Stray Fact File #2049: A. Sulka & Co.

I’m hopelessly, helplessly, head-over-heels in love with researching the vintage goodies I find, and sometimes I think the sleuthing is at its most addictive (and fun!) when the designer or company or article of clothing or jewelry I’m looking into is either misunderstood, forgotten, or obscure. Sometimes, of course, a label is well-known, and then the rush comes from unearthing an unexpectedly cool bit of trivia about it.

Most recently, I had a grand time learning more about A. Sulka & Co., while prepping a late 1940s pair of herringbone tweed shorts from them to list in my online shop:

late 40s sulka shorts

I already knew the basics about Sulka, best known for its exclusive ties, like this 1940s Bemberg & silk beauty in the Met’s Costume Institute:

or this Art Deco moired silk bow tie with starry embroidery (from my archives):

Having investigated Sulka last year, when I sold the tie above, I was already aware that the company was cofounded in 1895 by a traveling salesman and a custom shirtmaker, and that by the time Amos Sulka passed away in 1946 it had acquired enough of a cachet to have European as well as US locations, not to mention A-listers like Winston Churchill and Clark Gable as customers.

But I didn’t know that:

–Sulka had designed a plaid flannel air raid suit in July of 1941 for the Duke of Kent. A snap to get into, thanks to its zipper front, it had outsized pockets, large enough for a sandwich and a thermos bottle, or a flashlight and good book. Then, six months later, the bracingly (and morale-boostingly) BOLD yet practical suit was put more widely into production:

sulka air raid suit
Nor did I know that:

–Amos Sulka’s photo in his New York Times obituary had to be run a second time, with a tie literally painted on it, because in the first edition his (white) tie didn’t show up against his (white) shirt. A columnist in the Burlington Daily Times News remarked the irony of such a fate befalling “a man who during his life made more money out of neckwear than anyone we can think of.”

OK, I admit that these desultory tidbits don’t exactly register on the Geiger scale; nonetheless, I find them immensely satisfying to know. Hope you enjoy mulling them over too!

7 Responses to “Stray Fact File #2049: A. Sulka & Co.”

  1. Christopher Fortunato Says:

    Really enjoyed this, Sir. I got interested in Sulka ties because Harry Truman wore them and he was a hero of mine. Cut to 1988, I am in Chicago attending prosecutor’s school at Northwestern and I saw a Sulka boutique. I bought a tie for my father for $50, the most I ever paid for a tie to that time. Cut to 2000s and ebay, I got on there and typed in the word Sulka and saw a feast of beautiful haberdashery to which I have been bidding on since 2007.

  2. admin Says:

    You’ve been a Sulka devotee for a long time; your collection must be astounding! I love learning about who was a customer back in the day, and it seems like every old article names additional luminaries.

    My most recent Sulka finds were a batch of gorgeous bowties, 40s-60s, and a 30s smoking jacket. It’s surprising how relatively obscure Sulka has become, considering how legendary the brand was not so long ago!

  3. evi Says:

    Amos Sulka was my great-uncle, my mom’s uncle. my grandmother was a Sulka. thanks for this interesting information to add to the family archives!

  4. admin Says:

    How cool that you are descended from menswear aristocracy! :) So glad you found this post and if you have any other information or anecdotes about your great-uncle, please do share!

  5. Melinda Says:

    evi, I have been designing bow ties since high school and have my original design and Bergdorf’s in NYC has wanted them and Paul Stuart’s on Madison Avenue.
    A friend who collects bow ties has 180 of them and said his favorites still are the Sulka’s because of the fabric!

    Can you help me find where they bought their silk or fabrics?
    Thank you. I have been reading about Amos, etc.
    I just came across this post in my research!

    How do we get in touch or what?

  6. Melinda Says:

    Admin, how can I see a photo of the bow ties you got on ebay? They sound wonderful!!! Thank you.

  7. admin Says:

    Melinda-I don’t know that Evi will see your comment, and I don’t know the answer to your question myself. I do know that by midcentury, many high end US neckwear manufacturers sourced their silk from Como, Italy. I’ve just acquired an amazing 1961 tie silk swatchbook from Cerruti and think they may have sourced their silks from a factory in Switzerland (the Cerruti family factory made wool at that point; I’m not yet sure if they produced t heir silks as well. At any rate, I’ll be doing a blog post this week with images of the 1961/2 Holiday collection designs from the swatch book, so stay tuned!)

    Not sure what bow ties from eBay you’re referring to? but if you’re looking for design inspiration, check out the Sulka bow ties now part of the Metropolitan Museums online collection. Some real beauties!

    Good luck with your designing…

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