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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!


tiewonder said...

Does anyone know who manufactures Vineyard Vines and Lee Allison ties?

Anonymous said...

One the subject of Wemlon's Wembley ties - as far as I am concerned, these are the greatest ties ever made. I am wearing one today, in fact. My grandfather owned the two Wemlon's that I now own, and they have endured far better than any of my newer ties. I wish we could bring this line back!

David Harris said...

My friend says that European made ties have stripes running sinister to dexter (left to right) whereas USA made ties have stripes running dexter to sinister.

Is he correct?


steelerbear said...

From the 1930s to early '50s, my grandfather owned a silk textile design company that supplied several other companies, including Wembley, with the fabric (always silk in his case) to make ties. I have some questions about Wembley, purely out of curiosity. Do you think WEMCO might be able to answer some of those for me? How might I go about contacting them?

Burl Veneer said...

Hi there--sorry for the delay in answering. You could try writing to Randa, the company that bought WEMCO, at (culled from their website). Thanks for visiting!