There wasn’t a man in history who had never worn a necktie and yet as we wonder what purpose they served, we’re met with only one answer. Absolutely none. Neckties are a male decoration; nothing more.
The appearance of the necktie dates back to the dawn of time to ancient Egypt where around the necks of the Pharoahs, strips of cloth adorned with precious gems were worn. They were men with an attitude for power and draping a broad cloth-like scarf around the nape meant demand for respect.
It was the scarf that took on another meaning when the Romans reintroduced it in the year 113 AD and that afterward, was decorated and worn tucked into the armor of soldiers which later would become a badge of honor worn only by the armies not the public of the time.
The necktie was invented by Croatian soldiers who tied a scarf around their necks for identification purposes in the early 1600’s. The trend caught on and was soon adopted by Louis XIV, but the word cravat as derived from the French pronunciation of “Hrvat” later evolved into the word “Cravat”.
The cravat soon became the choice of neckwear for aristocrats. Made from muslin and or heavy linen and often adorned with lace, it was laundered and pedantically pressed by servants. Then came the stock in the 18th century, made of horsehair and supported with whalebone. It was a high collar, easy to put on garment however, it was extremely uncomfortable to wear. It soon lost its place in the fashion stakes and the cravat was born.
The stock, although convenient due to it requiring less laundering than the cravat was set aside as a hindrance and by 1780 the European men were wearing a cravat with delighted ease. It was a simple scarf-like cloth made from lace or silk and when Beau Brummell, an upper-class gentleman who wore a tight fitting tailcoat, pantaloons, and riding boots insisted the white linen be exchanged for black or navy, it wouldn’t be long before he popularized black neckwear with a black coat and white shirt. It would later come to be known as the tuxedo.
The cravat of the time was made from imported lace and was laundered and pressed by the “Cravatier” a highly responsible position for an individual who had been assigned to look after the King’s toilette and wardrobe. On a tray, he would present to the king an array of cravats for his choosing. Each of the slips of silk was decorated for such a man with colorful ribbons. The ribbons would become the inspiration color and interest together with patterns that would later emerge.
When Queen Victoria ascended the thrown, the middle class found status and became in time wealthier. It was during this time that the cravat only quietly stepped aside and began to make way for the tie. Although the silk fabric remained in existence it was the tie that was reserved for the man who climbed the social scale. The stick pin found prominence in the fashion stakes as men found it convenient to harness the cravat to their shirt fronts ensuring the wind wouldn’t pick it up and have it sailing around his face. The stick pin remained until about the 1920’s when the tie clip made an appearance and was found to be more convenient.
However, when the Ascot appeared, the stick pin was regarded as the accessory of choice. The Ascot, named after the Royal Ascot in London, was made from silk and had a length of 50″. It was almost an inch wide at back and was tucked under the collar. Not tied as a tie but draped over at the front of the throat, it was then secured with a stick pin and tucked behind the waistcoat.
The Bow Tie
The bow tie made its debut at the beginning of the 18th century and became somewhat popular but it was an inconvenience to the man who didn’t know how to tie one correctly. By then a book was published by a physician named Walter G. Walford who entitled it, “Dangers in Neckwear”. In it he claimed the tie would cause no end of illnesses including headache, vertigo, eczema, stroke and deafness. He suggested that by loosening the collar one would recover very swiftly from this rather engrossing list of ailments.
By 1870 the Four-in-Hand knot was perfected and became part of the military uniform in Britain. As the necktie began to make an appearance, it was shorter and had an interlining, however over time, the 3.5″ wide tie became an accepted fashion accessory until during the 40’s through to the 60’s when it slimmed down until the 70’s and 80’s when extra width was the trend. Although fashions widths and lengths could not find a common land, the 3.5 inch remained in the midst and thus has become timeless.
Ties, having had a run through the research of scientists who could find no earthly reason for its introduction in the first place other than being a decoration, were deemed thus. A decoration; they were nothing more.
The tie became a symbol of a man’s sexuality and masculinity thus it was later deemed that “A man, by taking off his tie, performs a very erotic act.” Although today the tie is considered only something a man will wear when it is necessary, opting to leave it hanging on a hanger inside his closet.
But throughout history, ties were considered adornments. Color was a consideration, the knot, the length and width was all part of the reason a man wore one. He was seen as powerful, respected and elegant and based on his attitude or mood, would choose his color, his pattern and his fabric. Reds and yellows were a shout out, “look at me” but the more discreet male would opt for a blend of stripes in matching shades.
He will choose a bow tie for his tuxedo and he will tie a Windsor knot for a business meeting as he matches the color to the suit he will wear. The knot in his tie will be a reflection of the man he is and will mark his care factor by the tightness of his tie. A loosely tied knot on a neck tie belongs to the jovial, more jolly man or the salesman who just doesn’t give a rip about his dress but prefers the more casual approach. Curiously however, it is the man with the loosely tied tie that people will approach rather than a man whose tie is tight with a small knot at his throat.
Whether it is a black tie event, a funeral, a wedding or a business meeting, it is the man behind the knot who will be recognised as a man of power or demure existence.