Q And Answer: Why Are Vintage Ties Short?

June 8, 2011

Q and Answer: Why Are Vintage Ties Short?

Eijah writes to ask: For the second time, I found myself with a vintage tie I’d bought online that was far too short. I clearly need to pay more attention. The last time this happened, I decided I wasn’t crazy for the tie anyway, and so I gave it away to be someone else’s problem. This time, however, I really like the tie in question, which you can see here http://www.etsy.com/transaction/50877227 Like the last one, strangely, this very short tie doesn’t have much or any lining inside of it, and so is pretty thin.

First question: Why are these ties so short? Are they kids’ ties? Are they from back in the day when everyone had a vest or a double-breasted jacket and ties didn’t usually reach too far? (When I tie it normally, it reaches just past my chest.)  

Second question: Is there anything that can be done? I really think that I could pull this thing off in the summertime, but the only possibility for wearing it as a tie that I can think of is to have a tailor add a big chunk of random fabric around where it would be on my neck (like the solid section of a knit tie) and hope that it’s never visible. That doesn’t seem like a great idea. The only other thought that came to me is taking it to a tailor and seeing if it can be turned into a pocket square, but I don’t know if that’d be some kind of horrible blasphemy or what.

Let’s address why vintage ties are so often shorter first, then address your craft project ideas.

There are a few reasons older ties are often shorter.

  • People were smaller. Any vintage clothing buyer can tell you that the American man of the 21st century is bigger than his grandfather was. My grandfathers were 5’11" and 5’10" or so. My father’s 6’1". I’m 6’3". 
  • Trousers had high rises. You know the classic image of an old fogey with his pants waist hiked up to his chest? Trousers used to have much higher rises. The tie simply had less distance to go to reach the belt line.
  • Short ties were in fashion. Before the 1950s or so, and especially before the mid-30s, ties were often worn shorter, above the belt line. Think of Oliver Hardy, for example. In the 1960s, a short, wide tie called a Kipper had a brief vogue among the peacock set.
  • Yeah, that’s probably a boy’s tie. It’s really, really short. A typical contemporary necktie length is about 58", and the one you bought is 45".

Also of note: that type of unlined tie was not uncommon in the 1960s and earlier, particularly for “Ivy League” styles and more casual ties.

Now: about your craft projects…

I love the creativity of the neck addition, but it’s so short that unless you’re a very small man, even adding 10" to the tie would still leave it pretty short. I think it’s possible, though, if you can find a tailor willing to take on a completley cockamamie project.

As far as turning it into a pocket square – if, unfolded, the tie is big enough, then that should be a pretty straightforward process. I’d make sure there’s no wear or discoloration along the folds before I tried it, and I’d expect to pay a tailor or seamstress about $20 to roll the edges.