As with a great deal of men’s fashion, the tie or necktie, to give it it’s full title, stems from military wear. The cravat is the modern forerunner of the tie, worn by Croatian mercenaries. Indeed the tie as a military embellishment can be seen as far back as Qin Shih Huang’s terracotta army, as they all worn a neck tie of some description.
The modern tie as we know it today developed onwards from the Croats, and during the early 1800’s wearing a black one around your neck was considered the height of fashion. It was at this point that the word ‘tie’ was beginning to become common usage instead of cravat. The tie progressed during the 19th century and became an item worn by all classes and in many countries around the world.
The modern tie as we know it know was not really invented till the end of the century whn Parisian shirtmaker Washington Tremlett created one for an American customer. He came up with the ‘7-fold tie’ which is based on the construction of the garment. It is still the most luxurious of tie constructions out there today. The main tie we see everywhere today is the ‘Langsdorf’ tie, which is made of three pieces sewn together with or without a lining, invented in 1926 by the New Yorker Jesse Langsdorf.
During the 20th century the tie changed shape from wide to thin and various colours and styles, but it wasn’t until the late 20th and early 21st century that we started to see the decline of the tie as a piece of men’s formal wear. If you go around the financial districts of all the major cities of the world today, you will find that a great number of the suited individuals will be without a tie and wearing an open necked shirt.
We think it is a shame that the tie has fallen out of favour.
Nicholas Parsons, veteran British broadcaster, was vocal this year about his dislike for open-necked shirts with suits and jackets and praising cravats (Ascots) of which he is a life-long aficionado. He said that the open-necked shirt looks “really rather ugly”, though we agree with the sentiment our reasons are a little different.
Our reason is blandness, all we see predominantly is navy suits, white shirts. There is no individual flair, no style and nothing to make you stand out. Yes, a man’s suit may be wonderfully tailored and his shirt may be the finest in the land, but he will look very similar to the chap standing next to him.
The reason for a tie (or indeed a pocket square for that matter) is to make you stand out, to show some individuality. There are so many choices of colours, patterns and styles of tie that there is one to suit every suit, every shirt, every man’s colouring and taste.
It certainly is easier without a tie, no fussy knot to do in the morning, no tightening around the neck during the day, but people notice when you make an effort, whether that is your boss, that potential date or your wife/girlfriend. They will notice you taking that extra step towards completing the suit.
A tie used to be an item that said you belonged to a group, a club or an institution. It came to stand for something commonplace and in some cases it represented a kind of oppression, but nowadays we feel that the open-necked shirt is the new conformity of blandness and belonging.
The world of men’s style has drastically changed in the last two decades. It has slid down the snake of casual and probably hit rock bottom. However, there is a trend that men wish to be that little bit more dapper and, if you are wearing a suit this month, climb the first rung of the ladder of style and success by wearing a tie.