During the Teens and most of the Twenties men’s neckwear came in such a varieties of colors, shapes and styles that I would call it the best era of men’s ties. The bowtie was very popular for day wear with patterns of horizontal stripes, plaids, and polka dots in pinks, purples, grey’s and greens. The Great Gatsby was fond of pink bow ties. Neckties too were full of color. They were on the thin side with pointed hems made of silk. Paisley was especially popular in the USA while stripes, checks, and diamond patterns reigned in Europe.

One forgotten tie of the Teens and Twenties was the knit wool necktie. Made of one long thin strip with fringed edges, it is a tie that has resurfaced again and again in history. I recently saw them in new clothing stores so they are back in style once again. The scarf tie is also somewhat back in style too. Worn as a simple wrap today, in the Twenties the large silk or rayon scarf was tied in a Windsor knot and then tucked under a pullover vest or sweater (also in style this year).

By the Thirties scarf ties and bow ties were out of style leaving only the silk necktie to reign. Multiple colors of horizontal stripes, checks, large dots, pin dots and art deco motifs clashed with men’s shirts. It was a wild and colorful time in menswear. Earthy greens, yellows, peach and blues were the predominant colors of the Thirties.

Shortly after WW2, men’s ties took a radical shift in style. No longer confined by fabric rationing, men’s ties got wide- very wide- and short to ending above the belt line. Men amassed huge collections of them and tie-swaps and tie-swapping clubs were popular. Geometrics, curly lines, monograms and art deco style patterns were made in bright colors of blues, reds, golds and browns. Animals, plants, flowers, birds, Western and tropical themes were everywhere (see image). Hand-painted silk ties were often themed around the wearer’s hobbies and interests, like painting, fishing or hunting.

One American trend was the “Belly Warmer” tie, with a hula girl and palm trees painted on it. Introduced as a joke, the belly warmer ties became trendy after actors like Bob Hope, Alan Ladd and Danny Kay were seen wearing them.  Soon after, scantily clad pin-up girls painted on the back side of a tie became a fashionable secret.

Wide ties gradually narrowed again by the mid Fifties and kept on narrowing into the Sixties when the skinny tie came back around again. Solid colors were preferred in most of the Fifties while mod art designs entered in the Sixties. Both traditional pointed neckties and square end ties had their place. Pink, purple, yellow, and aqua colors came back on trend with large geometric shapes, wide stripes, and square dots. As a collector you just have to love the Sixties!

If you like crazy patterns as well then the Seventies are you for. Earth tones and plant life, large paisley and animal prints made of wool and polyester materials gave the ties texture. Once again ties got wide and short. One popular new tie in Europe was the neckerchief. A square silk scarf was tied around the neck and held in place with either a square knot or a tie ring with ends pointing to the sides.

The Eighties is where I draw the line at my vintage research. Born in the Eighties it’s always hard to think of your youth as “vintage” now. I do however remember buying my dad a tie every year for Christmas. He liked wide horizontal striped ties in navy blues, reds and grey the most. Occasionally we would get him a funny Christmas tie with snowmen all over it. I am pretty sure that has been a tradition among families for most of the century.

The Vintage Dancer is Debbie Sessions, a vintage fashion, dance and history buff with an eye for seeing vintage style in new fashions. She teaches practical fashion history on her blog and in her books, 1940s Style Guide and 1920’s Style Guide. She also helps shoppers find vintage inspired clothing, shoes and accessories from all over the web.

One Response

  1. Irene

    This was VERY interesting! It’s funny how it went from wide to skinny to wide back to skinny! When my husband had to start wearing ties to work, I had a field day! My favorite ties were the Jerry Garcia ties! Wild, bold and alittle off the grid! But truly unique! I see ties ending up at thrift shops and I want to do something to recycle them. That’s my mission this winter! Great post! You’ve motivated me to get going!