There’s been a lot of cleaning and reorganizing around the Cavender house the past couple of weeks, and I thought it was a pretty good time to color-order and photograph my ties.
I photograph to prevent me from buying repeats.
Yeah, I have that many.
But in my defense, I went to college at a time when a man was judged solely on the number Polo ties that he owned.
When I was laying them out to photograph, Jamie asked me if this was for a blog post.
No, of course not.
But as I was shuffling through the basic rep stripes, tartan plaids, and foulards there were just so many beautiful printed ones. I rarely wear ties anymore and it’s such a shame to just tuck them back into a dark closet. (Except for the cashmere and wool; they live in the garage freezer.)
I thought why not share a few of my favorite conversationals?
“What the hell is a conversational tie?” you may ask.
Exactly what it sounds like; a tie print loaded with so much personality that it sparks a conversation.
It’s certainly no secret who my favorite fashion designer is.
Ralph Lauren started with ties. He did, in 1967. In the mid 1960s men’s ties were black, grey or navy. Two inches wide. End of search. But Mr. Lauren knew that fashionable men like himself were looking something different. With a small investment from Ned Brower, and working out of a single drawer in the Empire State Building, he repped sample ties made from upholstery fabrics; velvets, brocades and damasks. Not only were the fabrics unusual – some so thick they had to be finished by hand – his ties were also wide. Very wide, almost four inches.
Bloomingdales was a huge account, and one that would give the young designer a presence on 5th Avenue. But when the big retailer requested that he narrow them, AND forgo his POLO label – Bloomingdale’s would stitch in their own tags – Mr. Lauren refused.
His vision just wouldn’t be compromised.
Bloomingdale’s reluctantly backed down and bought a handful just in time for Father’s Day shopping. Mr. Lauren gave each salesman in the Bloomingdale’s men’s department a tie, showed them the proper way to tie it (with little dimple centered just below the knot) and even polished the store’s brass display case himself.
His wider, more luxurious ties were an immediate hit….. and y’all know the rest; it wasn’t long before there were Polo brand shirts and suits to wear them with.
I’ve been collecting Ralph Lauren ties for about 35 years now. When I was working in retail sales, I coveted ties like these but they were much too expensive for me to buy without an employee discount. Now I mostly find them on eBay and at consignment and thrift stores – usually in the ten dollar range.
I thought I’d take y’all on a tour of a few of my favorite conversationals.
The 90s saw a huge upsurge for the conversational tie. Nicole Miller, Tabasco Sauce and even Jerry Garcia got in on the action. There’s a very fine line between cool and tacky, and it was Mr. Lauren, of course, who lead the pack with his cool conversational ties. He pulled inspiration from vintage Field and Stream magazine covers, Hermes scarves and deco travel posters. Flamingos, yachts, roulette, cricket, hula girls, rifles – whatever your interest, he made a tie for it.
I think they are like little works of art.
It was about the time that Regis Philbin appeared in monochromatic shirt/tie combos on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire…… that it all went to hell. Men’s fashion tastes shifted towards sleek and modern,
and conversational ties became a joke.
I realize that ties in general are almost completely passé – men don’t really wears them anymore; even to job interviews. (rolls eyes)
The generation under me views them as a corporate noose.
They prefer ties to be black, grey, or navy. Two inches wide.
Not this guy.
Give me a dog,
or a cowboy,
or a fish.