Ever since Donald Trump—a billionaire practically born with a white collar—won the presidency by appealing to “blue-collar” Americans, the once-profound symbolism of neckwear has been as muddied and contradictory as the Trump administration itself. And Trump’s strange tie to ties isn’t merely symbolic: first, there were the reports that neckties produced in Chinese factories exposed Trump’s shady business dealings; then there was the pussy-bow imbroglio, in which some read Melania’s Gucci blouse as a coded comment on Donald’s anti-feminist statements. And of course Trump himself is rarely seen without a fire truck-red, unsettlingly long necktie—interpreted as everything from a power play to an inability to get dressed.
But one designer is reclaiming the tie as both a chic statement piece and a powerful sartorial symbol—using Trump’s rhetoric as inspiration. For his latest collection, dubbed “Dirty Words,” designer Jonathan Meizler of accessories label Title of Work created a series of neckties, bowties and pocket squares designed to explore the power of words in our current political divide.
At first glance, the ties emphasize delicate beadwork and diaphanous fabrics—eschewing the conservative image of the classic necktie. But upon closer review, the ties contain bold hidden messages. “This one says ‘motherfucker’ in the beading,” says Meizler, pointing to a shiny appliqué. “It’s really, really subtle, but it’s there.”
Primarily silk and wool, the pieces are quietly ecstatic in their use of deconstructed and sheer materials. “I like to use sheer fabrics because I like to see the guts of the fabric,” explains Meizer, whose themed collections have ranged from “Gentleman Meets Fetishist” to “Taxidermy.” “Dirty Words,” which is available for purchase now at the Retail Lab at Cadillac House, is a continuation of Meizler’s visceral style – punctuated by subtle deployment of both cheeky and political language.
“One of my favorites is this one, which has the beginning of the First Amendment rights,” says Meizler, before picking up another nearby. “This one says ‘dirty bitch.’”
Accompanying the collection is a custom art installation inspired by Trump’s dismissal of immigrants as coming from “shithole countries.” The installation, located in the back of the Retail Lab, features a neon sign reading “shit hole” as well as a wall of scent diffusers made by 12.29. “I like the idea of dichotomy… It’s about how you respond to dirty words differently if you’re smelling something light and airy versus something really aggressive,” says Meizler. “Just like how when you hear the word ‘shit hole,’ did it change your perception of it if it was said nicely or not.”
The main message, says Meizler, is not to simply echo Trump’s use of crude language, but rather to find common ground in the midst of moral confusion. “There’s a lack of truth, lack of morality… Pandora’s Box has been opened. And how do you find now a commonality between what’s left and what’s right?” Meizler says. “And I thought dirty words like ‘mother fucker’ means the same thing to the left as it does to the right.”
You can shop at Title of Work’s “Dirty Words” collection at Cadillac House until March 30.
Main image: Retail Lab at Cadillac House (photo: © Title of Work)