Tootal Scarves – A History Of Elegance and Modernism.

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The British brand most associated with Mod scarves, and Cravats can trace its roots back to 1799 and Robert Gardner, a textile merchant and quite possibly the most stylish man who lived in Manchester at that time. With the arrival of steam power and canals Manchester – or “Cottonopolis” as it was nicknamed in the 19th Century – thrived as the centre of the textile industry. In 1842, Edward Tootal, “a merchant in silks and fancy dress materials” joined the rapidly expanding successful business.

Edward actually proved to be so successful, that in 1847, a mere five years later, the company was renamed Edward Tootal & Co. When he retired in 1856 the business passed to his nephew, Henry Tootal Broadhurst, and Henry Lee, who had originally been an apprentice to Robert Gardner.

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When it comes to the history of Britain’s textile industry, it is not complete without mentioning that in 1862 workers at Lancashire cotton Mills actually refused to handle raw cotton picked by US slaves, despite the impact it would have on their own welfare. The following year in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln would write an open letter to “the working men of Manchester” praising their “sublime Christian heroism which has not been surpassed in any age or in any other country”.

By the end of the 19th century, Tootal had three large textile mills at Newton Heath in Manchester, Black Lane in Radcliffe, and Daubhill in Bolton. The thriving business, that used beautiful cloth and very principled people was joined by beautiful architecture when in 1892 Tootal opened a large new brick-clad warehouse and office block, in Oxford Street, Manchester. In 2017 it was announced that the Mayor of Greater Manchester – Andy Burnham - would move his offices to this magnificent Grade II listed building, now known as Churchgate House.

Going back to when World War One broke out, Edward Tootal Broadhurst, Tootal’s company chairman, joined the committee organising the Manchester Pal battalions. Tootal Broadhurst Lee & Co offered to keep jobs open to any of their workers who volunteered.

In 1918 Sir Edward was knighted for his contribution to the war effort. By way of thanks for local people’s efforts during the war, Sir Edward donated 80 acres of land at Broadhurst Park, Moston to Manchester Corporation. The area now includes the home ground of FC United of Manchester, who play in the National League North.

Tootal continued to work hard and thrive. The company was on a worldwide mission to dress the dapper and the dandy, and by 1939 had opened offices in Belfast, Birmingham, Leeds, London, and Glasgow as well as overseas in Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, and New Zealand. In 1952 a new Tootal factory also opened in Devonport, Tasmania and by 1973 Tootal Ltd was reported to be the 9th largest cotton firm in the world, 5th largest in the UK, with 25,000 employees worldwide. They had a wide range of products including, ties and manufacturing shirting fabrics. Their scarves, ties, and Cravats are what they are however most known for.

Today they operate from a slightly more modest facility in Derbyshire, still making their famous scarves and accessories from 100% silk, and still applying the standards and skills they had mastered over the last 200 years.

According to Hardy Amies in, The ABC Of Men’s Fashion (1964)

A scarf is “Crossed over at the neck, and usually in silk, is worn on the Continent more than in this country. I suspect it goes back to a habit of trying to keep the shirt collar clean and not in touch with the overcoat collar. If worn for warmth it looks more elegant worn turned over, muffler fashion. Many English men favour this.”

And indeed, with England having a much cooler climate than the “Continent” Silk scarves were more often than not worn in this turned over muffler style.

The patterns on these scarves and the colours on them became louder with the evolvement of style and fashion, and many of Tootals scarves have seen their popularity grow due to elaborate Paisley patterns, the use of polkadots and geometric patterns.

Mods and Dandy’s were naturally drawn to this. The ever style-conscious young men saw a silk scarf as not just an accessory, but in some cases as a statement piece on an outfit. It worked as a subtle signifier to other Mods, that they were themselves a Mod. Mod, after all, was about adopting Continental style, and American styles and making them their own.

Initially, the silk scarf was worn with smarter more tailored outfits, in the manner that the upper-classes would wear a, often white silk scarf when going to a formal event. But as these finely dressed men became more casual, they would add a scarf to an outfit for both practical reasons and as a fashion statement. By the time we hit the latter end of the twentieth century and the early twenty-first century, we see people like Liam Gallagher of Britpop band Oasis adopting the scarf as an iconic piece of his wardrobe. So much so, that when he forms his own clothing label Pretty Green, the silk scarf is a constant piece within its collections. Tootal has collaborated with Mod related brands such as Fred Perry in the past and subsequently are more known as being the go-to brand for the original quality, as they were the original and often seen as the best for making these simple accouterments. Of course, Tootal was not the only brand. Duggie and Sammy were two well-known brands that did their own versions of the Paisley, fringed scarf. Many of which were two-sided with a woolen side for added warmth. These tend to be bulkier than the Tootal Scarves when folded over and for this reason, I have always preferred a more streamline flatter folded silk scarf. There are many great independent scarf makers out there who produce Tootal inspired scarves, and Tootal still produces fine quality silk scarves for the style-conscious.

In these days of COVID 19, perhaps a nice Tootal can serve as a face covering when going to purchase something in a shop. Now, that is an idea... I need to buy a new scarf...

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Read 1167 times Last modified on Wednesday, 05 August 2020 14:55
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