Sartorial Archaelogy: A Robert Talbott Foulard Patch Tie

Some thrifters are simply interested in skimming off the cream of overlooked haute couture offerings, others are interested in digging up a little sartorial history, too. Neckties are way to do this, probably the easiest way. People tended to buy a lot of them, and often they were somewhat lightly worn.

After a decade of thrifting I’ve seen all sorts of oddities, some so odd they never should have been at all. But recently I came across something I had not seen before, a patch silk foulard tie from independent men’s shop stalwart Robert Talbott and its its higher end Best of Class line.

Talbott Patch Foulard

Patch fabrics take cuttings, originally as a way to make economical use of scraps, from usually related fabrics and sew them together. This conveys a bit of a devil-may-care attitude, thus are part of what has traditionally been called a GTH, or “go-to-hell” look. That is to say, the one who wears such a thing really could not care less what you think about it, or him. It originated as a class statement. Men who are able to convey such a notion are those who don’t fear the repercussions of a superior who may not like it.

As with most clothing from this genre, J. Crew and others got a hold of it, commodified it, and now you can get such pieces ready made for the outlet mall. Patch madras, which I confess to liking, is the most commonly seen patch clothing, usually seen in ties, trousers and shorts, and flat caps. Patch tweeds and tartans are the winter versions.

Patch silk foulard, however, is a rare breed that hearkens back to “authentic” patch meant for the dandy gentleman brave enough to wear it. Foulard itself is that most conservative of ties, typically small repeating patterns or more reserved paisleys and pines. Here the foulard patterns live together in colorway harmony. It is a subtle patch that at least says “gth” in lower case. A quick Internet search only turned up one similar example, also made by Robert Talbott.

Processed with VSCOcam with a4 presetI find ties of interest, too, as artifacts of often long gone men’s shops. D.J. Showalter Gentleman’s Clothiers, once in Lexington’s Fayette Mall and the downtown Civic Center, seems to have fought the good fight until the mid-1980s. They sold this tie for $37.50, which is a lot more than many people pay for ties today. Showalter also went by the name “Fox and Hound” as a play to the horsey set. In June 1984 they marked down everything in a bid to stay open. This tie may even date from that sale.

Times, and fashions, inevitably change. Stores come and go. But both sometimes leave clues behind that things were once somewhat different.

Turnbull & Asser and the Prince of Wales Feathers


Dating from the fourteenth century and Edward of Woodstock, the Black Prince, the royal symbol of three ostrich feathers endures today as the official badge of the Prince of Wales. The badge also in effect serves as a modern logo for venerable Jermyn Street shirtmaker Turnbull & Asser as a result of its role as royal warrant holder for Prince Charles.

Black Prince EscutcheonEdward, Prince of Wales and heir to the English throne, was considered the beau ideal of English chivalry. Edward also was a military prodigy, distinguishing himself against the French at the Battle of Crecy at the age of 16. His nickname The Black Prince developed after his death in 1376 as a result of his armor color. He adopted the symbol of ostrich feathers with the motto “Ich Dien,” or “I serve,” during the mid-fourteenth century. The badge endures on Edward’s effigy at Canterbury Cathedral.

An adaptation of his feathers would be used by future heirs to the throne as the Prince of Wales’s Feathers, the badge of the heir apparent. The Prince of Wales is able to confer upon merchants a Royal Warrant, a designation for official suppliers of goods to the prince. Warrant holders are allowed to use the feathers badge in the promotion of their business. The Prince’s shirtmaker, Turnbull & Asser, was granted a warrant by Charles in 1980, and has since used the feathers with gusto.

Prince of Wales Feathers - T&A

Carved Feathers at Turnbull & Asser, picture via

Prominent feathers on a T&A sweater label.

Prominent feathers on a T&A sweater label.

The Prince sporting feathers, but not the Prince of Wales Feathers.

The Prince sporting feathers, but not the Prince of Wales Feathers.

That leads to this Prince of Wales Feathers cummerbund I came across recently. Made by Turnbull & Asser for New York’s Bergdorf Goodman, the traditional black cummerbund is enlivened by the Prince’s badge embroidered throughout. An homage to a traditional royal symbol, certainly, but also a de facto symbol for Turnbull & Asser itself.

cummerbund T&A

Turnbull & Asser is famous for having its shirts thrown about by Robert Redford’s Jay Gatsby and making James Bond’s cocktail cuff. But those cinematic icons are but Johnnys-come-lately when compared to the feathers of the Black Prince as borne today by Prince Charles and conferred upon his Royal Shirtmakers.

London’s Budd of Piccadilly & the Ruffled Evening Shirt

Bond ruffled shirt

Most of us associate ruffles on an evening (aka, tuxedo) shirt with prom pictures from the 1970s. These were offered in your favorite pastel color. Even Roger Moore’s James Bond got in on the act. Most consider it a design well left behind with leisure suits.

Imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when I walked into the legendary London shirtmaker Budd of Piccadilly, and hanging prominently behind the counter was the most beautiful version of the ruffled evening shirt one likely is ever to see. Quizzing the chatty salesman about it, he claimed that it had essentially been a test shirt to demonstrate that the shirtmakers did have the necessary skill to create such a thing. Shirt ruffles, apparently, are hard.

Budd ruffles

They hoped to sell it, he explained, and the closest they had come was a visiting African potentate. The good sir had tried the shirt on, and while it fit him, he was insistent that the shirt ought to be taken in. Budd’s salesman indicated that he feared the man’s girth would certainly not allow for such a thing. So, the shirt was still hanging there for sale.

As it happens, I came across a beautiful Budd shirt a couple of years ago that was my beau ideal of an evening shirt. With turn down collar, marcella (piqué) front, and voile body, my only regret was that it was too small (or I too large). I finally sold it off for a pittance.

Vintage Budd 2

Vintage Budd close

I suppose a few could pull off the ruffled evening shirt, perhaps the young and (very) fit or the old and stylish…or an African potentate, although even he walked away. For me, I’ll take marcella with my dinner jacket.

And I will always associate Budd of Piccadilly with those ruffles.

Budd 1 Budd 2

Thrift: May Finds in Nashville & the Trap of Sales

Oxxford sc - May14My family had to make a quick trip to Alabama over the weekend, and we took the opportunity to hit a couple of favorite thrift stores on the north and south ends of Nashville along the way. By happenstance we stopped on 50% off day.

Sometimes you hit the motherlode, a donor has dropped off a large number of items, shirts, ties, or sport coats. More often, however, you will find a select item or two. These build up over time.

Thrift buying, especially when items are on markdown even from thrift prices, can be fraught with danger. There is always the temptation to grab anything and everything that looks interesting. Cheap prices means you start comprising on quality and condition. Don’t fall for the trap. While mistakes are inevitable, it’s better to walk away with nothing than with item after item that will only frustrate and disappoint you.

Seersucker + Madras - May14

Finds included interesting books (reading copies), a DVD of a favorite movie, a cashmere Royal Stewart scarf (made in Scotland), some summer wear (seersucker trousers and a vintage madras shirt), and the big discovery: an Oxxford sport coat in near perfect shape. I carried around a few other things that I put back. I was torn at the time, but I don’t regret not buying them.

Scarf - May14

While the summer items are great finds this time of year, always look for off season items like scarves. Make sure you hold the scarf up to the light to see if the moths have found it. One scarf I put back when I saw the light through the bite holes. Remember always to look for the reason why an item is at thrift in the first place.

What are some of your recent thrift discoveries?

Books - May14

Thrift: Buffing Up a J Crew Madras Belt

Madras belt roll

If you don’t thrift you probably should. Not everyone enjoys it, but I like the treasure hunt, rescuing a gem from amongst the junk. But sometimes the items need just a bit of TLC.

With summer–prime madras wearing time–looming, I came across a patch madras D-ring belt from J Crew. It was in great shape save for some fading from age and wear on the leather tip. I’m as much fan as honest wear–patina–as the next fellow, but I’m also a firm believer that a little maintenance can go a long way.

Madras belt before

I knew the leather fading wasn’t really an issue. To fix it up I pulled out my Saphir brown shoe cream and worked some into the leather tip with a cotton rag. You need shoe cream to apply to your leather shoes and sole/heel edges from time to time. Meltonian and Kelly’s creams are fine and easily found.

Saphir shoe cream

I let the cream soak in for a few minutes then buffed it–better than new! It has that honest wear, but with an attractive appearance. Not bad for a buck fifty and some elbow grease.

Madras belt after