The necktie has been a large part of Father’s Day with millions of dads receiving one in June of every year. But where did the necktie originate and why is it so popular among men?
The necktie has been a staple in menswear for hundreds of years. Made of every type of material imaginable, the necktie has taken on many different names over the years and has been associated with identity, occupation, status, and even military affiliation. It has also been used as utility attire to cover shirt buttons and to protect the neck in certain circumstances.
The necktie is also a fashion accessory which has stood the test of time by surviving through several hundred years of social transformation. It has been popular since ancient times right up to the current day with modern styles that date back to King Louis XIV of France.
It is believed that the earliest necktie was initially worn by the first emperor of China, Shih Huan Ti who died in 210 B.C. The accessory was found in his mausoleum in the capital city of Xian, along with multiple replicas of soldiers. Each soldier was created as the result of Shih Huan Ti’s fear of death. Instead of killing an entire army in an effort to allow his soldiers to follow him to the next world, Huan Ti was encouraged by his advisers to create replicas, each of which was wearing a neck cloth.
Today, Shih Huan Ti’s mausoleum is considered one of the largest wonders of the ancient world. The tomb contains more than 7000 replicas of soldiers which are life size and made of terracotta. The soldiers are carved with meticulous detail, including facial expressions along with a neck cloth as part of their attire.
Neckties have existed since ancient times and served a variety of different purposes including keeping the neck warm, soaking up sweat, signification of wealth or status, and more. Although the modern necktie has an origin related to France, it is not actually an invention of the French. It was during the 30 Year War when it was worn by Croatian soldiers and Croatian Vallerists as a decorative cloth around the neck. The accessory made identification of soldiers easier with silk cravats reserved only for higher ranked officers. Most of the necktie designs as we know them in the modern day date back to King Louis IV who started a trend of the bow-tie type accessory called the cravat after seeing Croatian soldiers of the 17th century wearing the creation.
The trend of wearing the cravat eventually spread to the rest of Europe where it was worn by wealthy citizens and nobles. Additionally, during the French baroque period, the cravat became a notable accessory when worn as an equestrian scarf made of fine linen. The scarf was tied around the neck in intricate designs and often adorned with lace accents. It was worn only by the very wealthy and cost the equivalent of a ten year salary for this time period.
In 113 A.D., Trajan, emperor of Rome, created a marble monument with more than two thousand life-sized statues wearing three different types of neckties. The monument was created to symbolise the victory over the Dacians. The Dacians resided in what is now known as Romania.
The neckties adorning the statues included different types of materials worn around the neck and shorter styles resembling the modern necktie. Additionally, there were materials wrapped around the neck and then tucked into the soldier’s armor, as well as scarf like accessories which resembled bandannas later worn by cowboys. The neck embellishments were often worn for neck warmth and to symbolise honour. These reasons were similar to the terracotta army of Shih Huang Ti we discussed earlier.
When Croatian soldiers appeared before King Louis IV of France, they were wearing colourful silk neckties which were admired by the King. The soldiers appeared before the King to enable him to honour them for the victory over the Hapsburg Empire.
The term “cravat” refers to “Croat” and eventually became a staple in elite regiments. The regiments were organised by the King and named the Cravat Royale prior to the 1700s. Other sources challenge this term and instead, suggest it refers to a rabat which means “hanging collar” in French.
During the very late 1600s to 1700s, the steinkirk rose in popularity. It was a necktie adorned in lace at the ends and randomly tied around the neck to create a dishevelled look. The tie got its name from the battle of Steinkirk. During this battle, the French soldiers were surprised by the enemy which left them little time to dress properly. As a result, they quickly tucked their steinkirk into the button holes on their shirt so as not to look unkempt.
It was also during the 1700s that Beau Brummel, a prominent person in men’s fashion, first introduced the necktie as an accessory for self-expression and individuality. Brummel was from the working class and wore a coloured bandanna. Before long, the trend spread to the English working class with many sporting colourful bandannas.
The bandanna, originally known as the bandhana or bandha was imported from India during the 1700s. The bandanna was originally made of silk and was designed in a broad range of colours. The accessory was printed by hand or fashioned in a variety of patterns.
Eventually, cowboys adopted the bandanna during the 1700s to protect their face from dust. The bandannas were typically either blue or red and today are considered part of western attire.
Beginning in the 1800s, blue and white uniforms accessorised with a blue cotton scarf were worn by British sailors. As yachting grew in popularity during the 1800s, the sailor suit also became popular as well. The suit was originally worn by men until it was introduced for boys and eventually, as a dress for girls.
It was also during the 1800s that the term “tie” was first used in place of the word “cravat.” The word “tie” originated from the publication, Neckclothitania, which illustrated and described fourteen different ways to tie a cravat. Not long after, the cravat was replaced with the word “tie” across the globe.
By the mid-1800s, the tie first went into mass production which increased its popularity throughout the United States and Germany. Oxford University followed the trend by creating the very first Club Tie which sported a woven emblem symbolising an organisation, club, or educational institution. The Club Tie was inspired by the Oxford University rowing team which removed the striped ribbons from their rowing attire and tied them around their necks.
By the late 1800s, the black bow tie came into vogue. The style was initiated by Pierre Lorillard V when he invented the tuxedo. The tuxedo was worn with a black bow tie as opposed to a white bow tie typically worn with tailcoats. The tuxedo was first worn in New York at Tuxedo Park, hence the name “tuxedo” for the new style of tie and dinner jacket.
The early 1900s marked the beginning of the patterned tie first introduced in Macclesfield, England. The tie was made popular by Prince Edward who eventually entered the fashion industry as a model. With a preference for relaxed attire, the patterned tie was casually tied and worn with a softer shirt collar. As the popularity increased, the tie was worn as a status symbol and as a sign of success.
French fashion designers embraced the trend of the patterned tie by producing variations made of material derived from women’s clothing. The patterns were Art Deco inspired and targeted toward the female client. This marked the point where women’s neckties began to come into vogue.
Several years later during the mid-1920s, Jesse Langsdorf, an American designer introduced a new type of tie production. His creations were made of materials which improved elasticity, allowing the fabric to easily return to its original state.
By the 1930s, neckties took on a bolder appearance with new Art Deco designs and a wider presence. The neckties were shorter than the previous Art Deco embellishments and were tied in a Windsor knot first introduced by the Duke of Windsor.
In the early 1940s, the necktie did not change much in terms of new fashions and trends. This marked the beginning of World War II and a period of time when people had more important things on their mind than the latest fashions.
The end of World War II inspired an attitude of liberation which was reflected in fashion design. The necktie was no exception with patterns intended to stand out and bold colours which symbolised a new era. Additionally, designers occasionally took their creations a little too far such as the Grover Chain Shirt Shop which produced ties with scantily clad women.
As the 1950s was ushered in, the skinny necktie came into vogue. As more tailored and form fitting clothes rose in popularity, the skinny tie was designed to complement this type of style. It was also at this point in time, fashion designers began to experiment with new fabrics and materials when designing neckties.
By the time the 1960s arrived, the wide tie replaced the skinny tie as the new fashion trend. A necktie in excess of six inches wide was not uncommon and complete with bold patterns and colours. This tie was officially named the Kipper Tie made famous by Elvis Presley when he first started wearing it in the United States after abandoning his skinny black tie look.
In London, designer ties exploded with popularity when Carnaby Street designers produced wide ties with bold colours in a variety of garish patterns. This was done in an effort to develop what was known as the Peacock Look preceding the hippie era which abandoned neckties altogether in favour of metallic jewellery or neck scarves.
The 1970s introduced the ultra-wide Kipper Tie which was popular with the disco movement and the inception of the discotheques. The Kipper Tie was frequently worn with large collared shirts with wide cuffs at the sleeves and bell bottom pants.
The 1970s also marked the introduction of the Bolo Tie which was made of braided leather or other type of cord with metal tips. The tie became popular in the west and was the official necktie for the state of Arizona beginning in the early 1970s to the 1980s.
The necktie made a big return to the fashion world during the early 1980s. Neckties were a popular accessory worn by celebrities, pop stars, and young people working in the financial industry. A variety of necktie fashions returned including the skinny tie and ties crafted from leather. Additionally, the ultra-wide ties from the 1970s were still in fashion during a decade not known for terrific fashions.
The wide variety of necktie styles from the 1980s dissipated in the early 1990s when neckties were designed at a uniform width of about three to four inches wide. Neckties were considered a workplace requirement and the most popular designs were paisley and fashion forward floral patterns similar to today’s designs.
By the late 1990s, there was a surge in the IT industry and the concept of wearing a necktie somewhat faded into the background. However, in recent years, it has made a return and is now worn at both formal and casual events and mixed with a variety of styles. Ties also gradually became thinner at under four inches with European fashion designers reinventing the skinny tie.
Currently, the necktie is produced in a wide variety of different materials, cuts, and widths. Overall, there are uniform widths of 3.5 inches and under. Skinny ties as well as narrow ties which range from 1.5 inches to three inches in width are also the norm. Today’s neckties are also designed with new patterns, fabrics, knits, and weaves, in addition to being offered in a variety of cuts and widths.
With the introduction of the Internet and mass media, many celebrities, athletes, and artists have influenced necktie trends. Notable people such as Humphrey Bogart made the bowtie an upward trend in men’s fashion while Elvis Presley made the wide tie and neck scarf popular.
In Europe, well known business professionals have continued to make the ascot or cravat a popular trend when dressing for business and special occasions. The Duke of Windsor was also known for having a massive collection of neckties.
As we venture farther into the 21st century, it will be interesting to see what people influence necktie fashion, as well as the types of designs created by notable people in the fashion industry’s future.
Micar is a London-based software development company that is known for developing the UKs original ERP solution for the Apparel, clothing, textile and footwear industries. Visit the About Us page to find out more about our history and the products pages for more information about our tailor-made software solutions.
We hope that you enjoyed this article. All images used on this blog are property of their respective owners. We would take our own images, but we wouldn’t do a very good job!