The History Of The Neck Tie

The History Of Neck Ties

We all wear ties with our suits and they always jazz up a plain look, or complete it for more of a formal ensemble, but have you ever wondered where ties actually came from? We’re always interested in the history of pieces as you might have guessed from our history of waistcoats and history of tweed suits articles that you have seen previously, but we’re now going to look into the history of ties and find out everything about them!

It’s widely known that neck ties actually originated in the 17th century, during the 30 year war in France which was 1618 - 1648. However, there is evidence that neckwear dates as far back as 22BC! Archeologists found the army of China’s first emperor, Shih Huan Ti, buried with him in an underground tomb, wearing neckties. It was then known in 113AD that Roman orators wore ‘neckerchiefs’ to keep their vocal chords warm due to the talking they had to do, but it’s even depicted in old paintings that Egyptians adorned their necks with certain types of fabric, so neckwear as a whole has been around for thousands of years, not just hundreds.


The 17th Century

What actually made it popular though during the 17th century? It was originally a part of the uniform that Croatian mercenaries wore, ordered by King Louis XIII. They had been instructed to wear a piece of cloth around their neck. If you’re wondering why, well these neckties actually served a purpose and were very functional as they held together the top of their jackets, but it was also a wonderful decorative look that King Louis was very fond of.

It’s then said that he began to like the necktie look so much that he made it mandatory for Royal events, so you had to wear one. This was also to honour the soldiers, but also to finish off their outfits. This is actually where the name Cravat comes from as King Louis named them ‘La Cravate’ which translates to ‘necktie’ from French to English.

With the name Cravat though, I’m sure you’re thinking of the large frills of material often made out of silk, and you would be correct as these were what they wore, which is a far cry from the modern ties of today, but everything has to start somewhere and the evolution of garments always happens, and will most likely continue over the centuries as well. So lets see how the tie has changed since the 17th century!

After the war, the Cravat was still incredibly popular and remained so right up until 1720. It was still hugely helpful for soldiers as during the Battle of Steenkerque which took place in 1692, the princes would hurriedly dress for battle and just wind the neckties around their necks, twisting the ends of the fabric together and place them through the jacket buttonhole, which is where the name ‘Steinkirks’ came from, if you’re familiar with it. Not only was this piece still common in uniform at battle, but it was still very much a mandatory piece for the Royals as well, as you will notice from old paintings.


The 18th Century 

From the 1720’s to the 1800’s, Cravate somewhat took a backseat in favour of a newer trend called ‘Stocks’ and this also served as a purposeful item. Back then, it was extremely common for men to have long hair which went past their shoulders, and they would need somewhere to tuck the ends into, which is where this small piece of muslin that was folded into a narrow band, wrapped around the shirt collar, and secured with a pin came from. They would then tuck their hair into the black silk bag that was worn at the nape of the neck. If you have heard of the term ‘bag-wig’ hairstyle, this is where that came from. It always sounds fascinating to me how these evolutions happen. There were different styles of this as time went on, and the name ‘Solitaire’ came about as this form of necktie had matching ribbons around the bag, which were then pulled forward and tied into a large bow around the front of the collar, which I’m sure you’ve seen at some point during history lessons. There was then a new adaption of the bow tie, which didn't serve a purpose like this, but was worn as a fancy, dress tie with a similar design. 

The 19th Century

Just before the 19th century hit, Cravats actually became popular again due to a group of young English men (from the Yankee Doodle era) returning from Europe and bringing with them new fashion ideas, which included the popular necktie. So during the 1800’s to the 1850’s, as the necktie grew in popularity in its many forms, books were published (famously the ‘Neckclothitania’ book) on how to tie them and wear them in different variations, but there was also a new tie on the market called the scarf or neckerchief, which was worn by slipping the ends of it through a ring instead of using a knot. This is the classic way that sailors wear their neckwear and it was actually adapted from their form of dress during this period, but made fashionable instead. Bandanas were also used as a type of workwear, especially on cowboys as they wrapped them around their face to stop themselves from breathing in the dust.


The 20th Century

Now from the 1860’s to the 1920’s, as the industrial working times came into place, the fancy and dressier versions of neckties were no longer of use as men needed something that was easy to put on, wouldn’t come undone after a day of hard work, and was comfortable as well as understated. This is when the modern version of the tie that we know today was invented and is still worn by millions worldwide. The long, thin, easy to knot piece of fabric didn’t come undone and served its purpose wonderfully, and it hasn’t changed since. If you’re wondering about the knots, here in England we named it the ‘four in hand’ because the knot actually was similar to the reins of a four horse carriage that was used by the upper class in Britain. Since the different variations of tying these new ties became quite popular with the working class, of course there needed to be something to distinguish the upper class from that, which is when the Ascot tie was formed. This had wide flaps that were crossed and pinned together, creating a different look.


In the late 1920’s, New York tie maker - Jesse Langsdorf, actually came up with his own method of cutting tie fabric and sewing it in three sections instead. By doing this, it improved the elasticity and meant that the tie would return to its original shape much easier. Since then, most men have worn the ‘Langsdorf’ tie. There was also another way to wear it as well, as invented by Richard Atkinson and Company from Belfast, as they introduced the slipstitch which would secure the lining and interlining once the tie had been folded into its shape. As you can see by this point, ties were becoming extremely popular, companies were starting to compete with each other, and they were worn by every man, working class, middle class and upper class.


During the 1930’s, the Art Deco movement was starting to come into place and men would wear their ties adorned with bold patterns and designs. It was also common place for them to be a bit shorter and tied with a windsor knot, which was invented by the Duke of Windsor himself during this time, and is still one of the most common ways of tying a tie to date.

In the 1940’s as the War was taking place, you can imagine that there wasn’t much change during this time, but once the war had ended, everyone was so happy and excited to get back to some normality that they started wearing bright designs, colours, and patterns around their ties instead of the usual plain versions. There was even one retailer called Grover Chain Shirt Shop that created a necktie collection displaying sparsely dressed women, which was very daring during this period of time, but what a wonderful way to celebrate such liberation!


From the 1950’s to 1969, ties started out this era by getting skinner and thin, which was designed to match the slim fitting suits that were popular during this time.  Can you imagine how silly it would have looked in a skinny suit and a large tie? However, towards the end of the 60’s, the other extreme came into place and ties were made as big as 6 inches wide, being called the ‘Kipper Tie’ if you’re familiar with the term.

During the 1970’s, as the clothing started to get much bigger and flares were worn, the Disco era made the ultra wide Kipper tie pretty popular among everyone and skinny ties were not fashionable anymore. It was also during this decade that the popular Bolo Tie (the Western Tie that is worn in the southern parts of the United States) came into place. This was Arizona’s official state neckwear from 1971. It’s always interesting to see how much changed for fashion during the 60’s, 70’s and then moving onto the 80’s.


As the 1980’s came around pretty much anything went. We know how the trends changed dramatically and we look back at the 80’s for the crazy outfits and acid wash denim, but there wasn’t really a trend for ties and you could wear all of the different styles if you wanted to. As the 90’s approached, there started to be a more uniform width of around 3.5-4 inches for ties and the most popular styles were floral, paisley patterns which some of you might remember. Since the 90’s wasn’t that long ago though, we all still love and wear these prints today, and here at Cavani they are some of our best sellers.

From the 2000’s onwards to today, ties are pretty popular everywhere and come in so many different styles, you can pretty much wear what you want. Designers made their ties slimmer and a lot of them are 3.5 inches in width now, while some even have ties as skinny as 1.5 inches. You really can wear what you want and whatever suits your suit at the time. Some guys don’t even wear their ties with full suits and will just wear them with a shirt and trousers instead, so there aren’t many rules anymore. If your shirt has a collar, you can pretty much wear any tie you choose.

- So are you as fascinated with the neck tie history as we are? 

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Image Credit: 1, 2, 3, 4 & 5

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