The topic of striped ties came up this week, both here (in our last post on William Ivey Long), and in our Facebook group. On the Long post, commenters drew the distinction between striped ties that run the original English way (high on the right, low on the left, when facing the wearer), and the American appropriation, which reverses the direction. My father, a faithful reader but no clotheshorse, had to call and ask me what in the world the readers were talking about.
Fans of Ivy lore will no that it was none other than Brooks Brothers that in the 1920s took traditional English rep ties, flipped the patterns, and introduced them to the American market.
Perhaps because I see the world through American eyes, the American way of angling stripes is the most visual logical to me. In Western Civilization we generally do things from left to right. We read that way, and we expect a game show with three numbered doors concealing hidden prizes behind to be numbered one through three from left to right.
But we also tend to look at things from top to bottom. That may have something to do with how humans interact with each other. The most important part of our fellow man is his face, from which we hear him speak, and determine if he is happy or sad. This is probably why we notice another man’s tie before our gaze makes its way to the floor to check out his shoes.
When it comes to rep ties, it’s only the American version in which the stripes run both right to left and top to bottom.
Some commenters here said that, like William Ivey Long, they wear both. They invoked the Ralph Lauren brand, which typically makes American stripes for its Polo line and English stripes in its Savile Row-inspired Purple Label collection. Just recently in fact I was considering a Purple Label bar striped tie, just to shake things up with a reverse (or original) stripe, but decided the price was too rich for my regiment.
This chart, incidentally, shows that not all English regimentals run in the same direction:
The other tie topic bandied about this week was among Ivy Style’s Facebook group. Believe it or not, somebody with nothing better to do took another member to task for wearing the popular Argyll & Sutherland striped tie on the grounds that he hadn’t served in the 5th Division Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. The grump invoked the concept of misrepresentation, to which I countered by invoking the concept of punctiliousness. One would presume that given that the wearer is an American living in America, and that the stripes run in the American direction, nobody would suggest the wearer was attempting to suggest to his peers that he served in the Highland regiment.
At the recent Proper Kit trunk show, sponsored by Style Forum, where Bruce Boyer was signing copies of his new book, a similar topic came up in a group conversation. Boyer told one of his favorite anecdotes about shopping in London and spying a handsome tie at a haberdasher’s. When he told the clerk he’d take it, the man asking for identification to prove he had the right to wear the tie. When Boyer countered that he was just an American tourist who happened to like the tie, the clerk was not amused and the transaction did not take place.
But things may be changing over in the UK. Smart Turnout sells a host of regimental and university-themed striped stuff (ties, scarves, watchbands), including the A&S:
Finally, last week we wrote about the English firm Ryder & Amies, which allows you to create your own schoolboy scarf. This brings up a subtle distinction. The stripes in schoolboy scarves run lengthwise, not on a diagonal, and can’t be flipped like the stripes on rep ties. That, and the fact that long striped scarves are far less common than striped neckties, means that such scarves are more readily associated with the institution they represent (orange and black for Princeton, for example).
In my opinion, it’s with schoolboy scarves that you’d want to ensure you’re not misleading your peers. But with ties, whichever way you wear your stripes I think it’s highly unlikely that anyone will think they convey membership in anything but the Trad Club. — CC