Vintage Ties

Heart on sleeve, dog on tie
By Alice Jurow, November 2008

In the syntax of men’s suits, the tie is an exclamation point! Fashion may prescribe its width, politics code its colors—still, the tie affords a narrow window of self-expression. Or, perhaps, not so narrow: “A tie is like a canvas,” says Gerald Anderson, executive director of the Neckwear Association of America; “When you have a wide tie, you have more to work with.”

These medium-width, rayon and silk examples date from the late 1940s or early ’50s. The rust-toned palette was a favorite of the time, and as for the subject matter—“Were dogs popular!” exclaims haberdasher/historian Jon Lundberg. Specifically, hunting dogs were most likely to appear (as well as game birds, sport fish and horses)—all relating to the enthusiastic return to civilian leisure that followed World War II (a time that also saw the launch of a profusion of men’s hunting and fishing magazines, such as Argosy, True and Outdoorsman.)

If a gentleman can’t wear his heart on his sleeve, at least he can wear his dog on his tie. Besides hunting dogs, other breeds can be found, more rarely, on vintage ties—occasionally beautiful, hand-painted portraits of particular breeds.

Slices of stylish, wearable nostalgia, vintage ties (mostly from the 1930s to the ’60s) are still abundant and affordable, with sources ranging from flea markets to websites like Rusty Zipper Vintage Clothing. Wearing one, you can be a complete swing-era dandy, add a touch of swank to everyday work wear or, like collector James Hamann (1200+ ties), simply knot one on, with a ’50s fedora, to go walk the dog.

Alice Jurow is a San Francisco Bay Area writer and editor.

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