Hip Hooray, The American Way


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

32 Comments on "Hip Hooray, The American Way"

  1. University Stripe | December 23, 2015 at 12:40 pm |

    There was a similar debate on the AAAC Trad Forum recently about the association of Black Watch with Christmas, and how some cousins from across the pond find this in poor taste as the pattern originates with the Scottish regiment of the same name.

    So, I suppose that extends the issue beyond ties and scarves.

  2. Royal Stewart would be more associated with Christmas than Black Watch, but I see your point.

  3. I remember when many “trad” shops had framed charts of regimental plaids and stripes hanging on their walls.

  4. I wear khakis and I didn’t serve in no regiment.

  5. terrryoreilly75 | December 23, 2015 at 1:57 pm |

    I think that putting the American spin on the regimental tie is great. It takes something that isn’t ours and somehow reshapes it showing that, yes, it actually IS ours. These ties are an intrinsic accessory to “the Look”.
    On the Blackwatch “thing”: I plan on wearing a Blackwatch tie to Christmas dinner, and I’m as little-qualified as anybody to wear one; I being a New England working-class townie born and bred. Eff ’em if they don’t like it(though MMc brings up a good point with the superior appropriateness of the Royal Stewart tartan to Chrimbo). The blackwatch tie with a proper ensemble conveys just what I intend with its display: That, of course, is that Santa Claus is really Thor.

  6. Chewco L.P. (Cayman) | December 23, 2015 at 3:47 pm |

    Also on the Blackwatch thing – and since we are all confessing our relative philistinism:

    During an office Xmas party I wore tartan trousers which closely resembled the MacMillan clan. I also have tartan trousers from the clan of Johnston, the clan of MacLean, and the clan of MacDuff.

    I am not Scottish nor belong to any of these families.

  7. I wear a University of Nottingham schoolboy scarf simply because I love the colors and the bigness of the scarf. Nobody I know or any way associate with would even guess that I’m wearing anything but a scarf with colored stripes. Nor do i have any pretense of any association with the school. These things are meant to be worn and enjoyed, and as long one wears them in that spirit, there is no harm.

  8. If wear stripes that are going the American direction or the English one almost no one that you encounter in America is going to think that you are anything, but a prep. The same goes for schoolboy scarves.

  9. Chens with the best comment so far. . . .

  10. Henry Contestwinner | December 23, 2015 at 4:29 pm |

    At the very least, the following wardrobe items have their origins in military garb:

    Long neckties
    Trench coats
    Double-breasted jackets, including blazers
    Chukka boots

    I’ve probably missed a couple. Although I love nitpicking, getting one’s panties in a bunch over an American wearing regimental stripes is beyond the pale, even for me.

  11. To our English friends: should you take offense at our American appropriation of your stripes or plaids, kindly remove the footy jersey of your favorite club off your countenance. That is of course you are not an active nor former member of said club.

  12. Reactionary Trad | December 23, 2015 at 4:41 pm |

    Am I the only one disturbed by both the too-short collar and the too-wide knot in the first photo?

  13. Chewco L.P. (Cayman) | December 23, 2015 at 4:52 pm |

    I had no idea it was Brooks Brothers (once again) that was the culprit in switching the direction of the diagonals on repp ties. It all comes back to them:

    Navy Blazer = not “navy” as in color but navy as in Royal Navy on the HMS Blazer.
    Madras = India
    Tartan = Scotland
    Repp ties = English boarding schools
    Oxford cloth = England
    Fair Isle = Scotland
    Khakis = India
    Polo shirts (button-down) = United Kingdom

    You might have gotten an odd look many years ago if you wore any of these items because they were “trad” in the sense of belonging to individually disparate cultures. Now they are “trad” as in belonging to a conservatively dressed gentleman.

    Wearing a schoolboy scarf belonging to a school in which you were never affiliated will soon be very common place.

  14. University Stripe | December 23, 2015 at 4:56 pm |

    Would Balmoral tartan be the exception to the rule? I can’t say I recall seeing it offered by any of the traditional suppliers in America.

    Perhaps it’s a bit of a double standard, but I don’t intend to stop wearing my other tartan clothing items.

  15. Nice article, Chens! I am of the mindset that repp stripes are part of the US sartorial ingredient list, and are fair game to everyone. However, I will point out that I wore a repp tie with morning dress to a British wedding two years ago. All of the gentlemen wore morning dress, and I did receive a few sidelong glances and questions about my tie and which club it belonged to. So, my fellow necktie enthusiasts, wear your stripes with pride, but be mindful that our British friends in-the-know may amused/confused at your selection.

  16. Bags' Groove | December 23, 2015 at 4:59 pm |

    Wear one of these beautiful babies and that right-left or left-right stripe quandary completely disappears (as it should):

  17. Interestingly, The Ben Silver Collection from Charleston, SC (bensilver.com) offers a host of “Authentic Regimental” British Striped Neckwear listed by their right and proper affiliation: The Corps and Regiments, Universities, and Old Boys to name a few. The details of each tie listed include original date of incorporation and colors. It is an interesting resource and enjoyable to view, but I’ve always hesitated to make a purchase on the grounds of the very discussion contained herein. However, that’s my problem. The ties are beautiful regardless of representation or misrepresentation as some would have it. Happy Holidays!

  18. I recently wore a very cheap Lauren Black Watch wool vest to a corporate Christmas party. It was a dice roll on sale purchase from Macy’s on the net, marked down to $50. Told you it was cheap, but was surprised by the detail some third worlder put into it. Anyway the chicks dug it. 😉

    I remember when everyone wore flannel tartan trousers. One of my favorite images of Mr. Press is with his young son, Mr. Press is letting his freak flag fly sporting a blazer and stewart plaid trou.

  19. Henry Contestwinner | December 23, 2015 at 9:50 pm |

    Makaga, probably a large part of why they were looking at you askance is that you were wearing a rep tie when you should have been wearing a wedding tie. I imagine they thought everyone knew that wedding ties were the thing to wear with morning dress.

  20. @Reactionary Trad
    That’s the colllar and the knot favored by supermarket managers.

  21. And the US military double windsor. Any windsor will make a collar look small.

  22. Henry Contestwinner | December 27, 2015 at 6:42 pm |

    “Double Windsor” is a misnomer. There is the Windsor knot, which produces a large, symmetrical knot, and then there is the Half Windsor, which produces a medium-sized symmetrical knot. The Windsor is sometimes mistakenly called “full” or “double” Windsor, to contrast it with the Half Windsor.

  23. >>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.

    Somewhat ironic, but I wore a A&S tie to Christmas mass. It’s a good thing I wasn’t confronted by someone who knew about the history behind the colors/stripes that night or else it would’ve been a sour holiday.

  24. American reversal seems an amusing get out clause, otherwise extremely poor form.

  25. Henry Contestwinner | December 28, 2015 at 11:49 pm |

    We Americans are not British and we’re not in a Commonwealth country and we simply Do. Not. Care. about British traditions regarding regimental ties because those traditions are irrelevant to us.

    Having said that, Americans would probably be better off not wearing regimental striped ties when visiting Jollye Olde Englande—not that most Americans are in any danger of doing so.

  26. @Henry, ahh, yes, I would agree with your sentiments had I heard my story from someone else. It was interesting that many of the British gents in morning dress wore ties in a variety of patterns and stripes. If I recall correctly, many of them had floral ties and Hermes styled ties with their morning dress. Everyone looked nice in their “odd” ties. 🙂

  27. Henry Contestwinner | December 29, 2015 at 10:12 pm |

    Thank you for the update, Makaga. I guess “modern” daytime formal has new norms. Striped ties in silver (or gray) and black have always been acceptable in daytime formal wear; I guess the modern practice has opened up the field considerably.

    Hidebound, reactionary curmudgeon that I am, I’ll stick with wedding ties for my daytime (semi-)formal wear.*

    * I don’t think I’ll ever wear a morning coat again, but I do enjoy wearing my stroller on occasion.

  28. Henry Contestwinner | December 31, 2015 at 11:19 am |

    Hey! If Brits can wear American stripes, then Americans can wear regimental stripes!


  29. Interesting… I’d never given the direction of stripes on my regimental/repp ties much thought, but upon taking a look, most of my striped ties have the stripes running right to left. In any event, my favorite has always been Argyle & Sutherland (even though I have absolutely no connection to the 5th Division Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders).

  30. Quite often I reach for an A&S Highlanders patterned necktie, as I have several. Besides liking the colors and arrangement, my maternal grandmother was a Sutherland. Close enough!

  31. Misrepresentation? I do have an A&S Highlanders striped scarf. I bought it because I liked the colors. When I got it home and more carefully examined the label, I discovered that it had a regimental connection. When I wear it, I’m not trying to trick anyone into believing that I served in the 5th Division Argyll & Sutherland Highlanders. Really, I’m not. And no offense intended, but we Americans fought a war in the 1770s to stop the British telling us what to do. Or as Krusty the Klown inelegantly said, to keep the King of England out of our face.

  32. There is no such thing as 5th “Division” Argyle and Sutherland Highlanders. The A&S Highlanders are a Regiment and had Battalions, are you referring to a 5th Battalion of the A&S Highlanders?, it had many Battalions in both WW1 and WW2, but there has never been a Division of them. Now I would recommend..dont wear one if you as an American are a tourist in Scotland ….if you get asked by someone what Battalion you were in …and you say you were never in. Wearing it would be viewed as the same as stolen honor in the US if you pretended to be a US Military member and were in fact not.

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