Friday, September 18, 2009

Tie One On

From Ben Silver, the gentleman's couturier, the history of the tie:

Today the principal purpose of neckwear is to add luxury and color to the austerity of business attire. The first neckwear was also intended to provide the same dash of color and style to the wearer.

There is much written about the connection between the French word cravat and the French word for Croatian -croat - to suggest that the French King Louis XIV took up the fashion of neckerchiefs after seeing them on victorious Croatian mercenaries during the Thirty Years' War.

Immediately following the wars, the style of neck scarves of silk in vibrant colors became fashionable. Eventually, after an evolution that included white lace, long bows, "stocks" of bound cotton, and a variety of other impenetrable garments, the four-in-hand was born, itself a product of a modern lifestyle brought about by the Industrial Revolution, and the dressed work force's need for simplicity and greater comfort.

It appeared in the 1860s in both Europe and America, and was originally worn with the starched, detachable upturn collars that remained in use through the early part of the century. Like the newer turndown collars which came into wide use in the early part of the current century, it was easy to wear, and more comfortable. The English called it the four-in-hand because its knot with two long, trailing ends resembled the reins of the four-horse carriages used by the British aristocracy.

The tie as we know it today has been around since the 1920s, but the four-in-hand, in its early chrysalis stage, was in fashion in the 1860s in England. Unlike its progenitors which warmed the neck, or simply made a statement of fashion, the late 19th century variety served the purpose of showing the wearer's affiliations.

With the expansion of English public schools during the late 19th century came the tradition of intercollegiate sports. Sporting colors became de rigeur. At first, supporters wore school colors on hat bands around boaters, but eventually someone started the practice of putting the stripes around the neck. The old school tie was born, and with it, the beginning of neckties as we know them today. Regiments followed suit, by using the colors of their uniform facings to evidence their necktie colors, after the British army began to shed its colorful tunics for practical khaki, less visible to the enemy.

Not every organization developed a stripe. Club colors were sometimes expressed in heraldic shields designed for the club or school. Other organizations chose colors which had significance to them. Many a story has passed down the pike. For example, The Royal Tank Corps takes its stripes from the brown mud, red blood and green fields of Flanders. The dark blue and magenta Brigade of Guards tie is intended to represent the blue blood of the Royal Family along with the red blood of the Brigade.

Sometimes the story behind a tie is as colorful as the tie itself. One afternoon in the 1920s, for example, the actor Norman Forbes Robertson wore a salmon-and-cucumber number to lunch at London's exclusive Garrick Club, joking that it was the official club tie. So many members wanted one that the club formally adopted it. The I Zingari Cricket Club boasts the colors black, red and gold, symbolizing the motto "Out of darkness, through fire, into light." The orange, black, blue and yellow tie worn by the old boys of Wellington College takes its hues from the ribbon of the Crimean War medal.

In the 1920's, the four-in-hand and the turndown collar had become the standard, aided by the manufacturing methods of a New York tie maker, J. Langsdorf, who developed the idea of cutting the fabric of the tie on the bias and sewing it in three segments. He also added the "slip-stitch," which provided elasticity and allowed the tie to return to its former shape after wear. The finer-cut, modern necktie has been manufactured in the same way since that time.

visit Ben Silver at, or try this one from etsy shop theluckyfish:

vintage YSL tie, $29

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