It isn't Trad / Ivy / Prep, but there is a nostalgic affection I have for the Polo Ralph Lauren geometric ties of the 1990s. There is something about these ties that I love. The sense of memory-feeling of a different time, a sense that you are, in a way, able to live in that time for a moment, in just one little way. You are able to hold onto something so specific to that time, and are able to carry it through to today, resurrected. With it comes not only the aesthetic but the attitude, the feeling, the optimism. The 1990s era geometric tie is like a little time machine.
If you like classic menswear, you most likely are perpetually focused on some element, time or essence of the/a past. Our society has become more relaxed and more casual. The style exemplified in classic menswear has faded from our society. Only those who are intentional, keep it up. We all, in this cohort, in different ways, and on different days, admire something from some other time. When it comes to classic menswear, rarely are we looking toward the 90s. In many ways, in the 1990s era norms of business dress were traditional compared to today's standards, it was just all a bit, weird. There were elements of the hyper-modern, and then elements of early 1900s found in the prevalence of big shirts, pants and suits which sought to exaggerate your stature. The Polo Ralph Lauren Big Oxford, which I love, is a creation of the 90s. There is this essence of an attempt to return to tradition mixed with hyper-modern futurism in certain corners of the 1990s. It's hard to put your finger on, but it's a palpable sense, once your finger has found it.
There were all sorts of ties in the 1990s. Some, totally Trad/Prep/Ivy, and some exceedingly wacky, in all the wrong ways. Some, however represent, in my opinion, this strange pocket in time of a positive, end of history traditional futurism in a way almost nothing else does. This brings us to the Polo Ralph Lauren geometric tie. These ties have bizarre designs. You could call many of them ugly, but not cheap. There are probably 75 million cheap, ugly ties to be found in the thrift stores of the world. These ties looked ugly in 1996 and look ugly in 2020 and will look ugly in 2050. The Polo Ralph Lauren geometric ties of the 1990s are not cheap, they didn't look bad in 1996 and they don't look bad in 2020. They look interesting. They look weird, sometimes. They look insanely 90s. They are like a time capsule. You cannot wear one of these ties without giving off a 90s vibe. These ties are many things, but they are not unintentional. They are not a cheap thoughtless design. These ties were designed intentionally for the time in which they emerged, and they capture the essence and world-feeling of that time in such a powerful, and really fun way.
What distinguishes these ties from the cheap ugly tie that was made the same year? It's hard to explain objectively. I don't think one can explain in objective terms any of this. This is all in the air. It's all a sense, a feeling, a taste. In all style, there are rules of course, but so much is just taste. Some like pastels, some don't. Some like sweater vests, some don't. Some like checks, some like stripes. This is obviously very subjective. I would say, at it's most basic is that what distinguishes these ties is the intentionality behind the design, coupled with the traditional fabric. These ties are not weird, shiny ties. They are not made of some strange shiny material that makes you feel like you are trying to wear the aesthetic of a cheap casino around your neck. They are beautiful silk. They are not padded up with tons of extra material inside. They are perfect for tying a four-in-hand with a dimple. They are made in a totally traditional construction style, with patterns that are in a 1990s time capsule. Sometimes the patterns are more busy. Sometimes they are less busy. Yet, even at the busiest, there is a coherent sense of intention. A cheap, ugly tie from the 1990s makes no sense, it feels like there is no direction and they just threw everything they could at it. With these Polo Ralph Lauren 1990s geometric ties, it never feels like that. It feels like they had an idea, it was a weird one certainly, but an idea, and that idea was pursued in earnest. There was real thought, thought of the time, thought of the 1990s, that made the tie.
Are all of them winners? Was every geometric tie produced by Polo Ralph Lauren in the 1990s a real prize? No. There are some duds, of course. But, the large majority of them are not duds, they are incredible. The geometric tie from Polo Ralph Lauren is a style, vibe and feeling ,even if another company made one. It still screams Polo Ralph Lauren. The scene in Christmas Vacation with Chevy Chase, when he is carving the turkey. He is wearing an incredible 1990s geometric tie in this scene. Is it Polo Ralph Lauren? I don't know if the tag says Polo Ralph Lauren, but it is a Polo Ralph Lauren Geometric tie, in it's essence. I would love to find that tie. How do I wear these ties? Well, I don't create an entirely 1990s ensemble. I wear the Trad/Ivy/Prep classic I would normally wear. Penny loafers, Chinos, white OCBD and a traditional Sport Coat or Blazer. Adding one of these ties to this entirely traditional ensemble colors it with a 1990s shade that is inescapable. It can't be interpreted any other way. Every other item I wear could fit perfectly in the most standard of standard Trad/Ivy/Prep prescription, but when I add the geometric tie, it instantly becomes 90s. It is truly amazing. It is subtle, it's not extreme. It is a most tasteful way to nod to the 1990s, when you would like.
The Polo Ralph Lauren geometric tie of the 1990s may not be for everyone. Perhaps, due to my age I have a particularly potent nostalgic feeling for these ties. What do they say to me? They remind me of a time when I was younger. Things were simpler. Were they simpler because I was younger? Certainly. Were they simpler for everyone? I think so. In many ways the 1990s was a time of naive positivity. It was the end of history. It was the end of the 2nd millennia. It was the end of a very hard century for the West. In many ways, it seems our society was drunk on the sense of certitude in the future. When you are drunk, you often make bad decisions, which we did. You also *feel* great at the time. You often, act in ways, you will find regrettable the next day. You may be more daring in this or that, and may be so caught up in the moment, you never want it to end, without particular concern for how foolish you may look from the outside. The Polo Ralph Lauren tie reflects that to me. It is futuristic, forward looking, gaudy, weird and wild, irreverent. Yet, at the same time, traditional in its design, fabric and even in it's futurism, sharing a similar essence with that which was felt in the 1920s. I wear one of these ties when the feeling moves me, when the feeling is right. It's a feeling of nostalgia, flippancy, positivity and at the same, a bit of longing, sadness for a time that is, for better or worse, no more.
When mentioning the "End of History", I am not doing so in praise. It is a false idea, untrue. But, an important idea, which has colored our time since the 1990s, including these ties. It is an idea which can be felt, specifically when looking backwards, into the 1990s.