The Seasonal School Tie

Contributor ANV shares this tidbit of sartorial esoterica. 

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Richard Press had said that the background color for neckties never went darker than navy blue. Similarly, the patrician wardrobe tends to avoid high contrast, except for formalwear. As a result, one rarely sees white or black in traditional necktie designs. But there are exceptions, including the Caius Athletic tie above.

Some schools, universities, and clubs not only have a regular associative necktie, but multiple versions of it as well. Each of these versions has a specific meaning, being worn by a specific group (students may have one version of a tie, while alumni may have a different one). As an aside, associative neckties tend to have the stripes go up and to the left (///), while the commercial, unaffiliated version of those same colors has the direction flipped (\\\). The summer neckties – found at Oxford, Cambridge, and some of the clubs at Harvard – are an interesting exception to the no-high-contrast rule above, and, to paraphrase Captain Jack Sparrow, the code is more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules. These have white as a dominant background color, and the width of the colored stripes is usually narrower than their regular version of the same necktie.

The Ben Silver university ties shown here highlight the difference between the regular and summer versions of the same school tie:

These are delightful holdovers from the Victorian and Edwardian eras, when Society with a capital S would change outfits several times a day (which probably did wonders for a clothiers’ bottom line), and stuck close to the calendar in regards to what was worn at a particular time of year. But these summer neckties – lighter and brighter than their year-round kin – do look even more appropriate during festive events in the warmer, sunnier months, especially with khakis and a blazer. These are a gentle nod to the British traditions which underpin the Anglo-American style.

And per Larry Mahoney of The Andover Shop, these can look best against a blue striped shirt. “Don’t wear it against a white shirt, unless you’re wearing blue seersucker suit,” he growled. “Now, are you going to buy that or not?” – ANV

19 Comments on "The Seasonal School Tie"

  1. My school colors are red and black. Not easy to wear according to the traditional wisdom as the authors mentions above. But being a little too contrasting can make wearing these ties even more fun because you know no one would wear it unless they had an affiliation with the organizations they represent. 🙂

  2. James Marwood | November 14, 2018 at 1:51 pm |

    A plain black tie has been the default for Freemasons for a very long time.

  3. Old School Tie | November 14, 2018 at 2:02 pm |

    You would be surprised at just how many Old Boys, university and college ties have a black ground color, many more than you imagine. In the not too distant past you could most definitely get a job just by virtue of the tie you wore. In some cases that tie would denote affiliation with a club within an institution rather than the institution itself. Guy’s hospital medical school rugby team rather than simply the school. First XV rather than any old Tom, Dick or Harry from the club. Almost an absolute selection criterion for orthopaedic surgeons…

  4. Charlottesville | November 14, 2018 at 2:12 pm |

    Well written, interesting and informative piece, ANV. I am fortunate in that my school’s colors are a medium blue (which a quick web search informs me is Pantone Matching System #287) and white, which look pretty good with most things.

  5. Is there really a college named “Jesus”?

  6. Google informs me that it is an actual college in England.

    I used to have a economics professor who used the phrase “East Jesus College” on exams.

  7. In Western Culture, at least, “normal” motion is left to right (as the viewer sees it), and EASY efforts are depicted going DOWN upper left to lower right, i.e. \\\\. Difficult things go UP lower left to upper right, ////.

    College boys, particularly wealthy college boys, like to appear “above it all,” and thus difficult to approach by those beneath their position in society. Corporate men FAR and away wish to project competence, as in “This is easy, it will be done in no time.”

    EVERY piece of clothing makes SOME statement, just as does EVERY mannerism and gesture and utterance.

  8. Trace Bearden | November 14, 2018 at 3:44 pm |

    Jesus College, Oxford University, founded 1571

  9. Bowdoin College’s colors are black and white.

  10. Actually, those colours are Jesus College, Cambridge and St John’s, Cambridge, not Oxford, which, for Jesus, are green and silver. I’m currently at Sidney Sussex, Cambridge, and we have ties for the College (striped and club), the Boat Club, the summer Boat Club, the Choir, the two drinking societies, the Old Boys, and Rugby, all made in silk right here in town. A beautiful tradition.

  11. Vern Trotter | November 14, 2018 at 7:14 pm |

    I would have thought everyone reading this site would know of Jesus College, both Oxford and Cambridge.

    Incidentally, the Harvard/ Yale game is this Saturday at historic Fenway Park, Boston. Always a good take. The Georgia/ Florida game is known as the World’s Biggest Outdoor Cocktail Party, (a few weeks ago.) However I always bet there are more drunks and fights at Harvard/ Yale than anywhere. Always better to wear something that doesn’t matter if you are puked on. Once I stopped at J Press, bought a new Shaggy Dog, just to have a drunken Yalie lose his lunch on it.

  12. Vern Trotter | November 14, 2018 at 7:58 pm |

    Should be “lose his lunch onto it!”

  13. @Caustic Man – Yes!
    @Charlottesville – Thank you for the kind words, and your school colors are much better than mine. (I half suspect a colorblind or vindictive designer, back in the day)
    @RichardPress – If you’re reading this thread, would love your thoughts on why navy was the darkest color in neckties.

    More to follow tomorrow – and thank you all for weighing in.

  14. I was thinking about the color black in context with traditional sportswear today actually. The OPH was near-correct in deeming it verboten but there are rare instances where it is appropriate for sportswear. Princeton is what came to mind immediately; the famous black and orange.

  15. “I would have thought everyone reading this site would know of Jesus College, both Oxford and Cambridge.”

    I as well, Mr. Trotter. At least they know now!

  16. Does anyone know why UK regiments and schools have certain directions to their stripes?

    Note it is a sartorial myth that all regiments go in a certain direction.

  17. Jesse Livermore | November 15, 2018 at 9:19 pm |

    Take the Cantabs, lay the 4 1/2

  18. Vern Trotter | November 16, 2018 at 9:48 am |

    Harvard minus 4.5. Agree.

  19. elder prep | March 6, 2019 at 6:41 pm |

    My undergrad school (George Mason University) colors are yellow and lawn green. The tie goes with nothing, except when I’m at homecoming or other school events when everyone’s wearing it doesn’t feel so strange. Grad school at the University of Virginia (orange and navy) is a little easier to find something to wear with the tie. Also, they drink more at UVA than GMU.

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