The history of the neck tie
Written by Steven MooreThe English Manner, The UK’s Leading Etiquette and Protocol Training Institute 310 310
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People have been tying a cloth around their necks for millennia, but the tie as an item of fashion is much more recent. Let’s explore the history of the tie.
Towards the end of the 30 Years War (1618-1648), France employed Croatian mercenaries. These Croats, with their long cloaks and fur hats, stood out, as did their neckties. The Croatians wore a jacket that was closed at the neck by a scarf, and the style was copied at the French court by the young Louis XIV. The French King declared the new neckwear ‘La Cravatte’ in tribute to the Croatian Mercenaries known as ‘Hravats.’ This, however, was not our modern tie. Louis’ tie was lace and more like an elaborate and oversized bowtie. ‘La Cravatte’ had to go through quite a few more evolutions over the coming centuries.
The next key moment in the history of the tie also has military origins. The stock emerged in the first decade of the 18th Century. Originally, this was a tight leather neck brace, the stock had a dual purpose. Ostensibly to help the wearer preserve a military deportment, it also provided the neck with a modicum of protection from swords.
Soon, fashionable men adopted the look but used long lengths of muslin wrapped around the neck and tied at the back. Whilst we may see a length of white muslin as a simple look, to Georgian eyes, the whiteness and amount of fabric says ‘luxury’. The simplicity of the stock soon gave way to the more elaborate ‘Solitaire’.’ The Solitaire was a large and lavish ribbon tied elaborately at the front.
Towards the end of the 18th Century, the ‘Cravat’ re-emerged, but not in lace, but this time in silk. This was the early version of the modern cravat, or ‘Ascot’ in America. It was introduced by fashionable young men known as ‘Macaroni’ who had been on the Grand Tour to Italy and returned with rather Continental tastes.
The cravat was all about status, and the more elaborate the method of tying, the more status it affords the wearer. It was less about the expense of the cloth but the time it took to tie one with the aid of a valet. This was very much the look of the gentleman of leisure.
As the 19th Century progressed, it became more acceptable for gentlemen to work, especially in finance. This ushered in a more practical and pared-back look, and the first garment, like our modern tie, the necktie, was born.
Neckties were simply a long length of cloth, often silk, that could be tied like a bow tie or in the same manner as a modern tie. It was practical and much more business-like.
This tie style reigned supreme until 1922 when a New York tiemaker, Jesse Langsdorf, began to make silk ties cut with the weave of the cloth on the diagonal – or ‘on the bias’. This made the ties more resilient and able to hold shape. The Langsdorf tie soon conquered the world and remains the tie we know today.