Five Facts about Neckties

Vintage necktie advertisement

As roses are to Valentine’s Day, ties once were to Father’s Day. But while florists can still count on their coffers being flush with cash from rose sales, a haberdasher’s income has been less reliable as neckties transition from work day musts to optional fashion statements.

That being said, it doesn’t seem right to let Father’s Day pass without paying tribute to the neckwear that is loved and/or loathed by men and women, so in the spirit of the season, here are some tie facts:

The tie is and always has been purely decorative.

There is no function to a tie, except maybe to keep ketchup from getting on your shirt. There is some conjecture that ascots gained popularity with Victorian men because it kept their shirts clean and their necks warm. And that may well be. But really, ties are all about the look.

Ties come in many shapes, styles and sizes.

The short Ascot that can be tucked into your shirt. The Bow tie comes in a variety of shapes and can be tied, pre-tied or clipped on, depending on how much of a purist you are. The Four-in-Hand or Langsdorf is the most common kind of tie, named for the tailor who came up with the idea of cutting tie fabric on the bias so it would hang nicely. There would be no diagonal striped ties if not for Mr. Langsdorf. The Bolo string tie is favored by New Wave musicians and lovers of Western wear. The Scarf tie is much loved by square dance fans. And of course the many variations: the neckerchief, the bandanna, the mesh rhinestone-studded necklace-style tie.

Casual Friday brought an end to the reign of the power tie.

The suit and tie had a good long run as the official uniform of powerful men and women. But even the industry group that represented tie manufacturers knew the tie’s reign was over in 2008 when more than a few members of that group attended the annual meeting sans neckwear, according to a Wall Street Journal article. It shuttered its doors soon after. Ties are still important and awesome, and there are pockets of the work world where you are still expected to turn up with a tie on daily. But for the most part, ties are a style choice and not a requirement.

The Ralph Lauren empire started with neckties.

Who saw that coming? A designer whose signature look is the black turtleneck or the unbuttoned white shirt started his career as a tie salesman in the 1960s. But designers gotta design and pretty soon he was designing his own line of ties. And the rest, as it were, is fashion history.

There is a robust market for interesting vintage ties.

Designer ties, hand painted ties, kitschy novelty ties from the 1940s-1960s, ties made with interesting fabrics all have their markets. The value of a vintage tie is determined by the same things as all vintage things: desirability, scarcity and condition. The key is it has to be interesting in design or designer. Prices range from $5 for a novelty tie to $500+ for an especially wonderful painted tie or couture designer tie.

But plain old everyday vintage ties should not feel unloved. They also have a market, but usually with quilters who use them as raw ingredients in art quilts.

The photo gallery of ties below is a round up of ties from the 1930s to about the 2000s. Please excuse the wrinkles!

vintage necktie collage 1
Ties from the 1930s and 1940s, from left: handprinted hunting scene wide tie, straight square bottom narrow tie, novelty ski print narrow tie, Botany tie ad from Esquire magazine, 1938.
collage of vintage ties
Mid century ties clockwise from top left, the classic bow, the wide traditionally striped, the wide showy graphic circles, a trio of the ever so convenient pre-tied clip-on ties.
vintage ties from the 1980s and 1990s
Skinny 1980s New Wave Batman logo tie, Nicole Miller 1990s tie, Hermes 1990s tie.


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  1. Awesome article! What fun information. it’s nice to know women are not the only ones who wear something just for style!

  2. I have always admired ties as it gives the opportunity to show your personality and add a pop of color to an otherwise boring suit.

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