The Original Tar Heel Tie

E. L. White wearing Tar Heel necktie

A slightly different pose than this Morton photograph appeared in the December 6, 1952 issue of the magazine The State with the caption, "The First Citizen of Wilmington, His Honor Mayor E. L. White, tidies up his identification badge before venturing out for an official appearance.—The tie also is being used at outside-of-state conventions by North Carolina delegates.—(Photo by Morton.)"

It’s that time of year again . .  tie buying season!  (I bought one myself this weekend, a holiday gift for myself.)  Maybe Father’s Day is the only other time of year when men’s ties sell more?  Perhaps a knowledgeable reader can fill in the statistics.

In 1952 a certain style necktie made its way into the wardrobes of North Carolina males: “The Original Tar Heel Tie.”  Is the necktie now celebrating its 60th anniversary? (A celebration, that is, if anyone even remembers this tie!)  Time prevents me from jumping too deeply into the topic, so perhaps our fellow readers can fill in some details and we can collectively revive this knot-worthy event.

Article in The State, 1952-12-06, page 9.

Hugh Morton’s portrait of a smiling E. L. White appears with other photographs by different photographers in a short two-column spread in the December 6th, 1952 issue of The State.  The most important clues on this page can be found in the group portrait by Frank Jones depicting Ira Julian of Winston-Salem (owner of Kent Bakeries?) showcasing his Tar Heel necktie.

Working backwards in time, I skimmed through previous issues of the magazine looking for other mentions of the necktie. The earliest I could find was a small listing (third from bottom) in the classified advertisements in the October 11th, issue:

Classified advertisements, The State, 1952-10-18, page 11.

Small classifieds for the necktie continued for an undetermined time.  Illustrated advertisements in The State for the necktie soon appear, the first being on November 10th:

Illustrated advertiement for The Original Tar Heel Tie, The State, 1952-11-01_p19.

A few things pop out at me here.  If it’s new and original, why did it need to say so?  Were there impostors?  If so, how far back does the “original” go?  The caption for Frank Jones’ group portrait said that Ira Julian’s necktie had “recently” been a conversation piece.  When was Hans Hiedemann’s recital at Salem College?  And who or what is the “Downhomers?”  Designer?  Manufacturer?  Distributor?  There is no listing in the Raleigh 1952 city directory for that company.  My last observation is that the necktie came in six different versions, three of which sport collegiate colors—presumably for wider appeal on campuses where wearing neckties was commonplace, and alumni, too.

The November 8th issue of The State contains a portrait by Bill Leinbach of Bart Leiper, then newly appointed executive director of Western North Carolina Highlanders, Inc. wearing the necktie with a dark shirt.  The caption says Leiper now “sells his native State to tourists” by wearing the “Tar-Heel-splattered” necktie, “Just so no one could be in doubt as to his new mission.”  The most prominent depiction, however, of the Tar Heel necktie in The State made its splash on the November 22nd cover:

Cover of The State, 1952-11-22, featuring the Tar Heel Tie.

This November 22nd cover of The State featured The Original Tar Heel Tie. The cover's caption reads, "Little Bobby Kennerly of Statesville has come into his very first necktie, and Max Tharpe caught him in the interesting process of learning the old four-in-hand business. We think Bob will make it. The neck-piece, incidentally, is the new Tar Heel tie, which you see so many larger North Carolinians wearing these days."

Well that’s as far as I can take this for now.Keen readers of A Hugh to View may recall seeing this tie in a previous post, as Bill Sharpe and Orville Campbell both don the tie in 1956 for the Honorary Tar Heels gathering in New York City.  Below is another scene from that event, Orville Campbell and Andy Griffith arm-in-arm.

Orville Campbell and Andy Griffith and the Honorary Tar Heels gathering in New York City, January 21, 1956.

I did check in the North Carolina Collection Gallery and none of the six flavors of The Original Tar Heel Necktie are among the other neckties in its holdings.  Would anyone possibly still have one or more in their closet who would be willing to donate this seemingly one-time popular fashion statement to the gallery to add to its sartorial holdings?

11 thoughts on “The Original Tar Heel Tie

  1. Stephen…you pose some interesting questions about the “Tar Heel Tie.” If I may, I’ll share a couple of thoughts, but I don’t have any good answers.

    Hans Hiedemann was a concert pianist on the music department faculty at Salem College in the 1950s. A Winston-Salem recital would have been a likely event.

    Was Ira Julian related to Alexander Julian, the famous designer who, along with his family, has a long-time Chapel Hill history? These two links would seem to relate the two.

    http://www.carrborocitizen.com/main/2010/05/20/obituary-virginia-julian/

    http://theivyleaguelook.blogspot.com/2009/07/milton-and-maurice-julians-of-chapel.html

    There is an ad just like your graphic #6, in the November 1, 1952 issue of “The State” magazine, (page 19). Could the “Downhomers” be a special mail designation set up by Carl Goerch and Bill Sharpe, the magazine publishers, to handle mail orders for the ties? You may recall that later the magazine added the sub-title “Down Home in North Carolina” to the magazine title. The P.O. Box 9382 is not the same box number that was used for magazine subscriptions. That box number was 2169.

    Just a couple of thoughts, Stephen.

  2. I recall seeing a small display ad, maybe in The State, for a North Carolina-made Confederate-flag-design necktie and the company may have also offered a Tar Heel model (I’m overstretching my memory here)…. So the Gallery has a collection of neckties? You have piqued my curiosity…..

  3. Interesting also that the tie predates the current sports-driven association of “Tar Heel” with UNC Chapel Hill…. I don’t imagine there would be a big market today for a Tar Heel design in Duke blue or State red….

  4. Thanks, gentlemen, for your comments! We did wonder about any connection to Alexander Julian, but when I saw the association in the Winston-Salem city directory to the bakery I didn’t pursue it. The mention of a bakery in Virginia’s obituary does suggest a possible connection.

    I think there may be promise with the Downhomers idea. I’ll keep an eye out for that as I work with issues of the magazine.

    The gallery does have a modest collection of neckties, mostly UNC related. I’ll let the gallery keeper describe the holdings if it’s helpful, but I think there are a dozen or so neckties.

  5. Lew, we do indeed have some neckties with UNC and North Carolina themes in the Gallery. Common motifs include leaping rams, images of the Old Well, the UNC coat of arms, and Tar Heel footprints. We also have a navy blue tie with Carolina blue text reading “How Sweet it is to be a Tar Heel.” And a couple ties that pay tribute to Sir Walter Raleigh.

  6. This discussion of “Tar Heel Ties” prompted me to check my closet, and yes I found one. It’s solid Carolina Blue with an old-style ramshead at the bottom. The two tags on the back say:

    (1) Teagal (R) Imported Originals

    (2) 100% Polyester and the number AN 20564

    If memory serves, I got it at Holder’s men’s clothing store in Troy, NC in the early 1970s. I don’t see my particular style listed at this web site, but there are dozens of other styles.

    http://www.thefind.com/merchandise/info-north-carolina-tie

    I also found an ad on page 22 of the June, 1998 issue of “Our State” magazine for the “All New Design, Same Great State” North Carolina tie. The ad says in bold type it’s the 2nd edition. Could the one from 1952 be the 1st edition?

  7. Thank you, Emily — I’m glad to know neckties have a proper place in the collection….

  8. One more comment about “Tar Heel Ties.”

    I looked at several random copies of “Our State” magazine and it seems that in recent years they have featured a couple of Tar Heel ties for sale.

    In addition to the colorful collage, 2nd edition tie that I mentioned from June, 1998 (Page 22), there is a similar collage tie from the August,1977 issue (Page 45). No mention that this might be 1st edition.

    In the April, 1999 issue (Page 96), there is another ad for the same tie as the one in the June, 1998 issue, but this time there is no mention of it being a 2nd edition. (Could 2nd edition mean something like 2nd printing in books?)

    Then in the March 2008 issue (Page 6 of the enclosed catalog) there are 4 different NC lighthouse ties……Currituck on green…Ocracoke on blue…Bald Head on lavender, and Bodie on yellow.

  9. I think an interesting and unexpected development from this post may be the revelation of an effort by THE STATE to promote the sale of North Carolina products. The previous year, in the 8 November 1951 issue, THE STATE ran an editorial entitled “North Carolina Giving.” It began with a phrase the editors said shopkeepers hear frequently, especially at Christmas: “What can I send a friend which is distinctively North Carolinian?”

    As the 1952 Christmas season approached, the magazine ran an editorial on November 8th recalling their 1951 effort to bring attention to North Carolina products for gift-giving. Learning from the previous year, the editors said “we planned ahead.” The magazine began a feature called “Carol Dare’s Carolina Christmas with Tar Heel gift suggestions.” Dare wrote in her first column, “Let’s make it a real ‘down home’ Christmas”; nothing, however, refers to “The Downhomers.” (Various “Original Tar Heel Necktie” ads ran on the same pages as Dare’s column.)

    One other tidbit regarding the promotion of N.C. gifts. I saw the following classified in the 17 January 1953 issue:

    APPROPRIATE TAR HEEL GIFTS — For birthdays, anniversaries, special occasions give your North Carolina friends a truly Tar Heel gift. At no cost to you we’ll be glad to suggest appropriate items made in North Carolina, or representative of The Tar Heel State. For this free service address The Downhomers, Box 9382, Raleigh, N. C.”

    It will be interesting to see where this thread of the discussion goes! Even though it’s not directly related to Hugh Morton’s photographs, the magazine published so many of his photographs that’s it may be a worthwhile sidebar . . . especially if it leads to other photographs like the one that started this whole thing going.

  10. Here’s a bit more on the tie itself. An ad in the December 6th issue of THE STATE describes the ties as using the “highest quality beautiful rayon.” The background of all the ties was gray. Also, the ad says the tie would be available “while they last.”

  11. You are right on point, Stephen. “The State (Our State)” has offered North Carolina items over the years and the current issue (12/12) reflects the latest from “Our State Store” (A special section following page 112). There is also a “marketplace” web site.

    http://www.ourstate.com/marketplace/

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