A brief history of ties

Mar 19, 2013

Wool tieI did history at school; I also wore a tie at school, these were two things that, at the time, I didn’t like. Despite this, I took history at university; it was apparently a respected degree and only had 3 classroom hours a week so, apart from it being a bit dull, it sounded ideal. I also, now don’t mind the tie; it’s not the chain of conformity I once regarded it as. In a nostalgic bid to merge the tie, with history, and take me back to my school years, I’m going to give a history of the tie.<

400 years the tie has survived for, in various shapes and sizes. The humble neck accessory reflects the society it was made it, the wealth, the pomposity and fashion of each era. King Louis XIV and his court first wore the tie or “la cravate” as they, being French, called it in the 17th Century. By 1840, the word tie had largely replaced “la cravate” or cravat, and although cravats are still made, they’re no tie.

When the industrial revolution brought a new class, the tie was synonymous with the business class. It meant the tie was now worn by the masses, and by the end of the 19th Century ties were widely available in Europe and the US. Oxford University rowing club introduced the “club tie” in 1880, the first tie that had a club’s emblem woven on.  

In 1924 an American tailor named Jesse Langsdorf created, and patented, the tie's modern look, with its three-piece construction. Ten years later the Duke of Windsor wore his ties with big knots, due to the fabric thickness. Some admirers of his style created the "Windsor knot" to emulate the look without the expense of the thicker materials. By the 1950s, it was said that a man wasn't fully dressed until he had put on his tie.

In the 20th Century, the tie became less decorative, but went through a quicker succession of fashionable changes. Each decade, saw a new style of tie that complemented the clothes and styles of the period. Ralph Lauren released a tie 4 inches wide in the 70s and during the 80s ties shrank down to within an inch. Tie sales hit a peak of $1.3 billion in 1995 but steadily declined as the dotcom boom threatened to obliterate neckwear entirely and business casual took hold in the workplace.

Today, you can choose from hundreds of styles, and a very wide price range. It’s a small piece of material, but holds history, and respect, so don’t underestimate your tie choice. And whatever you do, don’t buy a Simpson’s tie, they’re not funny or charming, they are reserved for humourless, deluded, smart arse teachers.

George Marsden

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