The Story Behind: The Claude

Claude McKay

‘If We Must Die’

Claude McKay, 1889 – 1948

“If we must die—let it not be like hogs
Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot,
While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs,
Making their mock at our accursed lot.
If we must die—oh, let us nobly die,
So that our precious blood may not be shed
In vain; then even the monsters we defy
Shall be constrained to honor us though dead!
Oh, Kinsmen! We must meet the common foe;
Though far outnumbered, let us show us brave,
And for their thousand blows deal one deathblow!
What though before us lies the open grave?
Like men we’ll face the murderous, cowardly pack,
Pressed to the wall, dying, but fighting back!”


The Renaissance collection, our inaugural set of ties, is a nod to the Harlem Renaissance Movement of the 20th Century. Each tie is named for its most influential archetypes. The Claude was inspired by the Jamaican-American poet, writer and revolutionary Claude McKay. He first travel to the States in 1912 to study at Tuskegee Institute but soon left after being turned off by its politics. He was soon after influenced by Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois after reading Souls of Black Folk and moved to Harlem during the height of the Renaissance. He would pen poems and novels and later traveled throughout Europe, as a socialist and authored “Soviet Russia and the Negro” for Crisis Magazine after an extended sojourn in the Soviet Union. It was also during his time in Russia that he wrote the classic “If We Must Die.” His work would later serve to influence the ideologies of our namesake James Baldwin and Richard Wright. In addition to his life’s work as an intellectual, artist and activist, Claude McKay was also dapper and wore bow ties frequently and well.

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