The necktie can be traced back to the time of the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) when Croatian mercenaries in French service, wearing their traditional small, knotted neckerchiefs, aroused the interest of the Parisians. The new article of clothing started a fashion craze in Europe where both men and women wore pieces of fabric around their necks. In the late seventeenth century, the men wore lace cravats that took a large amount of time and effort to arrange. These cravats were often tied in place by cravat strings, arranged neatly and tied in a bow.
1650-1720: the Steinkirk
The Battle of Steenkerque took place in 1692. In this battle, the princes, while hurriedly dressing for battle, just wound these cravats around their necks. They twisted the ends of the fabric together and passed the twisted ends through a jacket buttonhole. These cravats were generally referred to as Steinkirks.
1720-1800: Stocks, Solitaires, Neckcloths, Cravats
In 1715, another kind of neckwear, called “Stocks” made its appearance. Stocks were initially just a small piece of muslin folded into a narrow band wound a few times round the shirt collar and secured from behind with a pin. It was fashionable for the men to wear their hair long, past shoulder length. The ends were tucked into a black silk bag worn at the nape of the neck. This was known as the bag-wig hairstyle, and the neckwear worn with it was the stock.
A variation of the bag wig would be the solitaire. This form had matching ribbons stitched around the bag. After the stock was in place, the ribbons would be brought forward and tied in a large bow in front of the wearer.
Sometime in the late eighteenth century, cravats began to make an appearance again. This can be attributed to a group of young men called the maccaronis (of Yankee Doodle fame). These were young Englishmen who returned from Europe and brought with them new ideas about fashion from Italy. The French contemporaries of the maccaronis were the Incroyables.
1800-1850: Cravat, Stocks, Scarves, Bandannas
At this time, there was also much interest in the way to tie a proper cravat and this led to a series of publications. This began with Neckclothitania, which is a book that contained instructions and illustrations on how to tie 14 different cravats. It was also the first book to use the word ‘tie’ in association with neckwear.
It was about this time that black stocks made their appearance. Their popularity eclipsed the white Cravat, except for formal and evening wear. These remained popular through to the 1850s. At this time, another form of neckwear worn was the scarf. This was where a neckerchief or bandanna was held in place by slipping the ends through a finger or scarf ring at the neck instead of using a knot. This is the classic sailor neckwear and may have been adopted from them.
1860-1920s: Bow ties, Scarf/Neckerchief, the Ascot, the Long tie
The industrial revolution created a need for neckwear that was easy to put on, comfortable and would last an entire workday. The modern necktie, as is still worn by millions of men today, was born. It was long, thin and easy to knot and it didn’t come undone.
The English called it the “four in hand” because the knot resembled the reins of the four horse carriage used by the British upper class. By this time, the sometimes complicated array of knots and styles of neckwear gave way to the neckties and bow ties, the latter a much smaller, more convenient version of the cravat. In formal dinner parties and when attending races, another type of neckwear was considered de rigueur; this was the Ascot tie, which had wide flaps that were crossed and pinned together on the chest.
This was until a New York tie maker, Jesse Langsdorf came up with a method of cutting the fabric on the bias and sewing it in three segments. This technique improved elasticity and facilitated the fabric’s return to its original shape. Since that time, most men have worn the “Langsdorf” tie. Yet another development of that time was the method used to secure the lining and interlining once the tie had been folded into shape. Richard Atkinson and Company of Belfast claim to have introduced the slipstitch for this purpose in the late 1920s.
After the First World War, hand-painted ties became an accepted form of decoration in America. The widths of some of these ties went up to 4.5 inches (110 mm). These loud, flamboyant ties sold very well all the way through the 1950s.
In Britain, Regimental stripes have been continuously used in tie designs since the 1920s. Traditionally, English stripes ran from the left shoulder down to the right side; however, when Brooks Brothers introduced the striped ties in the States a century ago, they had theirs cut in the opposite direction.
Before the Second World War ties were worn shorter as well as wider than they are today; although in Britain in the 1970′s short and wide ties (known as ‘Kipper ties’) became fashionable for a few years.
The 1960s brought about an influx of pop art influenced designs. The first was designed by Michael Fish when he worked at Turnbull & Asser. The term kipper was a pun on his name. The exuberance of the styles of the late 1960s and early 1970s gradually gave way to more restrained designs. Ties became narrower, returning to their 2-3 inch width with subdued colors and motifs, traditional designs of the 1930s and 1950s reappeared, particularly Paisley patterns. Ties began to be sold along with shirts and designers slowly began to experiment with bolder colors.
This continued in the 1980s, when very narrow ties approximately 1 inch wide became popular. Into the 1990s, increasingly unusual designs became common, such as joke ties or deliberately kitsch ties designed to make a statement. These included ties featuring cartoon characters or made of unusual materials such as plastic or wood. We hope some of these never come back! Beware of these around your office!
In more recent 2000s we have seen stripes dominate the tie market and more recently a fusion of stripes and paisley which we think are pretty cool. There has also been a resurgence of the skinny tie but I wouldnt go filling the cupboard with them just yet!
Source: Wikipedia with our own comments added!