In typical New England fashion, everyone has a different name for the same thing. Ask Rhode Islanders what they call a milkshake (a cabinet), or what people from Connecticut call a submarine sandwich (a grinder). Over sixty years of tying nautical knots, we've heard few different names for our bracelets, too.
Since the early 1950's, our shop was called Beaudoin's Rope Locker. While it was run by my grandfather, our bracelets were ALWAYS referred to by the name of the knot, the Turk's Head Knot Bracelet. When I started doing craft shows in the early 2000's, I started hearing a lot of names for the classic knot, and we decided to pick the most popular name to describe a pattern that's existed for thousands of years.
Around the shop, we call them sailor knot bracelets; we've talked about the history a bit before, but as a review, this knot is actually part of a family of knots called Turk's Head Knots. A member of this knot family is also used to form our nautical coasters as well. This knot was used to mark the "king pin" of a ship's wheel so that sailors could quickly tell if the rudder was straight. We've also heard it said that sailors used these bracelets to wipe the sweat from their brow and that they tied them as good luck gifts for their loved ones back at home.
The Turkshead is a knot made, traditionally, of a single strand of cordage at least doubled upon itself to create a regular woven pattern. In appearance, it looks a lot like standard braiding, but in action, using one cord, it can be used to tighten up against the underlying material to cover and protect, or to provide grip. Our bracelets are made to LOOK like they are tightened up on the wrist like traditional marlinespike work, while in reality, they are comfortable to wear.
Wearing the Turk's head is a tradition in itself. While my grandfather was making them for people back in the 1930's, even in the 1920's, sailing captains in Newport would have their crew wear matching bracelets (or anklets) to help the dockmaster recognize them as they approached the dock.
In more recent history, the 80s, our customers called these "Preppy Bracelets" and that's a look that never goes out of style. The preppy tradition of the 80's was much different than the new prepster look. The shoreline preppy look was an untucked Oxford shirt, sailor bracelet, Bermuda Shorts, and a pair of Sperry's without socks. Fraternities, Sororities, Yacht Clubs and other nautical organizations all embrace the preppy style and wear rope bracelets (no matter what they call them).
Some customers call them "Surfer Bracelets." Although the weather in New England doesn't cooperate with year-round surfing the way it does in California, we have a committed bunch of surfers here, too. Another variation on this one is the "Coastal" or "Beach Bracelet." Even if your sport of choice is just getting a tan, there's no denying that these are the perfect beach accessories.
One of our customers told his kids that their bracelets would keep the sharks from coming near their boat. Although we do like the name "Shark Bracelet," we don't claim that they possess magical shark repelling properties. What is magical though (at least to us), is watching kids come in, choose their own rope colors, and have their own special "Friendship Bracelets" custom made just for them.
You know the truth is, we never do see any sharks hanging around the shop...
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