A while back I wrote a post about my Liberty of London Scarf collection. That is one of my favorite blog posts I have done yet!
After doing it I received a nice response from the Liberty of London Social Media Team complimenting me on my scarf collection, writing and photographs. They seamed really pleased that I had the collection of their vintage scarves and had put up the photos to share them. I have been thinking about that ever since as I have several other Liberty items. I love the fabrics. I realize I have scarves, skirts, blouses, and now men’s ties! I even have some makeup in packages designed by Liberty of London in collaboration with Mac Cosmetics.
Because the scarves go so beautifully and comfortably around women’s necks I felt it was logical to explore what went around men’s necks next! I have seen artistic and fashionable men wear one of the Liberty of London Scarves occasionally and personally I think it looks great ~ but, let’s face it, not many men are wearing ascots these days! That was popular in Victorian times and in the 1940’s and 50’s. Men are getting really casual about their dress in the last couple of decades. They hardly even wear ties anymore! But they were in fashion for everyman in the middle of the last century! Doesn’t that phrase sound long ago? I feel like I just said something straight out of Oscar Wilde! The Importance of Being Ernest, perhaps, because I am earnest about this!
In the 1950’s, 60’s and very early 70’s Liberty of London made elegant ties for men out of their signature prints and fabrics. The earlier ones were traditional rather narrow width styles in the 1950’s and 60’s, elegantly done, in paisleys and small traditional silk prints and often utilized many of the subdued English Arts and Crafts type botanical prints in silks and wools. These suited the traditional English Tailored Gentleman Style of dressing very well.
Then, with the Flower Child Style eruption in the 1960’s bold full blown colorful flower patterns became popular. Liberty of London’s ties were often wider and more dramatic in both shape and coloring. They were made from some of the more flamboyant archival floral prints from the Liberty of London Fabric Collection. I have seen them done in cotton, silk, and wool challis. The Liberty designers also issued new prints to meet the 1960’s fashion world’s demand for color and big flowers. Liberty’s style was particularly suited for this opportunity! As the demand for these more flamboyant men’s ties emerged some women’s scarves were also issued in brighter palettes for the more fashion forward. Somebody in the marketing department of Liberty was very wisely looking ahead ~ making sure to attract a younger clientele for the present and future success of the company. Liberty of London has always been very aware of its market combined with what is happening in the society at any given time. That is one of their very strong points as a company.
The mainstream fashion world’s high point for popularity for mens’ Liberty of London ties was the 1960’s. They were coveted by hip dressers in the fashion forward cities in the United States, Canada and Western Europe. That fad died down in 1970’s, but Liberty, of course, continued to make traditional ties as they always had for their English Tailored Gentlemen Style customers. Elegant, subdued and distinctive these ties could be spotted a mile away by those in the know. I saw them now and then on distinguished gentlemen.
This is a good point to mention that the Liberty of London Company is very British and steadfast in the sense that they always can be relied upon to consistently produce certain types of old reliable items that their permanent admirers want – fashion fads notwithstanding.
I became really interested in exploring the Liberty of London print ties right after writing my blog post on the Liberty scarves. I had long been aware of them, but I had never owned any before that. Two things happened to whet my appetite for finding some. My general resurgence of interest in all things Liberty of London because of my scarf tying and writing post and secondly, the fact that a friend of mine asked me to help him shop for and co~ordinate a business wardrobe. We went shopping for men’s clothes for 2 days – in a big hurry because he had to leave for Tokyo for a week of meetings, and being in IT in Seattle, had been dressing casually for work for the last 10 years. He had no dress clothes! We had to do everything at once. That is hard and I do not recommend it. You ideally need to allow more time to co~ordinate things and get alterations done!
We flew into action. I must admit I am very good at this and I really enjoy personal wardrobe consulting. I knew what stores to go to for what brands and what was on sale. This man is very tall and thin and has a hard time finding ready made shirts and jackets with long enough sleeves and slim bodies ~ as well as pants with small waists and long enough inseams. This is one reason he hates going shopping and puts it off as long as possible. We bought everything! And after getting the main pieces down we got to the fun part ~ selecting ties. Until we looked at the prices! The new silk designer ties are really expensive! As much as, or more than, women’s designer scarves! My friend had sticker shock! We had to buy three because we had no time to search for bargains. He had to get alterations done and leave town packed by the next day. I had an alterations connection who was willing to do a rush job. We got him packed, and off to Tokyo looking fantastic with enough clothes for a week of business meetings in the very critical Tokyo design and advertising world where the men are very fashion conscious. They even flash their labels to show you who designed what they are wearing. They are absolute competitive fashion sharks! The modern day version of the dandies of the French court.
His clothes worked out. Everything was a hit. While he did business in Tokyo I got busy learning about vintage ties. I went online and searched for vintage tie dealers and looked at their offerings and prices. They were considerably less expensive than the boutique and department store ties we had just looked at and had to buy in the shops due to the rush we were in. I memorized the desirable designer names and absorbed their looks. I made myself a mental tie dictionary. Ties are complicated! And very sophisticated. New ones, as I mentioned above, are very costly. I decided to hit the local thrift shops, consignment and vintage shops to see what I could find. Ties are something I like to see, feel and inspect in person. ties are very sensual.
I live in Seattle, WA. Men have not been dressing up much for work in the IT industry here for decades. For me this was very fortunate. No one was buying ties and there were lots to be had. Especially lots of awful ones! These little resale shops were loaded with possibilities! This was how I began my Liberty Tie Collection. I searched for vintage ties, knowing what kind I was hoping to find and after looking at about 1,000 truly, finally, found one Liberty of London vintage tie!
I was spurred on! About 500 ties later, I found another one! About 2,000 ties after that, yet another! And so on. Last week, I had four and decided it was time to photograph them to write this post. So I did. Then, driving home from town last night, I stopped at the Goodwill and jackpot! I found yet another one! I now have five! Altogether 5 Liberty of London vintage ties. 5! I am so excited! And, just so you know, I have to get excited to write about these things!
And I must admit I have also picked up many other ties that are really nice from different designers as well. I now have a basic collection of about 40, altogether, great men’s vintage ties. Why? You may wonder, being a woman? Well, because I like the fabrics and the way they are made, and I decided it would be fun to have them around to loan to my male friends who are always needing help with their clothes! I am also figuring out ways to use them myself and think I will incorporate them into my own wardrobe in some very feminine menswear inspired looks this fall and winter. Something to look forward to! Hopefully I will blog about that! I will certainly try!
I decided the time was ripe, I must write about my Liberty of London Vintage Tie Quest this this very weekend.
As I drove home I thought about this: Vintage shopping takes time. You cannot go to a store because you know you need something and find it right then and there. You have to have a lot of patience and search and search. Over time. I cannot emphasize how long it takes to put together a decent collection of wearable art in this way. It is a constant work in progress. And it requires tremendous self discipline. I am always editing up. I have a rule, I have a limited amount of physical space and I must take as much out of my collections and get rid of it as I bring into them. Thus I am sorting and recycling constantly. I have kept many items for decades and some for only a few months. The hunt is part of the fun. You never know what will be around the next corner, what you may find, what new desire this might kindle within you. And, when you get one of these desires going you have to keep it smoldering in the back of your mind constantly, in order to keep the quest for finding it it fueled. Somehow, sending the message that you want something old and odd or unusual helps it to appear on your horizon. This really works! But you must have patience. Sometimes it takes two years or longer for something special to appear.
This is how it was, as you have read, with the Liberty Vintage Ties!
Then, all of a sudden, as I was driving home I remembered this:
About two years ago, when I was rushing around doing household errands in Target of all places, in Seattle, Washington, I remembered I had seen some men’s Liberty of London print ties for sale! They were part of the Liberty of London for Target collaboration that produced a variety of popular lifestyle accessories, from lamp shades, through throw pillows, clothing and my favorite ~ screen printed bicycles for women and children! I was busy. I was not paying attention. I did not look very hard. I did not buy anything from Liberty of London issued in collaboration with Target that day. In fact, at the time the Target/Liberty campaign was going on I didn’t get into it at all! I missed out on the entire thing! I wish I hadn’t! But I must say, I live in an area where Target is not very active. Very little of that companies special campaigns merchandise make it into the stores in my area. I have since become aware of this because some people I know are collaborating with Target merchandising and PR on developing on their I-phone Application. In fact, one of those very people is the man whom I was helping with his trip to Tokyo business wardrobe.
This guy is a computer person. He is an IT professional. He is also a gamer. He has long teased me for my penchant for vintage shopping and collecting. He recently observed that thrifting is like gaming – it is all about the hunt, the unknown, the quest, what you will find around the next corner when you go out looking, and what that will lead you onto next. The reward, we vintage shoppers get, in our game, is the treasure we find to add to our collection at a price we are willing to pay. He has observed that people who are “addicted” to thrifting are similar to gamers in this way. He uses this as justification for spending much time gaming, of course! Time I think he should be spending some of shopping so that his wardrobe is ready when he needs it!
I do know some thrift shoppers who love to shop because they find it “so relaxing.” these people buy something of everything. I am different. I actually find thrift shopping quite stressfull. I think this is because I am honing in on a particularly small areas of highly specialized and hard to find items. Rare stuff that one hardly ever comes across. And I am way over the thrill of looking through tons of garbage to possibly find it. I actually do not like to have too much stuff around. And all of it must be orderly and neat and in very good condition. I turn down 90% of what I find because it is not pristine enough to fit my standards.
I clean and repair everything as soon as I acquire it if that is necessary. I don’t want to have anything dirty or needing renovation lying around. This, in my opinion, is the advanced stage of successful collecting! These are the ways I have managed to assemble my own collections. I would say that operating within limitations is generally a good guideline. In this case I was looking specifically for the men’s version of the Liberty of London neck pieces ~the ties ~ made in the same time period as my women’s vintage Liberty of London scarves. I was also looking for about the same number of them ~ four or five. I often actually set out with a number like this in mind as I don’t want to feel overwhelmed by having to find or take care of too many. I find that I use and enjoy things if I have numbers of them that are under control.
Photographs of the ties are by Fredric Lehrman
Photographs of the scarves are by Violette de Courcy