The ties from Gentleman Arthur get some of their old-world charm from what feels like ancient history. “Actually, every part of our process is at least a bit outdated,” says Samuel Wagner, the company’s cofounder. “Hobo,” based on Jack Kerouac’s character in On the Road and made of cotton monks cloth with a traditional English frayed end. The Buckminster, which adapts the pattern from Fuller’s geodesic dome; “The Standard Code,” based on telegraphy system of communication; and “The Emma Beryl,” a quilting pattern that was used by Wagner’s grandma and lined with scraps of fabric she left behind.
But the ties get their distinctive imperfections by using one of the oldest printing processes known to man: woodblock printing, a technique that goes as far back as 2nd century A.D. China. It’s pretty simple: Create a relief, ink it, and press on it. But despite its simplicity, Wagner says, the process reflects the person making it in a way that clean mechanical processes like silk-screening do not. The variables at every point of the process changes: The time, the amount of ink, and the amount of pressure placed on the print all lead to results that are rarely identical from one print to the next. “Woodblock printing excludes individuality in a really interesting way,” says Wagner. “It’s individuality through multiplication variables.” It’s a different angle on fashion individualism, to be sure, but that heartfelt, blood-sweat-and-tears approach is what the label is betting on.