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A Brief History of the Necktie

Show me a man's ties, and I'll tell you who he is or who he is trying to be." 

-John T. Molloy



Type “necktie” into your keyboard and you’ll be served all kinds of options for fashionable strips of cloth to string around your shirt collar. But if you stop to think about it – they’re a bit odd, aren’t they? Why do we tie ties around our necks? What do they symbolise? What do they tell us about the occasion or even the person wearing them? All these answers and more below!


Who Invented the Necktie?

People have been tying cloth around their necks for millennia. Likely, people wore fabrics around their neck for the same reason we wear scarves today – it’s warm, and offers some kind of protection from the elements.


It’s possible that Roman soldiers were the first to start wearing these neck cloths or 'focales', which would have helped warm them when the wind picked up and been handy for keeping the sun off on long marches.


Much later, however, it was Croatian soldiers who really kicked started the neck fashion we know today. During the 30 Years’ War (1618-1648), Croatian soldiers came to France wearing what we would call “neckerchiefs” (something like the U.S. Navy or Boy Scouts wear) which piqued the interest of French locals.






Where Did Neckties Come From?

Styles don’t really catch on without some kind of craze (and crazes are often aided by celebrity endorsement) and that’s exactly what happened in France when The Sun King, Louis XIV, donned a neckerchief as a young boy.


The French called these ties of ribbon  (loosely derived from the French word Croate, meaning Croatian); and once they were being worn at court, everyone wanted in on the trend.


However, the cravats of the seventeenth century were still a long way from taking a form that would resemble anything close to the modern tie. So how did these ornately tied neckerchiefs evolve into the ties we know today?



Evolution of the Tie

By 1818, a pamphlet titled Neckclothitania was published in London, detailing fourteen different ways to tie a cravat. At this point, most wealthy men in Britain, the U.S. and on the continent were wearing cravats, ascots, or some other variation on the theme.


By the 1850s, nearly everyone was wearing something around their neck. For those that were well-off, there were stock collars (often worn in conjunction with a cravat), whilst members of the working class could often be seen wearing a simple tie on its own.



By the 1870s, the look and manner in which one tied a bow tie had become standardised. A white tie was de rigeur for formal dinners, while black ties were confined to day-use until the appearance of the dinner jacket made black bow ties a less formal option for evening wear. 



When Did Ties Become Popular?

While ties in their various forms have been popular since Louis XIV’s time, the tie we know today became popular around the turn of the century. 


One innovation that led to the widespread adoption of today’s style of tie is the adoption of the four-in-hand tie in the 1850s. Though the origins of the phrasing “four-in-hand” are hotly contested, it is likely that members of a club by the same name made the style fashionable. Also known as the “schoolboy’s knot” due to its simplicity, it remains the most common way to tie a tie to this day.


The Suit and Tie

Now we can not properly tell the history of the tie without noting its inextricable link with another article of clothing: the suit. The “suit and tie” that today is usually reserved for businessmen and politicians was once the outfit of choice for men despite their occupation. Around the turn of the twentieth century, for example, farmers, miners, road workers, and fishermen could all be seen sporting trousers and a waistcoat – often with a tie.


A necktie was required as part of army and police uniforms, and even when jeans and t-shirts eventually gained prominence after the Second World War, men often kept their ties for the office, for church on Sunday, or to wear for job interviews. 




What Are Some of the Different Types of Ties?

More or less, since the 1920s, ties have retained their shape and style – sometimes wider (1940s), sometimes skinnier (1960s & today), sometimes shorter (1950s), and sometimes longer. Apart from these subtle changes, the four in hand tie is often seen in five distinct types of patterns.


Solid style tie - solid ties are of a single colour, and usually made of silk, cotton, or wool.


Foulard or club pattern tie - foulard is a French word which technically specifies a type of fabric with a twill weave. As for ties, any tie with that boasts a repeating symbol or design would qualify as a foulard.


Striped style tie - striped ties are at least two colours and have pronounced diagonal stripes down the length of them.


Paisley pattern tie - paisley designs originated in Kashmir (though the name “Paisley” comes from a town in Scotland famous for its textiles) and have been popular for centuries. Paisley ties are characterised by their bright colour and instantly recognizable swirls and shapes.


Why Do Men Still Wear Ties?

Today, somehow – despite the popularity of loose collars and the fact that a suit is no longer usually required at the office; these tiny bits of fabric we wear around our necks have managed to hang on. And I would posit that the reason they’re still around is the same reason they popped up in the first place – they’re stylish, and people frankly want to wear them (even when they don’t have to!).


Conclusion

Neckties have been beautifully crafted for centuries and are an elegant adornment to the right outfit. And although ties have changed significantly since their invention, they’ve hung on for hundreds of years as a stylish way for one to express one’s fashion tastes while adding a touch of class at the same time.



Check out Stanley Biggs’ exclusive collection of ties.

With multiple styles all made from silk and wool, Stanley Biggs is where you’re sure to find a perfect neck adornment to suit your style.


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