A Brief History of Neckties

Following the event held the other week at Dashing Tweeds (4th July 2019) where I felt honoured to talk about the history of neckwear, which leads to neckties as we know it today. Also, unravelling the construction of ties and demonstrating the different knots that you can apply to your style now.

The new collection 'Work of Art: Well Dressed Man' was also showcased to our guests.

View the new collection here.

In the midst of my obsession with creating ties for myself because I couldn’t find a tie I liked, which developed into the Shaun Gordon brand. I couldn’t help wondering about where ties came from? And why were they worn in the first place?

The earliest discovery of neckwear as we know it was in China. During the reign of the first Emperor Qin Shih Haug-di (259-221 BC), he built 8000 sculptures of Terracotta soldiers in an underground chamber for the purpose of his reign in the after-life. It was noted that each soldier wore a scarf around their neck, which wrapped around once and tucked into their armour.

Another observation was in AD 113 in Rome, Emperor Traianus erected the column of Trajan, which has sculpted relief of 2500 around the circumference. Most of these military men wore neckwear around their neck, which were knotted and left the ends to drapes. It is believed that this is the earliest forefather of the four in hand knot because of the knot’s shape and how the ends draped. Interestingly to note, the civilians did not wear neckwear as it was believed to be effeminate or meant you were sick!

However, it is commonly believed that today’s tie ancestors stem from King Louis 13th (France) who fought alongside with the Croatian Cavalry Mercenaries against the Hamburg empire for 30 years (Hence the name of the war ‘30th Year War’, 1618-48). The Croatian soldiers wore muslin neckwear, which they called the ‘cravat’. This was worn by wrapping the cloth around their neck twice and ended with a simple knot with two short tails. During this time Charles 2nd was exiled in France and 9 years later when he returned to England to claim back his throne, he also inherits the French fashion and wore the cravat. In those times the Monarch was the style influencers and before you know it everyone from the courtiers to civilian wore the cravat. Depending on your social standing would determine what type of material you wore such as a prince would be seen wearing lace and a working class wearing muslin.

During the course of the 18th century, there were various trends and the one that stands out for me was the Macaronis, whose style was eccentricity on steroids! From the voluminous wigs, powered faces, big lapels, bold colour and pattern combinations and wore cravats that wrapped round their neck ten times with a big bow for extra ‘punch’. 

 

In contrast to George ‘Beau’ Brummell who inspires King George 4th during the early 19th century with a style, which speaks inconspicuousness. To paraphrase a quote of his ‘If John Bull looks at you, then you are not well-dressed’. The idea behind Brummell style was to be understated and allow the form of clothes to complement your body with perfect balance. Therefore this meant no bold colours or design details that called to attention. The only expression of individuality was through the tying of your cravat. Bearing in mind, that he only wore white until he fled away from England due to being heavily in debt and wore black cravat as it required less washing.
 
 
Legends have it that it took Brummell 5 hours to get ready and with the continuous tying of his cravat contributed to this. As tying the cravat meant that it was not allowed to have any creases and the knot itself had to be perfectly placed in the middle. With every wrong attempt, Brummell would discard his linen cravat. And start again with a fresh one. Notice how he uses linen and linen by nature creases! The everyday gentleman with a family did not have time to wake up at 4am in the morning to perfect his cravat before heading out to work in the morning! Therefore, it opened up a market for craftsman and tailors to produce accessible neckwear, which complemented the increasing active lifestyle at that time


By the end of the 19th century there were three reigning neckwear’s, which was the Bow-tie, the Ascot and the Necktie (formerly called the four in hand).
Though the necktie was the most popular of the three, it had shortcomings such as due to the tie being cut on the grain (straight), during the course of wear it would loosen and not stay in place. Hence the reason why they wore tie pins or clips. Then the problem was solved by Jesse Langsdorf (N.Y, USA) in 1926 by cutting the tie’s fabric on the bias (45 degrees angle) and with three separate pattern pieces: Blade (Front), Neck (Middle) and Tail (Back).

 

I am presuming he created the patterns into three pieces to save on fabric wastage. The result of this gave the tie elasticity to accommodate the daily knots applied. This also gave the fabric more resilient to creases and allow the tie to drape straight without twisting.

As time went on wearing waistcoat became unfashionable and therefore, the necktie grew longer to meet the trouser's waistband. And there we have the early tie as we know it today.
 
I can only conclude with and hope that you walk away looking at the humble necktie in a completely different light. It really is an evolutionary work of art or craftsmanship, which I hope will be with us for many more decades to come.

 

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