Notes From A Rowing Tie Snob

Call me a snob, but I like to wear a neck tie. I guess I got it from my father, and, at least in that sense, I am a chip off the old block. I take every opportunity to wear a tie, and if there is no real reason, I wear one anyway. And to be really honest, living in America does not make it easier. Few places or occasions here demand something around your neck, unless you are going to a wedding or a funeral.

On certain occasions, I have being seen wearing a bow tie or even a neck scarf, a day cravat (what some people wrongly call an Ascot). But being a “tie fellow”, I presume that the nice people in my surroundings are indulgent towards my behaviour and shrug their shoulders and explain the whole thing with a “well, he is from Europe, you know…”, or something to that effect. “But, blimey,” you might say, “what does this have to do with rowing? Has the Swede gone bonkers?”

Well, being interested in neck ties, I find it fascinating that some rowing clubs around the world have club ties. This is especially true in Great Britain where every rowing club with self-respect has their own tie in the colours of the club. I am sad to say this is not the case in Sweden. I tried, unsuccessfully, to introduce a club tie for my club in Malmö – actually using my old British school tie, which is in the same colours as my rowing club’s colours, black and yellow – but my idea was turned down by the club committee. In the 1990s, when I was a member for some years of the Upper Thames RC in Henley-on-Thames, England, I received the organization’s club tie as a gift. The tie is dark blue with Isis and Tamesis in white – Isis and Tamesis are sculptures on each side of the Henley Bridge. (See photo of the tie up on the left; and, if you wonder, yes it is tied with a Half-Windsor knot).

During the first decades in the 20th century, many tobacco companies put a premium card with the pack of cigarettes or box of tobacco. In 1934, Churchman’s Cigarette Company in England came out with a card set called “Well Known Ties”. Two famous rowing clubs, and their ties, were featured on two cards, Leander Club and Thames RC. In the illustration (see top of this entry) the Leander tie looks more red than pink, or if I may correct myself, cerise. The old Putney waterman, at one time the King’s Bargemaster, ‘Bossie’ Phelps once corrected an Australian oarsman, who happened to call Leander’s colour pink: “Half a moment, Sir, let’s get this straight; it is not pink; it is cerise.” The story is printed in ‘Jumbo’ Edwards’s The Way of a Man with a Blade (1963), and I will not re-tell the whole story here as it is actually rather mean to our Aussie rowing friends.

A colour combination that I personally really like is Auriol Kensington RC’s green and pink (or is that also cerise?). Anyone who is interested in the skill of tying his tie more than one way should immediately get a copy of Thomas Fink’s and Yong Mao’s The 85 Ways to Tie a Tie (2000), which will show the science and aesthetics of tie knots. A book a true gentleman, rowing chap or not, should not be without.

3 comments

  1. In an e-mail, Mr. Tim Koch, Auriol Kensington RC’s Captain and club historian, comments his club’s tie. He writes:

    “The colours of the AK [Auriol Kensington RC] tie are Brunswick Green and Worcester College, Oxford, Pink. The green is from Auriol (green and blue) and the pink is from Kensington (pink and black). It is a great combination as no other club has it and it is a combination that appears in nature.”

    I can only agree, Tim, I think it is a beautiful colour combination…

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