Wool Challis & Ancient Madder Ties at No Man Walks Alone

wool challis

My new post ‘Fall’s Ties: Wool Challis & Ancient Madder’ is up at No Man Walks Alone. The two tie types are perfect for the seasons’ cooler weather and muted tones:

There are two classic neckties that do just that for fall and winter: ancient madder and wool challis. Each has a softer hand than most year-‘round ties with a dusty, muted appearance, easily blending with the autumn palette. Both are beautifully at home with a cold weather kit of tweeds, cords, and tattersall shirts, but they are still refined enough to dress up with flannel suits.

They hearken back to 19th C England, and the designs were blocked by hand until only a few years ago:

The designs traditionally used on both fabrics are paisleys and neats, from geometrics to pines. Wool challis will not infrequently feature equestrian and hunting themed designs as well. Many of these designs were produced by David Evans & Co. which stood as an iconic name in English silk and hand blocking for a century and a half, until the factory’s closing in 2002.

Keep your eyes open at thrift stores for classic examples, although wool challis seems to be particularly yummy to moths. Pictured is a tie dating from at least the 1960s, maybe much earlier, with a classic pedigree. Alas, it was not in good enough shape to take home.

Head on over to No Man Walks Alone to read all about it, then go buy some ties.

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.

If You Could Only Have One Necktie: The Navy Grenadine

Grenadine Navy Talbott

Versatility is a wardrobe virtue, particularly when you’re starting out, or perhaps are traveling. It’s also fun to play those games of “if you could only have one….” When it comes to deciding on the One Tie, I think one would be hard pressed to beat the navy grenadine for versatility and elegance. Black grenadine is often pointed to as a “One Tie”, but I find navy more pleasant and versatile.

Solid ties have made a bit of a comeback in the past decade (think James Bond and Mad Men), and grenadines, unsurprisingly, have made an upswing as well. Solid ties can be paired with most anything, but the texture that grenadine offers provides visual interest and contrast to worsted suits. But the texture also allows them to be coupled with rougher cloths like tweed, which simply wouldn’t work with a smooth, satin tie.

Grenadine is a woven fabric that is made to look like a knit. If you compare a knit tie to a grenadine the uninitiated eye might confuse the two, although knit ties typically have a squared off, rather than pointed, end. There are two different versions of grenadine, garza grossa and garza fina. Garza grossa has a larger, bumpier, weave, while garza fina is, well, finer.

Garza grossa (l), garza fina (r)

garza grossa (l), garza fina (r)

I picked up a perfect Robert Talbott navy grenadine recently, and it might just be the perfect necktie. A garza fina, it could be worn with a gray suit at the office, a seersucker suit in summer, or a herringbone tweed and cords in fall. Pack it for a trip and it will be the only necktie you need (I confess to always packing a backup tie just in case I’m attacked by aggressive salad dressing ).

A number of makers, particularly niche makers, offer grenadines (No Man Walks Alone, Sam Hober, Vanda, Kent Wang, Chipp). That said, they can be difficult to find inexpensively as grenadines are always in demand. Chipp is the best budget buy at retail.

If you only had a tie wardrobe of grenadines you would dress far nicer than 99% of the men you come into contact with. And if you only have a navy grenadine, tied in a four-in-hand knot, you will be ready for any situation that comes along.

 

Watch the folks at Sam Hober make a four-fold grenadine tie:

Old, New, Borrowed, & Blue: Four Dressing Tips For Men

Something BlueWe all know the traditional English rhyme of wedding day advice for women (and also useful for triggering the return of Time Lords wiped from history):

Something old,
something new,
something borrowed,
something blue.

Each item is intended as a token of good luck for the bride. But there is wisdom contained within those words that can serve a style guide for men as well. We can take each of these elements as a helpful principle for men’s attire.

Something Old
“Something Old” are your standards, your wardrobe’s foundation, so buy carefully and slowly. The man’s closet should not be an ever changing carousel of radically different options, chucking last season’s must-have because it is now so very last month. Building step by step over seasons, years, and even decades, a man should purchase well established classics to serve as a rock solid wardrobe foundation.

Alden 909You can safely pull out the grey flannel suit from five years ago because you chose well and carefully at the time of purchase. Your decade old black captoes are kept polished with shoe trees inserted, and while not purchased as part of an “outfit,” go perfectly with your suit. That’s how a well thought out classic wardrobe works. Turning to Something Old is almost always the right place to start.

Something New
When stopping in to explore a men’s shop’s new seasonal offerings, the co-owner said to me, “It’s always nice to freshen things up a bit.” Now of course it was in her best interest for me to buy something, but she was conveying just the right idea. Even the most classic wardrobe will suffer from attrition, old items needing to be replaced. But we also enjoy a bit of novelty, and sometimes we are after something new just to freshen things up.

Classic though we want the wardrobe to be, ossified is something else entirely. It is well that we add in that Something New from time to time. This is often done the in the field of accessories. While one might claim to have a timeless wardrobe, it is an ideal impossible to realize fully. We will always be influenced by what is around us.

It doesn’t hurt to give a nod to shifts in stylistic preferences with a new tie or pocket square. The season’s trend may be toward narrower, printed ties, or muted paisleys, all well within the parameters of tasteful style. Such additions keep things fresh, and buying something small can often sate our urge to spend before we get carried away.

BR shop bows

Something Borrowed
I am an advocate of Generational Style, and that’s what I have in mind here. I love vintage items, and with careful selection, vintage items can be well blended into a classic and contemporary wardrobe. These things are Something Borrowed because we simply serve as custodians of what are being passed down from those who have gone before. Perhaps you have something you inherited—I hope you do—but if not, careful purchasing from eBay, Etsy, and even local antique shops can yield Something Borrowed.

The line to walk is narrow here. I am not advocating period correct reenacting in your attire. While I do happily embrace a certain retro look, and maybe more so than most, one ought to avoid the oft decried “costume” (the decrying of which has itself become cliché).

Like Something New, Something Borrowed might consist of soft accessories like ties and pocket squares. But “hard” items made of precious metals, like Deco cufflinks or lapel pins, or items made of leather, like a vintage briefcase, are excellent choices here. After your time with them is over they can be passed along as someone else’s Something Borrowed.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Something Blue
Perhaps it’s the inner Civil War buff in me, but I am a firm believer in the blue and the grey forming the palette foundation for a man’s wardrobe. While shades of brown cannot be discounted, particularly in the cooler seasons, blue and gray will be your cornerstone. And for day to day wear, blue has an even greater versatility than gray. It’s hard to imagine going long without some splash of blue; whether shirt, tie, or pocket square, blue demands to be used.

Something Blue suitI noticed that maker of beautiful ties Vanda Fine Clothing speaks of the power of blue in a blog post, “Every other client that comes through our door says he has enough blue ties – but guess what tie colour he ends up buying…?” There is good reason for that.

All blue all the time would certainly be dull, but if your default is to reach for Something Blue then you are doing well.

Keep in mind, then, that old advice for brides when you dress in the morning. If you are wearing a combination of Something Old/Something New/Something Borrowed/Something Blue you are likely finding the right wardrobe balance.

The Return of Carlo Franco: The Seven-Fold Tie Maker Is Back

Carlo Franco 1 The menswear Internet forum culture of the 2000s has spawned countless blogs (*cough*), and almost as many clothing brands. But without question, the real pioneer of those clothing brands was Carlo Franco, purveyor of Italian seven-fold ties. They placed themselves firmly at the high-end of the market, aiming at the big boys like Brioni, Stefano Ricci, and Kiton.

After early rave reviews, including for their own line of Italian made dress shirts, Carlo Franco’s decline was even faster than their rise. Expanding too quickly, family demands (caring for a dying father), and personnel missteps that led to neglected order fulfillment, ended Carlo Franco’s brief reign. Carlo Franco became something of a cautionary tale of how quickly the world that celebrates you can turn against you if you don’t stay on top of your game.

I was intrigued, then, when I heard that Carlo Franco was coming back. I have been an Internet friend (full disclosure) with original Carlo Franco co-founder Jill Speck for a decade, first through the menswear forums and now on social media. I reached out to her about her relaunch.

Jill agreed to the interview, and she addresses why she is relaunching Carlo Franco, faces up to the troubles when Carlo Franco’s first run ended, and why she’s not backing away from the woven seven-fold tie.

Why have you decided to relaunch Carlo Franco?  

Jill Speck of Carlo Franco

Jill Speck of Carlo Franco

Jill: Well, I’m an entrepreneur at heart. And while I joke that Carlo Franco was started as an excuse to go to Italy every year, the fact is that I never got over the thrill of how I felt the first time I walked into my weaver’s workshop in northern Italy and saw all the beautiful silk samples surrounding me on every wall. It wasn’t until many years later that I realized how lucky I was to have stumbled into possibly the premier weaver in the entire world of woven silks. Today, I’m blessed to call their art director a friend.

I also never shook that kid-at-Christmas feeling when my very first six designs arrived from Italy in 2003. I was officially in business! I could not have been happier. For some strange reason, I’ve always loved beautiful menswear. Perhaps it’s just because I love seeing well-dressed men!!

So, when life threw me an unexpected little curveball a couple of years ago, making change inevitable, I felt empowered knowing that I was the one who got to choose how it would change. I could put my tail between my legs and head back to the dugout, or I could hold my head high and swing for the bleachers, which is what I decided to do. I didn’t rush into anything.  The more I thought about, re-launching Carlo Franco—the one business that has brought me greater joy than just about any other entrepreneurial endeavor in my adult life—seemed like the logical thing to do. A complete no-brainer. It would bring me happiness. That would be the selfish answer! 

And yet the pragmatic businesswoman in me never would have brought it to market had the brand not received constant inquiries from former customers who wanted to see Carlo Franco back on the scene again. Hopefully, I could bring back to the market the superior-quality ties that our wonderful customers always appreciated.

After the difficult ending last time—and my understanding is Carlo Franco co-founder Chuck Franke is not involved with the re-launch—why did you decide to use the Carlo Franco name rather than restarting with something different?

Jill: That is a perfectly understandable question, and needless to say, this is not the first time I’ve heard it!  The brand itself, “Carlo Franco,” is obviously a fun play on words of my former business partner’s name. We never really thought that “Jillo Specco” had the same ring to it! :-)  It is no secret that we are a U.S.-based company.  However, 100% of our products are sourced from and produced in Italy. Hence, the Italian reference in our name. But despite the handful of hiccups associated with the brand seven or eight years ago, the brand name “Carlo Franco” still sees hundreds of keyword searches every month, even after we unofficially closed the shutters more than seven years ago. Our customers who had the opportunity to experience the quality of Carlo Franco firsthand still remember it today. Despite a few bumps in our own little Silk Road, we are proud of the superior quality the name connotes.

There were some people frustrated with Carlo Franco’s service last time. What can you tell them to convince them that they should buy from CF this time?  

Jill: Admittedly, this is not a fun topic of conversation for me, to say the least; but it is a fair question that deserves an answer. The short answer is that we had fulfillment issues because we did not have enough quality control on the supply side. But at the end of the day, I will take 100% responsibility for every unhappy customer. To be candid, there really were not that many customers affected.  However, as you know, in the world of the Internet, that’s all it takes. 

The long story is we decided to close down shop because tie-making was merely a labor of love for us. We had many other personal and professional things going on in our lives that were higher priorities at the time. We asked our office staff to make sure that every order was filled and every customer issue was resolved, and then we closed the doors. The young, naïve businesswoman in me believed that it would be done as requested. And frankly, I never looked back. I was working 2,000 miles from home while dealing with a dying father, and the tie business just wasn’t a priority. Of course, hindsight being 20/20, there are many, many, many things I would have done differently. The biggest personal lesson I learned was that people do what you INspect, not what you EXpect. Nevertheless, I still take 100% responsibility for everything that went wrong at that time.

Sadly, it wasn’t for two or three more years, when I decided to clear out some old inventory, that I realized to my horror and embarrassment that there were still unfulfilled orders and very unhappy customers with whom I had to deal. While this was possibly the most difficult business challenge in my life—because it was a question of my personal integrity—I’m very proud to say that there is not a single person in the world, to my knowledge, whose issue was not resolved above their expectations. Customer service will never again fail to be at the top of our priorities. B&W houndstooth What can you tell me about the mills and makers you are using?  

Jill: My weaver is in Como, Italy. They weave for many names you would know. They’re arguably the best in the world, and one of a very small handful who still actually does the weaving in Como—not China. My manufacturer is in southern Italy where each tie is hand-finished and hand-signed by the artisan who completes it. 

As good as the quality was from our last manufacturer, we simply could not trust them for fulfillment. They are largely the reason for our loss of credibility the last time. As the saying goes, “Betray me once, shame on you. Betray me twice, shame on me.” So shame on me.

Are all the ties 7-fold? 

Jill: Well, as you know, the debate could go on all day about what an “actual” sevenfold is. According to the Italian tie makers’ definition, yes, all of our long ties at this time are currently sevenfold. We are not currently offering the unlined sevenfold, however, because as much as we and our customers love the artisanship of a “true” seven fold, we just found that most customers prefer to have the added heft of the lined, folded tie. However, keep your eyes open! We hope to add a limited selection of true, unlined seven-folds to each of our future collections. But they truly will be limited editions.

Are all the designs woven or are you using any printed silks?

Jill: Well, as my sweet Daddy used to say, “dance with the one that brung ya!” We’ve always loved the way the light reflects off the texture and the richness of woven silks. So, I don’t foresee changing that anytime soon. 

Are the designs your own or are you working from a mill’s archives? 

Jill: We work in concert with them. We feel very fortunate that they afford us the latitude to make changes to the designs they provide as a starting point. This could mean changes and colors, textures, patterns, image sizes, etc. They also provide us the opportunity to create anything we wish to create from scratch. We’re blessed to have mutual trust and thoroughly enjoy working with them over lots of cups of cappuccino and silk dust!!!

tie knotThere has been a rise in popularity in the last few years of lighter, printed silks (also grenadines) with light interlinings, no tipping, and handkerchief rolled edges. How do you see Carlo Franco’s heavier ties fitting in with this different market?

Jill: We decided a long time ago that we could not be all things to all people. Neckwear is art. I appreciate changes in the market styles as they come and go and love the beauty of any new artisanship. However, Carlo Franco will likely continue to make the same type of necktie we always have—heavier woven silks along with the occasional cashmere silk blends. But I never say never.

Will there be a bow tie version of each of your long tie designs?

Jill: Yes! In fact, there will be at least one bow tie to each of our 61 new designs this time. It seems that every 20 or 30 years the popularity of bow tie trends upward. And right now, the trend is being led especially by the younger guys, which is fun to watch.

How many designs are you releasing? Price point?

Jill: As mentioned previously, this new collection has 61 new designs. To be more specific, there are 15 different designs with a number of color variations, bringing the total of unique designs to 61.

Pricing is always a delicate subject, and one that we don’t take lightly. Due to the weakened exchange rate, increased costs of shipping, and general inflation, our new long ties will retail for $235, which is still substantially lower than our comparable competitors. The Mogador weave will be $255 and bow ties are $85. However, by way of gratitude for the loyalty of customers through years of good and bad, we will be instituting a “legacy program” for anyone who has been a customer prior to our official re-launch. Those individuals will be given a significant discount on their first order.

Are the designs limited editions or will you continue making popular ties? 

Jill: As a rule of thumb, they are all limited-editions. On a rare occasion, we might do a second run. However, it would indeed be a rare occasion. The only exception to that will be our formal line. We plan to focus more this time on providing ties for weddings, New Year’s celebrations, and black-tie events—more of an evergreen collection.

Do you have plans for items other than ties and bow ties?

Jill: For the formalwear, we will probably add waistcoats and, perhaps, cummerbunds. There will be a handful of other high-end accessories such as our mother of pearl collar stays as well as a few other items that we’re not yet ready to announce. But beyond that, yes, we plan to just stay within the realm of accessories for now.

CF- ties + bowPhotos are courtesy of Carlo Franco.

The Cordial Churchman Turns Five & Debuts Their Own Braces

Picture via The Cordial Churchman

Picture via The Cordial Churchman

The Cordial Churchman celebrates its fifth birthday with a new video debuting their own make of braces (aka suspenders). Not only making in the USA, but in South Carolina, The Cordial Churchman specializes in fine bow ties.

A true Mom & Pop operation, Ellie Stager made husband, and churchman, Andy a bow tie out of some extra seersucker fabric. I remember way back when Andy posted pictures of it, and everyone started asking him if Ellie could make them one, too. This was before everybody and his second cousin started his own bow tie business.

When I had some fabric I brought back from Chennai (old Madras), India, it was to The Cordial Churchman I turned to have it transformed into Pinstripe Pulpit bow ties. They even made it to my own custom shape.

Stager & Co. at The Cordial Churchman are good folks, will make you a quality bow tie (even transform a long tie into a bow for you), and now will sell you a pair of braces, too. Why, they’ll even sew the braces buttons in your pants for you if you send them in. You can’t beat that.

Giveaway & Review: The Bow Tie Club

Bow Tie Club 01

[Contest is now closed. Winners announced soon.]

Back in the dark days, before there were hipsters and Internet access was dial-up, bow tie sources were few and far between. One of the sources you could rely on, and that had a wide array of options, was The Bow Tie Club.

Two decades after founding The Bow Tie Club, Brooks Brothers and Nordstrom alumnus Kirk Hinckley is still selling bow ties in an era when the landscape is full of competing makers. And even though The Bow Tie Club has such notable clients as Congressmen, Supreme Court Justices, and even Presidents, there is no evidence you will become a hated political figure if you wear Bow Tie Club ties.

BTC UptownKirk kindly sent me three of his ties to look over, and they are certainly worth putting on your list of buying options. And options they have, an ever-rotating choice of over 400 bow ties, that range from classic to camp. I would steer you toward the more restrained choices, but there are plenty of those hovering at the $40 price point.

The ties are USA made (a Pinstripe Pulpit favorite feature) and well constructed. Hinckley claims they use a heavier silk momme weight than Hermes (22 vs. 21). That said, Hermes silks still have a watery luxuriousness that The Bow Tie Club doesn’t give you. Not everyone wants Hermes, certainly, and if you do you will pay dearly for it. I only bring the Hermes comparison because The Bow Tie Club does.

Bow Tie Club labelsA stronger twill weave, more texture to the silk, I think would help The Bow Tie Club ties. Also, they would benefit from a little thicker interlining. Another quibble is the lack of a neck measurement guide sewn in for accurate adjustment. Now, not every bow tie offers this, but they are handy. It’s not something anyone should get worked up about, certainly. These are good ties worth your time.

I am passing The Bow Tie’s generosity on to you. I’m giving away these three bow ties to three lucky winners. I will choose three names from entrants, winner one will have his choice of the three, winner two will choose one of the two remaining, winner three receives the last tie.

You can enter by doing one or all of the following. Do all three for three chances to win! The contest runs through Monday, June 2.

Good luck!

Bow Time Club 02

The Death of the Men’s Store: Lexington’s Graves-Cox Closing After 126 Years

Graves Cox window

The past generation has witnessed the devastation of what was once a stand-by across the nation: the independent men’s shop. The latest victim of the confluence of casual wear, chain stores, and Internet retailers is Lexington’s Graves-Cox & Company.

Graves Cox stirrupStarted in 1888 by Leonard Cox’s grandfather, the market is just no longer viable. “I had already decided to stop carrying suits and sport coats, and only stock blazers,” Cox told me on Thursday. Cox has sold the store to Georgia investors associated with CountryClubPrep.com. He expects them to go the same casual direction he’s been forced into over the past years. “They won’t carry suits and sport coats at all,” Cox said.

Southwick, Barbour, Pantherella, Smathers & Branson, and Alden are just a few of the classic brands Graves-Cox stocks, and now has on sale. Cox told me he expects the sale to continue through June, but some items such as Alden shoes were already in short supply when the sale started.

My thrifting adventures have led me to a couple of vintage Graves-Cox store branded ties over time, both woven emblematics. The horse tie, appropriate to Lexington, probably dates from the 1970s, evidenced by its wider width. I have been considering having a bow tie made out of it. The older tie, likely dating from the 1950s-60s due to its width and construction, has little Confederate battle flags, reflecting Lexington’s Southerness from a time when folks didn’t get worked up by such things.Graves Cox vintage ties

If you get a chance, stop by Graves-Cox before its doors close for good. Get a deal and look around. Chat with Leonard Cox. You can tell your grandchildren how you once visited an independent men’s store.

Graves Cox door Graves Cox Smathers - Branson

Graves Cox store

A Visit to Drake’s of London x Two

Drake's

Over the past several years there hasn’t been a more revered menswear label than Drake’s London. Known especially for their elegant ties, they also are sought after for their pocket squares and scarves. Founded by Michael Drake in 1977, Drake’s recently was acquired by the same team that founded that Shangri-la of menswear stores Hong Kong’s The Armoury.

Once only carried as a featured accessories label in high end shops around the world, Drake’s now has its own shop just off Savile Row on Clifford Street in London. I made a visit a priority on my recent London stop, and Drake’s certainly lived up to expectations.

Drake’s has moved beyond its roots into shirts, sweaters, and elegant tailored clothing. And while the January sales were on, the prices still were not for the faint of heart.

Drake's Threshold

Drake’s Threshold

Drake's Shirts IMG_9611 IMG_9612 IMG_9613 IMG_9614 IMG_9615 IMG_9616 IMG_9617Because of Drake’s popularity, they recently moved into a new London factory on the aptly named Haberdasher Street. The commitment to London manufacturing is refreshing and encouraging. But a new factory space might be of only passing interest but for the fact that Drake’s also opened a factory shop to go with it.

Drake's Factory

This is a factory shop in the old, true sense of the term, not an “outlet shop” in a touristy strip mall that carries off-shore junk made solely for supposed markdown. It is stocked with last season’s goods, or possibly unsold items returned from men’s shops, in other words, first quality merchandise.

While still in London, the factory and shop are a good distance from the haute of the Row. I took the tube to Old Street station with my street map in hand. Haberdasher Street is only a short walk, but I didn’t want to get turned around and make it there after the shop had closed.

Drake's Sign

When I arrived the store was empty save for the lovely lady running the shop. She rang me in as this is not really a retail area. The shop is well organized, well lit, and well stocked. It was not a let down from the retail store at all. I’ll take two of everything.

Drake's sweaters

Drake's accessories IMG_9682 IMG_9683

Drake's ties

Prices certainly are marked down from Drake’s wallet emptying retail, but don’t expect any absolute steals. Drake’s knows the quality and desirability of what they make, and they know you’ll pay it if you want it.

Drake's throws

Drake's scarves IMG_9686 IMG_9687

I surveyed the goods, and while I love Drake’s ties and pocket squares I knew they would only be worn sparingly considering I have too many ties and pocket squares already. One thing that has been on my wish list, though, is a Fair Isle scarf, and Drake’s produces some of the nicest available.

I pulled three, took them to the counter, and talked through the colorway options with the lady in charge. When it comes to something multicolored like Fair Isle it helps for me to consult with someone who has more accurate eye cones than mine. I chose one with grays, blues, and reds, and look forward to wearing it for years to come.

Don’t miss the chance to visit the shops, particularly the factory store, if you find yourself with some time to spare in London. You may want to start counting your pence now.

Drake's Fair Isle Scarf

The Churchill Dot: A Visit to Turnbull & Asser

Turnbull exterior

Back in my undergraduate days I spent a summer at Oxford. I would make day trips to London and knock about, visiting museum and window shopping. It was one one of those trips I bought my first bow tie, an unlabeled tie from Harrod’s. It was a variation of what has become known as the Churchill dot, named, of course, after the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill who made it his trademark. A fellow student at Exeter College from Yale—he was having a bespoke sport coat made that summer—taught me how to tie my bow. And I haven’t looked back.

My old Harrod's bow has seen better days.

My old Harrod’s bow has seen better days.

That bow tie was the start of a collection that would grow over the years, but because it was such a standard and so versatile I wore it as often as I could. That is until a few years ago when I noticed that the silk on it had been stressed to the point where it needed to be retired. Since then I’ve kept my eyes open for a suitable replacement.

My new Churchill dot bow tie.

My new Churchill dot bow tie.

Since it was a Churchill dot that I desired, I decided to go to the original source. Jermyn Street’s legendary Turnbull & Asser supplied Churchill’s bow ties (as well as his shirts, dressing robes, and those onesie jumpsuits he also turned into a trademark). I decided they would supply my Churchill dot, too.

Last week I had a day in London, and made a visit to Turnbull & Asser a top priority. It was sale time on Jermyn Street, including at T&A, but the Churchill bows were not marked down. Still, I went downstairs and picked out my Churchill dot, happy to have the right replacement for my old friend. (And behold, Vanity Fair prints–an exciting find for a collector like myself.)

Down the stairs at Turnbull & Asser -- Vanity Fair prints!

Down the stairs at Turnbull & Asser — Vanity Fair prints!

Curiously similar construction.

Curiously similar construction.

Curiously, my unlabeled Harrod’s tie looks similar in construction to the T&A. The grosgrain connector, the hardware, and the “Made in England” label point to the likelihood the Harrod’s bow emerged from the Turnbull & Asser factory.

It seems I’ve had a Turnbull dot all along.