, another for filtering liquids, and yet another one for dispensing pharmaceuticals. But I suspect that this Microfil is the product that is usually "meltblown" into a fiberfill for use as a hypoallergenic down substitute in comforters.

Oblio, by the way, learns many Important Lessons in the Pointless Forest, which he brings home in a triumphant return to the Land of Point, sparking a major paradigm shift.

* Ringo Starr is the narrator on the home video release, but in the movie's original airing as an ABC Movie of the Week, Dustin Hoffman was the narrator, while on broadcast reruns it was Alan Thicke.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Bocconi University

Here's a pretty snappy school tie, from SDA Bocconi, the business school of Bocconi University in Milano. The glyph that's repeated in three colors throughout the tie is the school emblem; it looks like an amphitheater seating chart, but I think it's actually a rising sun. Bocconi University was founded in 1902, and was "the first Italian university to grant a degree in economics." The business school was established in 1975; its MBA program was ranked the world's best value for money by Forbes magazine in 2005. The school even offers a Bachelor of International Economics and Management program taught entirely in English. But the reason the school will always have great ties is its Master in Fashion, Experience and Design Management program, which should ensure a steady stream of necktie aficionados. Also, this tie illustrates a pet theory of mine, which is that you can take any small pattern, stamp it in a few colors in random placement and orientation on a piece of fabric, and end up with an engaging design. (Of course, if I found a tie that disproved my theory, I wouldn't be showing it.)

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Stripes are the new polka dots

A striped tie on Burl Veneer's Tie Blog? That hasn't happened since August 11, 2005! This tie comes from Fred Gil of Italy, and is one of the many neckties by makers unknown on these shores that I've bought from the Modaitalia Store on ebay. I'm not a big fan of striped ties, I think they're kind of boring, but I find the variation in stripe widths and the wide range of colors on this one quite charming. It's like a stick of every-flavor Fruit Stripe chewing gum!

Fish batik

Banana Republic returns to the blog with a cotton batik tie overprinted with bony black fish. (It was slated to be the fifth tie of Fish Week, which was shortened by a day due to illness; it's taken me almost eight months to get back around to it.) This tie must be several years old, from back when Banana Republic had an international travel theme. Their current tie offerings are as bland as white bread; so is the rest of the catalog, for that matter. Sloppier than Lands' End, but about twice the price. What's the point?

Saturday, May 13, 2006


My previous tie from J. Blades & Co. alluded to the mid-twentieth-century sculpture of Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth; this tie points to the graphic art of Victor Vasarely. While Verner Panton popularized op art through his textile designs, Vasarely had blazed the way with his paintings and his theory of "multiples," art which could be efficiently (and affordably) reproduced through modern industrial techniques. Vasarely's later works were not paintings at all, but collages of vinyl. To quote Vasarely (as told to Jean-Louis Ferrier):
"Once I had discovered my alphabet, I hastened to put it into material form. I selected six basic colors: a chrome yellow, an emerald green, an ultramarine, a cobalt violet, a red, and a gray. From it I obtained six scales, each with 12 or 13 nuances, ranging from light to dark, and I added colored blacks--a blue black, a red black, a green black, and so on. Then I had tens of thousands of sheets printed by the serigraphic process, and had all the units of my alphabet punched out of them. Placed in cases, like type characters, they are so many form-colors which form the surest and fastest method of realizing my programmings executed on scale paper. By simple collage I obtain exactly what I want, that is, a combination which is both formal and colored, and which I call algorithm or permutation."
That explains the sharpness of line and the uniformity of color within the tiles of his most famous works, such as the Vega series. This tie pales in comparison, but a pale imitation of Vasarely is better than none at all.

(Quote from Vasarely by Gaston Diehl, Crown Publishers, 1976, English edition; translated from the French by Eileen B. Hennesy from original Bonfini Press edition, 1973. See Bridget Riley for more pioneering op art works.)

Martin Wong

In the world of neckties in the style generally known as "deco," Martin Wong is one of the top names, along with Modules, Format, Ziggurat, Zylos, J.T. Beckett, J. Blades & Co., and Ralph Lauren's Polo Hollywood Collection. (I have ascertained that the Martin Wong of Martin Wong Neckwear of Napa, California, is not the same Martin Wong as the artist who died in 1999, or the co-editor of Giant Robot.) Martin Wong's most swing-era-influenced line is the Screenplay collection, which was designed by Robert Taliver. Taliver was with the company for 14 years, and also designed the woven-patterned Insignia collection. (He left Martin Wong to start his own line of ties and a modeling agency, Thee Raspberry Company of St. Louis, Missouri; the company's domain registration has lapsed.) This tie is from neither collection, it's just a plain old "Martin Wong." It appeals to my taste for overlapping shapes, with its group of vertical sigmoids (f-holes?) crisscrossed by wavy horizontal lines. Like many deco ties, the borders are delineated with gold hairlines. Martin Wong Neckwear is "affiliated with" Ambiance Neckwear, Inc., but I can't determine the actual nature of the affiliation.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Return of the Pink Pantser

Warm and sunny weather is firmly established, so that means that (a) unbearably steamy Washington summer weather is just around the corner, and (b) it's time to break out the pink pants again! (Wow, has it really been eight months?!) Today's tie (maker unknown) is, if not an actual Henri Matisse painting, based on Matisse's later (post-1930) style, and contains his recurring "goldfish in bowl" and sprightly wallpaper motifs. The Matisse goldfish bowl is also a popular art project for young children.

The Return of Wemlon

No, Wembley's super-durable Wemlon polyester hasn't returned to the market since its discontinuation in 1979, but it has returned to the blog. There's a lot going on in this tie: the base is made up of very thin stripes of brown, gold, red, orange, and blue, and woven on top of that are the bold, wobbly gold circles, then there are smaller, lighter gold abstract shapes that catch the light at certain angles. In honor of Steve Zissou and The Mighty Boosh's Zooniverse, I have named this tie "Pinstriped Borneo Cheetah." Chika-chika!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Satellite of Love

(Alluding to the mostly nonsensical Lou Reed song.) What are the tiny figures all over this tie? Mrs. Veneer's guess was "eggs and meat cleavers," but that's not it. They are communication satellites! Today I step into the world of the corporate tie, ties meant to be worn by a company's employees, as opposed to ties meant for regular folks to wear to promote a company (e.g. Tabasco, Absolut). If made by a collectible tie maker, corporate ties can be the most valuable of all due to their limited availability; I saw a paint company tie by Hermès fetch around $300 on ebay. No such luck with this one for Eutelsat, as the maker is anonymous, though the quality is top-notch. Eutelsat owns and operates a network of 24 satellites (with more planned), covering much of the world with television broadcasts, broadband internet, mobile phone service, and whatever else they can do with satellites.

Here's a closer look at the pattern:

I have enough corporate ties now to do a theme week, but I decided not to, because they're not good enough to wear for a whole week. So, back to "normal" tomorrow.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Danger, Bill Robinson!

That's what always pops into my head when I think of Bill Robinson (maker of this tie), though it's actually Will Robinson that the Lost In Space robot (whose name was, naturally, Robot) would always warn with that phrase. Will Robinson was played by Bill Mumy; whatever happened to him? Is he just a washed-up has-been like so many other former child stars (Dean Stockwell and Kurt Russell excepted)? No way! He's been an off-and-on member of the band America since the 70s, he was one half of novelty rock act Barnes and Barnes ("Fish Heads") in the 80s (and whenever they still get together, as when they were inducted into the Novelty Music Hall of Fame last year), he was on Babylon 5 for five years, he's done a shipload of voice-over work in cartoons and documentaries on most of the major cable channels, and he's made a whole bunch of albums, both solo and with his band The Jenerators, which he co-fronts with Miguel Ferrer (whose role as the snide but peace-loving Albert in Twin Peaks was the perfect foil for Kyle McLachlan's eccentric Dale Cooper). So in a nutshell, he's doing all right. But back to the tie: it's a basic four-color grid which is livened up by white lines placed at seemingly-random angles, with a nifty jacquard weave (you can just see it at the top) identical to the one on my previous Bill Robinson tie, thus from the same silk stock and most likely the same season.

Thursday, May 04, 2006


That's what people kept yelling at me today. Think they meant my tie? It's from Beans McGee, a funny name which is the key signifier of a novelty tie company. While I generally don't wear novelty ties, I couldn't pass up this exuberant melange of fruit. I also couldn't keep the phrase, "Carmen Miranda's ghost is haunting Space Station Three" out of my head today. That's the title and premise of a 1990 science fiction anthology edited by Don Sakers. I've never read it, but I love the title. Delving deeper, the title actually comes from a 1985 filk song by Leslie Fish ("filk" being the sci-fi/fantasy/techie subgenre of folk music, based on a misspelling of "folk" in an essay by Lee Jacobs fifty-odd years ago), the lyrics of which are online here. Carmen Miranda (1909-1955) was born in Portugal but grew up in Brazil; while singing in nightclubs she developed her trademark fruit hat, based on the headdresses of Brazilian market fruit vendors. She quickly became a national superstar, and moved to the United States in 1939, where she captivated Broadway audiences, leading to starring roles in a series of films beginning in 1940. She died after suffering a heart attack during a performance on the Jimmy Durante Show, but left behind the legacy of the fruit hat, one of the most enduring pop icons of the twentieth century.

Psychedelic brocade

Now here's a narrow tie from the first wave of them in the 1960s. I've seen several "rainbow brocade" ties from the 60s and 70s, so they must have been fairly popular. There was a wide variety of designs overlaid onto the background; this one has what look like plastinated smoke swirls (click through to the larger image for a better view of their texture) , or maybe piles of shaving cream. I just sold one on ebay that has aquatic dragons on it. Alas, as with so many ties of its era, the name of the maker got separated from this tie, so all I know about it is that it's made of 100% Rhodia acetate from Italy. The Rhodia company was founded in 1906 as the Société de la Viscose Suisse, making artificial silk out of viscose, and continues today as Rhodia Technical Fibers. Rhodia has diversified into several other fields (and countries, amassing over 30,000 employees worldwide), most prominently chemicals, food, and "eco services." I don't think they're making anything this dazzling anymore, though.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006


A thread of nobility and athletic prowess runs through many of the European fashion houses: Marchese Emilio Pucci was a world-class skier, Oleg Cassini was a French Count, and Ottavio Missoni was a world champion runner (Student World Champion, 400 meters, 1939) and the son of a Countess. Missoni got his start in the fashion world by designing (with his friend Giorgio Oberweger) the track suits for the 1948 Italian Olympic team, of which he was a member. He married Rosita Jelmeni, whose family owned a textile mill, in 1953, and later that year they founded the Missoni company together, specializing in knitwear. Their signature design is a zigzag pattern in boldly contrasting colors, but even the non-zigzag items have colorful designs and rich textures. Missoni is headquartered in Sumirago, Italy, and has a staff of 200, so obviously their success has been great and lasting, and they even have clothing items in several museum collections around the world. (For more about Missoni, there is an excellent article here, with extensive commentary from Mr. Missoni.) This Missoni necktie has a design that looks like pixelated roses, and like last week's Perry Ellis tie is just three inches wide and probably of 1980s vintage. At 60 inches long it's longer than most ties; I had to tie it in a Full Windsor knot to keep it from hanging down too far. The extra wraparounds and the thick lining make the knot pretty big, which looks kind of funny with a narrow tie, but so be it.


The 60s-era impulse to print every color onto polyester resulted in a lot of what Mrs. V. has dubbed "crayon vomit" ties, which I think are great. But when moderated with some tasteful restraint the product could be a vaguely impressionistic design, as on this tie. The maker is Grenada, and the fabric is "100% imported polyester," presumably a nod to the ancient polyester-making traditions of other countries.

I recently addressed two objections to the wearing of neckties, but a third one has occurred to me, which is, "Ties are stupid, they don't serve any purpose." I will address that by saying that ties are no more stupid or purposeless than hats worn indoors, baseball caps worn backwards, belts on tight pants, body piercings, hemp necklaces, bracelets, earrings; any jewelry, for that matter. In fact they all serve the same purpose, which is bodily adornment and signification of belonging to a particular subculture or affinity group. My ties signify that I belong to the group of men who work 9-to-5 desk jobs; but I have also chosen to have some fun within that context, and present to the world ties that give some aesthetic pleasure to the viewer. Actually it's my own aesthetic pleasure that guides my selection of ties, and if people like looking at them, all the better. And if not, that's fine too, just don't call them stupid, thank you.