Sunday, January 21, 2007

Ben Silver

After 20 years, I owe Sue and Bob Prenner an apology. In 1985, they opened a 2,000-square-foot shop in Charleston, SC, a few years after they took over the company named after its founder and Sue’s father, Ben Silver.

Signalwriter talks from time to time about long-lasting brands, Ben Silver is a fine example, since the company itself has been around since well before the Kennedy presidency and it’s still going strong, with stores in Charleston and London.

What caught my eye, back in 1986 or so, was Ben Silver’s collection of British striped ties (called repp ties) – the classic “old school” ties that are associated with English public schools and units of the UK’s armed services.

There are specific striping patterns tied to famous regiments of the British Army – like the red tie with white stripes above left, for the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment, the 33rd/76th Foot as it was then, before the Brits consolidated its regiments.

At the time, alongside my duties as Creative Director at The Quest Business Agency, I was also writing articles for Sperry Defense System’s house magazine: about antique militaria, the history of warfare and weapon systems. I stumbled across an early Ben Silver catalog with photographs of British school and regimental ties and thought up a piece about British Army regiments that served in America during the Revolution, using photos of their regimental ties as the illustrations.

(I also liked the neckwear: I was quite the preppie in those days and the repp patterns were perfect for my mixed creative/business persona. I could look good and have a military history lesson about the tie at the same time.)

I wrote to the Ben Silver company asking for the loan of half a dozen of the ties I could then forward to Sperry to photograph for the article. I asked for the Wellington, the Royal Artillery, the Buffs and the Hampshire Regiment. The ties themselves would be the centerpiece of the article, and I’d make certain that Ben Silver got credit in the article. The company was glad to send me a package containing the ties.

The article was written but never published. Sperry turned into Unisys; my contact moved to another job in the company; the magazine died a quiet death. Ben Silver never got its credit.

Yesterday while Barbara was cleaning out the back room, I unearthed the original Ben Silver catalog. How old is it? Back in the mid-‘80s, The Duke of Wellington’s regimental tie was $28. Today, on the Silver website, the price is $80.

Great ties. Long-lasting brand. Sue and Bob, I apologize for not delivering on my promise. I still have the ties. (Wincing.) Do you want them back?

1 comment:

scarlet reynolds said...

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regimental ties. Anyway.
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