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Neckties - The Complete History of Ties

Neckties - The Complete History of Ties

Neckties - The Complete History of Ties

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The History of Fashion Neckties - From 221 BC to Present

Nice Tie Store presents the story of neckties. Actually, the origin of neckties is not just fashion history; necktie history is part of world history. This seemingly useless accessory of clothing that men either love or hate has taken quite a path through the ages. Men's ties have evolved through the unique influences of events that have affected men's fashion in Asia, Europe, and the Americas.

Images above from left to right are a Chinese "terra cotta" warrior, a Croatian soldier, and Beau Brummel

The history of neckties can be traced through modern civilization through a sort of evolution of apparel. Concerning evolution, this is not true but for fun it is added here; around one hundred thousand B.C. a gorilla fashions a crude necktie out of leaves and vines in hopes of successfully courting a wife. He passes his ingenuity to his son who later invents the wheel a turning point in evolution. In fact, primitive man did adorn feathers and other forms of artistic display around their necks. However this would not be the invention of ties or even a predecessor of the modern necktie. This was certainly an early sort of fashion statement that signified a way of distinction of character and personality. That is in fact, basically what modern ties are, a form of self artistic expression.

The necktie was invented in Croatia, or at least that is where a form or fashion of neck cloth tied as a necktie of sorts can be traced back in history as being widely used. If you don't believe so then consider this fact; the word "Cravat" which is how they say necktie in most European languages and as well in Spanish on both sides of the Atlantic. Historians trace the first recognized use of neck tied fabric as part of fashion attire being originated by Croatians. The Croatian word "Croat," which also means the people of Croatia, was how languages illustrated and adapted the term to describe the article of dress that would become the modern necktie.

Necktie history notes the tying of cloth around a man's neck into an accessory fashion about 330 years prior to the new Millennium during the Thirty Years War which was a conflict involving religious beliefs in 17th century Europe. A King, a mercenary army with an unusual addition to uniforms, and a noble cause set the stage for a fashion accessory that lives on to this day. There is a clear-cut relationship between fashion on one hand, and power and wealth on the other. Fashion generally follows power and wealth. This old adage spells out the creation of the evolution of neck wear, not its true actual origin. There are accounts of neck cloths tied as a form of necktie much earlier in civilization. However, without this acceptance by the King of France Louis XIV, of tying cloth around a man's neck in the 17th century, neckties would not have had their fateful way in the world.

A Terracotta army dressed in ties

The history of ties considers other discoveries by archeologists and historians. There are several earlier known existences of neck cloths as a fashion of necktie. Two are note worthy. Ties were an unusual thought as a fashion accessory in China in 221 B.C. - the first known existence of fabric wrapping a man's neck but there is clear evidence of neck tied cloths. In the Neck wear industry, certainly in Europe this not a very highly respected thought as for sure in this was an interestingly un-known fact until recently. Old School ideals seem to hold water with great resilience. As a result of the excavation in China in 1970, of the "Terracotta Army of the first Emperor of China" there is a challenge to the claim by Croatians that the necktie is their innovation and their place in history of fashion. Among the 7000 terracotta soldiers un-earthed dressed in armor, many of which have a necktie wrapping their necks. The apparent use of neck wear in China ended after the Han Dynasty took rule in 206 B.C. and neck wear would not be seen again in China until the 20th century. As well, in 101 - 106 B.C. the Roman Military is seen in paintings with neck wear worn as a random uniform. Although non-Roman soldiers were probably the only to wear at "necktie" as it is common thought that the fashion rule of Rome kept necks free of cloth.

Roman Soldiers were not allowed to wear neck clothes but their servants did.

About 15 centuries later, again in the form of military dress by Croatian Soldiers - is the introduction of men's neckties seen by historians. Historians noticed for the third time, and also the first widely recognized appearance of ties, during a thirty-year 'religious" war in the early 17th century waged by King Charles V of Spain against reformists. Fashion trends developed as soldiers from all of Europe fought and cultures and dress clashed. Mutual respect and honor followed the battles that inflamed all of the European Continent creating changes that effected at the very least acceptance of religious belief, geography and national borders, cultural tolerance, government, a realignment of European power and influence, and even fashion.

The dress accepted "fashionable" throughout most of Europe was lace ruffs around the neck. Even after the Middle Ages, dress was "ruled appropriate" for each class. War was expensive forcing many cost savings measures, and fashion was one cut back as men were to adorn ruffs with a strict law allowing men to wear ruffs only at funerals and other such occasions, ( ruffs were an expensive use of lace up top 15 meters ). The Croatian soldier wearing a cravat or cravat ( English translation "necktie" ) as part of his uniform caught the attention of the continent. This Middle Age Custom or dress was in part, a form of identification on the battlefield and also part of folk costume. Wearing this necktie in battle throughout Europe, the Croatian Soldiers gained respect - widely known for their mercenary ways. They were recruited along with German Soldiers by France, in 1635, after France declared war on Spain - entering the conflict, short on troops and willing to hire soldiers. The Croatian soldiers and their cravats were noticed not only by many European Nations including the fashionable French, but more importantly by royalty. By fate, around this time the shirt collar - turned down came into fashion, a result of the formal decree by all countries ruled by Spain, Austria and other Catholic countries banning ruffs" Capitulos de reformacias 1623". This was a time that the "golilla" a Spanish term for a linen and cardboard collar was accepted. And a fine cloth to wrap the collar closed was a natural.

King Louis XIV of France accepted the cravate as a fashion accessory.

Fascinated with the valor of the Croatian mercenaries in a religious war the King accepted neckties as appropriate dress. However, the necktie or cravat was only noted by the French, and not accepted as a fashion style. Only after two decades, did King Louis XIV of France, 1638 - 1715, fancy the cravat. The necktie-cravat was not "accepted attire" at court as old standing customs governed fashion. This changed when the Queen Mother Anne of Austria ( born in Spain ) died giving King Louis XIV rule of his right. A painting by Henri Testelin hangs at Versailles depicting King Louis XIV wearing a cravat. His necktie collection was extensive made from fine fabrics and styled by the most revered fashion designers of the time. He had his own "cravatier" who would lay our several cravats each day for the King to select which one he would wear. With-in one year of King Louis XIV acceptance of the cravatte, London's elite became enamored by the fashion and King Charles II of England the British spent fortunes on expensive lace from Venice to have his neckwear made.

The "Royal Cravates" regiment of Croatian soldiers, formed in 1667, wore cravats made of linen, lace, and muslin. Uniforms, especially accessories for soldiers were not commonplace among military and the use of this necktie was a distinctive dress.Thet were fighting as mercenaries for France and with the French support, suffered great losses politically while attempting a "coup" in a struggle for self rule. The country of Croatia never fully recovered from the failed conspiracy against their un-wanted rule by the Halsburgs. They were different, noble and they had a political cause that may have drawn sympathy from King Louis XIV. His acceptance of the Cravat was the birth of a fashion phenomenon that swept the globe and continuing today in men's' attire. The Dutch, Belgians, and even English authors were fond of cravats but the credit for making the cravat fashionable was King Louis XIV. Thus, "fashion follows power and wealth."

Croatian Mercenary Soldier - These soldiers wore a very unique necktie on the battlefield.

Napoleon had his influence on fashion as did most military leaders. The French led the fashion world through the 18th Century up until the French Revolution of 1789-1799. English influence became predominant after the beginning of the 19th Century. George¯ Beau Brummel 1778 - 1840 a leader in British Fashion of the day brought the necktie to great innovation influencing the Prince of Wales - later to become King George IV. Beau Brummel's details of necktie knotting and design won him favor with England and most of Europe. Ties were still black or white and great discussion was involved about this in England, Germany, France, Italy and other European nations. In 1820 when King George V was crowned he introduced the black tie, which was not so popular with his guests who often kept a white tie in their pockets. After the beginning of 19th Century colored neckties and ties with patterns appeared partially due to schools, hunting, sports, and military influence. By the mid 19th Century neckties started to resemble modern day neck wear.

Napoleon Bonaparte by Rembrandt
As with any man with power Napoleon was always in grand attire.

Since the British had colonies throughout the world their necktie fashion spread to almost every continent with China the only exception. The French did not except the British fashion and tried to go their own way concerning men's fashion and neck wear. Great men throughout history wore neckties as depicted in paintings; Napoleon I Emperor of France wore his cravat - a soldier from a young age, as did George Washington - soldier and the first President of The United States, Benjamin Franklin a statesman, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, ( certainly not a soldier or politician ). Any painting depicting these honored men and other celebrated men over the past 300 years will illustrate a cravat tied around their necks.

The shape and design of colors and patterns of the cravat changed and of course the military again dictated this. Before the turn of the 20th century, realizing that their soldiers were easy targets wearing bright red uniforms, the British were outfitted with drab green uniforms. Each regiment decided on their own, what tie to wear with a different stripe going across the tie in a pattern of colors and stripe width. With this need to be individual the "Rep Stripe" necktie was born. Across the Atlantic American soldiers followed suite, however the stripes go the other way. The distinction between the European Rep Stripe tie vs. American Rep Stripe tie is simple enough. The difference is the direction of the stripe from the left shoulder crossing the heart or from the right shoulder crossing the heart.

“A well tied tie is the first serious step in life,” Oscar Wilde, poet, play write of great acclaim, 1854 – 1900. He tied his first tie at the age of 2 while wearing a smoking jacket.

This New World American vs. the Old World European look was distinctive and of course gave way to British designers fashion designers creating ties with polka-dots and colorful patterns. After the turn of last century these fancy designs produced an un-likely trend with retailers - ties were designed much like a women's' thought for fashion - but for a product meant for a man. This was a marketing ploy probably, as fashion houses took note that women were buying their men neckties. Appealing to their sense of color and style was natural.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor and their influence in necktie history is quite another story about fashion, and love. It was not just by chance that the famous necktie knot became to be known worldwide as the Windsor. This British Royal made famous, to the World the beautiful and symmetrical Windsor Tie Knot. The most popular necktie knot "The Windsor Knot" was named after the Duke of Windsor against his wishes. Folklore has it that his father King George V passed down this knot along with the crown jewels. He is not known for inventing the Windsor tie knot however he is the reason it became so popular. In 1936, after just a one year reign as King of Britain, Edward the VIII abdicated his throne to marry Bessie Wallis Warfield Simpson an American divorcee - women he was rumored to having an affair with. His brother took his throne and the title of Duke of Windsor was given to him. The dashing gentleman captivated the world with his sacrifice of the throne for love. He sported the symmetrical necktie knot that American journalists adorned and inadvertently gave him credit for during the fan fair of publicity and photographs of the Paparazzi.

The Duke and Duchess of Windsor
By circumstance he introduced the Windsor Necktie Knot to the fashion world.

The Windsor Tie knot was a very meaningful contribution to men's fashion as this necktie knot commands the most attention and respect. The finished look is a symmetrical knot with a dimple below. It is fairly easy if you know how to do it. The problem is almost no one knows the easy way to tie this fashionable tie knot. The Duke in a series of photographs showed the World a very complicated method to create this tie knot. What could be the greatest hoax of last century, save the Beatles Paul McCartney being dead, the Duke made the tie knotting difficult by changing a key move when completing the knot. Presumably he must have motivated by the fact that the no one should be so handsome and distinguished as the Blue Blood Royals.

A major contribution to the necktie was by an American tie manufacturer Jesse Langsdorf. His idea was simple; three pieces of fabric cut and sewn together with the invention of the slip stitch along the back of the tie closing the envelope. This stitch allowed the tie to move along the closing thread while tying knots; eliminated ironing and necktie damage from the abuse of the taking the tie on and off. The necktie had reached its present form in 1924 of the patented design. The modern tie as we know it evolved from this form. Shrinking in width every 15 years or so from about 1 ½ inches to about 4 ½ inches in accordance with shirt collar and lapel width and shape and the shape of a jacket opening.

In the 1920s the art deco ties of the Jazz Age are attributed to artists Picasso and Braque. Salvador Dali created the first recognized novelty ties taking his artwork and illustrating ties much to the surprise of the art world. Later, Peter Max among others followed with unique artistic neckties for a man to express himself. In the 40s a tie called affectionately, the "Belly Warmer"¯ with a hula girl and palm trees becomes sought after. Introduced at first as a joke, this tie became an American style statement worn by actors Bob Hope, Alan Ladd and Danny Kay. Soon after, naked girls or a "Pin Ups"¯on the reverse side of a tie was accepted as fashionably correct, as the world was no quite ready for naked or near naked women displayed on a tie hanging man's neck.

The 80's saw the "Power Tie" and the 90's saw casual dress take its toll on ties. Still neckties remained a statement of being serious about business and by contrary of course, being personal and even silly. The silly side gave way to fun novelty theme ties. Mark Abramhoff's patent of the fish shaped tie became the brainchild of a shift in necktie design that became an extension of a man's character and charm. Novelty neckties illustrating hobbies, Van Gogh and Monet art work, Elvis, and Marilyn Monroe, and oddly enough Harley Davidson Motor Cycles by Abramhoff's Ralph Marlin Company became wildly popular in the 90's.

Four Unlikely Necktie Designers Salvador Dali, Jerry Garcia, Peter Max, and Rush Limbaugh

A line of ties illustrating the Beatles music themes became popular in the 90s and in soon after ties with pictures of the Beatles themselves. Pianist and pop rock star Elton John's music inspired a line of ties, themed after his lyrics were made by Castle Neck wear in Los Angeles. Ties illustrating the licensed artwork of Marvel Comics and D.C. Comics, Disney, Bart Simpson, Star Wars, and ties with Tabasco and Endangered Species themes became the rage of non conservative dress. Licensed novelty ties were now a big retail draw especially popular with young men and even women who waitress at Denny's, the Cheese Cake Factory and other restaurants.

In the mid 90s Wall Street became amazed at a rather very surprising tie line that became a fashion statement that was a contradiction. A man who wanted to be a rebel and still wear a tie had his wish with the creation of Jerry Garcia and Grateful Dead ties. These ties were designed and modeled using Jerry Garcia's art; he had been at first a talented art student in San Francisco's Art Institute.

At a time when fashion was pushing all limits Gianni Versace created neckties with enough emotion, color and vivid design to stop traffic and get recognized. As well Pancaldi neckties were a great success with ethnic men and non-extroverts thanks to their elegant and super colorful designs. These avant-garde styled ties became popular with men that wanted to be noticed. Similarly, Rush Limbaugh No Boundaries designs were created with enough color and abstract patterns that they gave way to cause a national fashion phenomenon in America. Martin Wong ties became were also very popular with ethnic men. They were extremely attractive designs were art deco themes and abstract panels that highlighted subtle hues. These neckties were the opposite of conservative styles that were striped, simple patterns, or small medallions, that were the preferred choice of bankers, accountants, and other professionals that had to be careful not to offend anyone wearing a flashy or loud tie.

Television and movie stars had been an influence on fashion however until Regis Phillbin wore a solid color tie that matched the color of his shirt did that phenomenon make its mark on ties fashion. The monochromatic tie and shirt look became known as the Million Dollar tie craze, getting its name after his very popular game show Who Wants To Be a Millionaire.

Ralph Marlin and Co. Mark Abramhoff's patented fish necktie.

After the Millennium necktie design turned conservative taking a turn back to rep stripes. An event that had caused great despair and even greater political and diplomatic changes also created a fashion trend, short lived but none-the-less very widespread. Neck wear retailers and manufacturers answered the call as the tragedy of September 11, 2001 encouraged American men to sport patriotic ties with the same vigor as most Americans who displayed American Flags on the car antennas, and their front porches. The seriousness of the state of Geo-political climate attributed to conservative dress. Television anchors and reporters, politicians and of course bankers could not be seen as soft or not on guard.

Throughout the decade conservative ties were the norm, although liberal fashion buffs held out fancying novelty ties and bold colorful abstract panel designs. The opposite of conservative neckties was sharp and exact. Ties that screamed in color and loud design seemed to blossom. Electric ties evolved from the Rush Limbaugh No Boundaries ties which came to an end in 1997 after selling about 6 million ties. Sold almost exclusively through the Rush Limbaugh mailing lists and through on line stores, these bright ties were wild and practically electric in attraction.

Shakespeare - the Bard sure had his influence on men's fashion and certainly romance.

The Internet retailing of ties became a source for wild and different ties as most department stores went with the conservative trend. Additionally many retailers either severely cut back on their stocking of neckties or stopped selling ties altogether. Save the Web novelty ties became hard to find with the exception specialty retailers in kiosks for the holidays. Collector necktie became a unique business for Internet retailers as almost all licensed novelty ties were discontinued. The recession of 2008 and the casual dress trend that started a decade earlier had taken its toll on the necktie industry, especially on unique and novelty ties that were costly to manufacture and risky to venture into. The design of ties became a casualty as often fashion is influenced by outside forces other than designer whims and ideals.

In 2009, despite this cautious manner a rather odd thing that happened on the fashion world and neckties which was carefully crafted by Christian Aguilar a marketing wizard. Clothing, sunglasses, sneakers and ties of course illustrating tattoo art by San Francisco artist Ed Hardy became very popular proving that although there was a recession a fresh idea could still spark interest and profit.

With an understanding of necktie history and how various cultures and societies have contributed to this fashion accessory it is fair to say that neckties are here to stay. Not only have ties have become tradition, they are an important element of men's fashion. Women love them and the casual trend has seen its run. Being serious about dressing was again a common place habit for men as Shakespeare had noted "the apparel oft proclaim the man." Ties have truly become an important fashion accessory using color and pattern to create a means of a man's self-expression. If the King of France, King Louis XIV could have ever imagined what he started. Well that is one the French can claim for the record.

TIME Magazine - a brief history of the Necktie June 13, 2008

Necktie History on Wikipedia the Encyclopedia of the Internet

Visit our blog to read about where silk ties come from

Jeffrey Hunter

Jeffrey Hunter has been involved with retailing and designing neckties since 1996. He started selling ties to Los Angeles and Orange County car salesmen out of the trunk of 1966 Lincoln Continental. Several kiosks in Orange County at Newport Fashion Island and the Irvine Spectrum called Too Sexie Ties proved successfully but too much work. From the summer 2000 he has built web sites that offer collector ties like Spiderman, Disney and really wild ties on line. He is now designing ties that rival Rush Limbaugh's designs from over ten years ago.

Prior to selling ties he was a freelance professional photographer traveling to Iceland, India, the US South West, and other adventures. His fondness of fancy novelty ties and the difficulty of finding them was one of the attractions of starting the neckwear business in 1996.

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