SNAKE SKINS AS NECKTIES.
The Cuticle of a Thirty-Year-Old Now a Part of Correct Neckwear.
Just several shades removed from the chameleon fad is the idea of wearing snake skins for neckties, but the fashion is growing in Baltimore. It promises to become quite the proper caper to be seen in immaculate morning suit of the latest London cut, with the tanned cuticle of a three-foot reptile neatly tied around the snowy “choker” collar, whatever other style of linen neckwear happens to be the rage. The fad will never become generally violent, says the New York Recorder, for fine snake skins come high, and the crop may thin out so as to let the West Virginians, who make a business of catching the possessors of variegated outer coverings, create a corner in the market and coin a fortune. To be in the swim nowadays, and have the swagger thing in neckties, a Baltimore man must not only wear a snakeskin, but the cuticle of a “rattler” of about thirty years of age. The peculiar color of the rattler, when he has passed in his checks and gone to snake celestial spheres, is what makes the skin more valuable than when his fangs are still doing the poison business at the old stand.
The necktie must be that of a snake of age, standing and family, for a young scion of the house of rattler doesn’t seem to possess all the qualifications as to color and durability of hide the head of the house can lay claim to. Presumably it’s because a snake of three decades or so has been through about all the different kinds of dissipation known to the reptile world, and his physical hide is cognizant of no more compunction than his moral nature. Then an old rattler is generally larger than a young chap, and a tie about a yard in length is bound to bring more in the market than a whipper-snapper snake could show before he reaches his majority. No other kind of a snake indigenous to this section of the country would answer the purpose half as well as a rattler, because but few varieties attain his length and Falstaffian girth, except the copperhead and black snake, and their colors, while brilliant enough during life, are not of the right shade after the tanner has had his innings. A copperhead skin assumes too much of a dull brown to harmonize with odd ideas in neckwear, and the black fellow–well, his hide might answer for a seedy individual’s mourning tie, but nothing else. The rattler’s color, when all the fight has been taken out of him and his remains have been subjected to the process that prepares them for men’s furnishing use, is something on the very dull gold or ecru order. The black rings show distinctly and they lend the odd effects that have so captivated the swells. Then when a back and lining have been put on the skin the tie is ready for use, but they are worth an even three dollars any day, counting two dollars and a half for the skin, which is the average price of a rattler of thirty years’ standing, including all the trouble the catcher and tanner combined have had to take.
The Times and Democrat [Orangeburg SC] 19 September 1894: p. 7
Mrs Daffodil’s Aide-memoire: While rattlesnakes were a staple villain of Western moving pictures and newspaper articles about seething nests of the poisonous creatures, their menace only added a certain cachet for those devil-may-care Swells who ordered up the Crotalinae cravats. There were also well-known urban legends about persons poisoned by a rattlesnake’s fang embedded in a boot. Mrs Daffodil imagines an underpaid snakeskin tanner leaving a fang or two in the lining…
The fashionable world never seems to tire of finding ways to torment living creatures. The chameleon fad mentioned at the beginning of the article had a brief vogue in the 1890s, and was sister to the fad for wearing live beetles.
The fad of wearing chameleons, which came from Florida, upon collar or scarf, has assumed quite large proportions among the set that is always seeking something new. It is not only confined to the male sex, for many ladies have adopted the fad and several of the fair sex have been seen wearing these little reptiles.
The Jewellers’ Circular and Horological Review, Vol. 27, 1898
The genuine snake-skin necktie seen at the head of this post dates from the 1970s. If one judges by the listings on auction sites, it appears that the fashionable snake-skin cravat is now an Italian silk print.
Mrs Daffodil has previously written about Snake-skins in Fashion and The Lizard: Fashion’s Favorite Pet.
Mrs Daffodil invites you to join her on the curiously named “Face-book,” where you will find a feast of fashion hints, fads and fancies, and historical anecdotes
You may read about a sentimental succubus, a vengeful seamstress’s ghost, Victorian mourning gone horribly wrong, and, of course, Mrs Daffodil’s efficient tidying up after a distasteful decapitation in A Spot of Bother: Four Macabre Tales.