Fans of the genius animator and creative visionary Walter Elias Disney may have noticed it. Disney’s business colleagues probably took note of it. Even viewers at home who watched Walt Disney’s evening programs on ABC during the 1950s and 1960s likely noticed it as well. But it’s likely that very few know the significance of the embossed emblem on most of Walt’s neckties.
But about a half-hour on the clock and a few online searches finally yielded the answer that some diehard fans have wondered about for years.
The 1940s, 50s, and 60s: An Era of Sharp Dressing
When it comes to choosing clothing to wear for work, a popular suggestion encourages employees to “dress for the job they want, not the job they have.” But in early and mid-20th century America, it’s likely that less of that type of advice was necessary.
In the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, clothing was very different from the clothing worn today, and attitudes about appropriate attire were vastly different as well. During that time, women often wore below-the-knee skirts that were straight and donned along with boxy jackets that featured padded shoulders. Even in the home, women often wore simple dresses–and even heels.
Men often wore suits for every occasion–from working in the office to dinner with the neighbors. And those who didn’t wear a suit coat at dinner still had it with them and could be seen wearing long-sleeved button-up pressed shirts with neckties. Television sitcoms during that era, like I Love Lucy, underscored this trend.
During the forties, fifties, and sixties, Americans placed a greater emphasis on wearing somewhat formal and always neat attire as everyday wear, as clothing styles were heavily influenced by societal norms, as well as by expectations and the typical roles played by men and women at the time.
Walt Disney: A Sharp Dresser If Ever There Was One
Because of this, it comes as no surprise that Walt Disney could almost always be seen wearing a full suit. In fact, in the majority of photos of Walt Disney, the visionary is hardly ever wearing plainclothes, except in images of the husband and father of two at home with his family.
Even in those images, he is still seen wearing button-up shirts–though short-sleeved–with casual, belted pants.
A Mysterious Part of Walt’s Attire
Walt Disney could almost always be seen wearing a suit, complete with pants and matching jacket, dress shirt, and necktie. Even when Walt was filmed working with Imagineering and various miniature models of projects, he still wore either a suit or a button-up sweater with his dress shirt and tie.
But regardless of whether he wore a suit jacket or a sweater, when Walt Disney donned a necktie, it often displayed a symbol with no explanation. The insignia can be seen in numerous photos of Walt in which he’s pictured wearing a necktie, though the symbol is not present on every one of his ties.
The symbol was of great importance to Walt Disney–so important that it was included by sculptor and Disney Legend Blaine Gibson in the Partners statue at Disneyland Resort and at the Walt Disney World Resort. It was also included in the costuming for Tom Hanks in the 2012 film Saving Mr. Banks, during which Hanks played the role of the animator and theme park tycoon.