The Elsewhere Necktie Archive I

I spent July in very hot Greensboro NC on a residency at Elsewhere the extraordinary Living Museum .  Within three days of  arrival we were asked to put forward a proposal for a project  to be undertaken. Duely I spent time thinking it out and thinking it through, then discussing it with Rob Peterson, the Production Director. All was good, but just as we parted he glanced a tad despondently at a wall rack of ties and mused that the ties need a new life.

The wall of ties at first meeting

Being interested in logic, classification, cladisitc trees and such (having been a zoologist in a previous life), I fancied that the application of the Dewey Decimal system to the tie collection might give interesting results – a Tie Library, no less.So down they came and proved to be in a fairly disheveled state. Some were washed, all were ironed.

Tie washing; homage a Robert Gober

Ties in the sink

Ties dry on the fire escape

The ironed ties were then sorted by type of tie: Zipper-tie, clip-on or regular long tie. A  fourth category, for bow ties, was set up in honour of Grant Heaps, who defied the temperature and always appeared perfectly turned out in a long-sleeved shirt and neat bow tie, despite no bows having turned up.  The long ties were sorted by fibre content; the largest group being the ‘unlabeled’ category.

Ties sorted by fiber content

Once sorted the ties were individually labeled with a number.

Ties numbered

Numbering equipment

Numbering in progress

With a number the ties could not escape, each was recorded in a spreadsheet and classified according to state of preservation, type, fibre, colour, pattern, maker and other labels, price, sartorial advice and width. All the ties were then individually photographed.

The ties from the wall gave me my first two or three hundred, then I was brought reports of a nest of ties in the Wardrobe room; a room so full of clothes it was very hard to extract a garment unharmed. There below a rack I found the ties; more and more of them. Every time I stepped into the room more emerged from hiding places under things. After the five hundredth I dared not put my nose round the door again.

So now I have massive quantities of digital data to deal with. The first outcome of all this was a set of four postcards from some drawings I made.

the Elsewhere Necktie Archive – Boring Ties

the Elsewhere Necktie Archive – Pink Ties

the Elsewhere Necktie Archive – Striped Ties

the Elsewhere Necktie Archive – Interesting Ties

Now Im working on making a complete catalogue of the Archive which will be published in due course. Also working out how to date the ties.

I have to acknowledge wonderful, helpful conversations with professional librarian Suzi Posa who had just moved to Greensboro and came to check out Elsewhere, and with Dave (the dog owner) who turned out to be most knowledgeable on tie history, as well as all the interest from other passing people and, of course, the denizens of Elsewhere.


2 thoughts on “The Elsewhere Necktie Archive I

  1. Based on the pictures above, as near as I can tell, most of the ties appear to be from the seventies, eighties, and early nineties. The narrow ones are probably fifties and sixties era. The ones you drew on the postcard titled “Interesting ties” look like likely candidates for forties era. Classic forties ties are typically very wide, at least 4 inches, or more at the widest point. The fabric is usually silk or rayon, and the patterns are bold. I’m not sure of the exact transition, but during the fifties, ties got narrower, until in the sixties they were very narrow indeed. During the seventies they got wide again, and were often made of thick heavy polyester fabrics. In the eighties ties got a little narrower again, and were often made of natural fabrics like wool. Knit ties with straight ends (not pointed) were also popular in the 80’s. I could go on and on, but that’s a start.

    • You also asked on my blog ( about dating 30’s and 40’s ties. I always meant to get back to you with more of my thoughts on that, but never seem to find the time. So here I am, hopefully better late than never.

      I have a fairly large collection of ties that I believe are thirties era, but not because I’ve definitively proved them to be so through research. No, mainly because they all exhibit a very distinct style that is separate from the forties, appears to be a bit more conservative than 40’s ties, and also appear to be slightly more primitive in design. The primary characteristics of this group of ties (which i hypothesize to be thirties era) are as follows:

      1) The design is almost always woven directly into the fabric, rather than printed or painted on. Forties ties have brocade, but this is different. You often find the fabric woven with parallel, usually off-angled (neither vertical nor horizontal, but at an angle) color stripes in the back, which then affect the design in some often subtle way in the front

      2) The ties are frequently unlined, with the bare fabric visible behind, and only a little piece of off white fabric inserted into the inside of the tie for stiffening. They will have a tiny seam around the end of the tie, with a very small overlap/fold of fabric around the edges.

      3) the ties are not folded in a centered way in back, but instead, there is a significant off-centered overlap, usually to the right side, as you’re looking at the back. That is, the left side of the tie has been folded over, further to the right side, as opposed to being centered in back, as is customary with later era ties.

      You can see numerous examples of this genre of tie on my blog, by just typing “thirties” into the Blogger search box at the top of screen. This particular entry links to a number of other thirties tie entries, all ties that feature a basic maroon color pattern:

      I hope this helps, although I apologize for the delay in responding.

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