The necktie (or tie) is a long piece of cloth worn around the neck, resting under the shirt collar and knotted at the throat. The modern necktie, ascot, and bow tie are descended from the cravat. Men and, less frequently, women wear neckties as part of regular office attire or formal wear. Neckties can also be worn as part of a uniform (e.g. military, school, waitstaff). Neck ties are all one size fits all.
The necktie can be traced back to the time of the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648) when Croatian mercenaries in French service, wearing their traditional small, knotted neckerchiefs, aroused the interest of the Parisians. The new article of clothing started a fashion craze in Europe where both men and women wore pieces of fabric around their necks. In the late seventeenth century, the men wore lace cravats that took a large amount of time and effort to arrange. These cravats were often tied in place by cravat strings, arranged neatly and tied in a bow.
The Battle of Steenkerque took place in 1692. In this battle, the princess, while hurriedly dressing for battle, just wound these cravats around their necks. They twisted the ends of the fabric together and passed the twisted ends through a jacket buttonhole. These cravats were generally referred to as Steinkirks.
In 1715, another kind of neckwear, called "Stocks" made its appearance. Stocks were initially just a small piece of muslin folded into a narrow band wound a few times round the shirt collar and secured from behind with a pin. It was fashionable for the men to wear their hair long, past shoulder length. The ends were tucked into a black silk bag worn at the nape of the neck. This was known as the bag-wig hairstyle, and the neckwear worn with it was the stock.
A variation of the bag wig would be the solitaire. This form had matching ribbons stitched around the bag. After the stock was in place, the ribbons would be brought forward and tied in a large bow in front of the wearer.
Sometime in the late eighteenth century, cravats began to make an appearance again. This can be attributed to a group of young men called the maccaronis (of Yankee Doodle fame). These were young Englishmen who returned from Europe and brought with them new ideas about fashion from Italy. The French contemporaries of the maccaronis were the Incroyables.
At this time, there was also much interest in the way to tie a proper cravat and this led to a series of publications. This began with Neckclothitania, which is a book that contained instructions and illustrations on how to tie 14 different cravats. It was also the first book to use the word ‘tie’ in association with neckwear.
It was about this time that black stocks made their appearance. Their popularity eclipsed the white Cravat, except for formal and evening wear. These remained popular through to the 1850s. At this time, another form of neckwear worn was the scarf. This was where a neckerchief or bandanna was held in place by slipping the ends through a finger or scarf ring at the neck instead of using a knot. This is the classic sailor neckwear and may have been adopted from them.
The industrial revolution created a need for neckwear that was easy to put on, comfortable and would last an entire workday. The modern necktie, as is still worn by millions of men today, was born. It was long, thin and easy to knot and it didn’t come undone.
The English called it the “four in hand” because the knot resembled the reins of the four horse carriage used by the British upper class. By this time, the sometimes complicated array of knots and styles of neckwear gave way to the neckties and bow ties, the latter a much smaller, more convenient version of the cravat. In formal dinner parties and when attending races, another type of neckwear was considered de rigueur; this was the Ascot tie, which had wide flaps that were crossed and pinned together on the chest. This was until a New York tie maker, Jesse Langsdorf came up with a method of cutting the fabric on the bias and sewing it in three segments. This technique improved elasticity and facilitated the fabric's return to its original shape. Since that time, most men have worn the “Langsdorf” tie. Yet another development of that time was the method used to secure the lining and interlining once the tie had been folded into shape. Richard Atkinson and Company of Belfast claim to have introduced the slipstitch for this purpose in the late 1920s.
In Britain, Regimental stripes have been continuously used in tie designs since the 1920s. Traditionally, English stripes ran from the left shoulder down to the right side; however, when Brooks Brothers introduced the striped ties in the United States around the beginning of the 20th century, they had theirs cut in the opposite direction.
Before the Second World War ties were worn shorter as well as wider than they are today; although in Britain in the 1970s short and wide ties (known as 'Kipper ties') became fashionable for a few years.
The 1960s brought about an influx of pop art influenced designs. The first was designed by Michael Fish when he worked at Turnbull & Asser. The term kipper was a pun on his name. The exuberance of the styles of the late 1960s and early 1970s gradually gave way to more restrained designs. Ties became narrower, returning to their 2-3 inch width with subdued colors and motifs, traditional designs of the 1930s and 1950s reappeared, particularly Paisley patterns. Ties began to be sold along with shirts and designers slowly began to experiment with bolder colors. This continued in the 1980s, when very narrow ties approximately 1 inch wide became popular. Into the 1990s, increasingly unusual designs became common, such as joke ties or deliberately kitsch ties designed to make a statement. These included ties featuring cartoon characters or made of unusual materials such as plastic or wood.
In 1926, Jesse Langsdorf from New York introduced ties cut on the bias (US) or cross-grain (UK), allowing the tie to evenly fall from the knot without twisting; this also caused any woven pattern such as stripes to appear diagonally across the tie.
Today, four-in-hand ties are part of men's formal clothing in both Western and non-Western societies, particularly for business.
Four-in-hand ties are generally made from silk, cotton, polyester or, common before World War II but not as popular nowadays, wool. They appear in a very wide variety of colours and patterns, notably striped (often diagonally), club ties (often with a small motif repeated regularly all over the tie) and solids. "Novelty ties" featuring icons from popular culture (such as cartoons, actors, holiday images), sometimes with flashing lights, have been quite prevalent since the 1990s, as have paisley ties.
There are newly designed spinoffs to sevenfold ties, often referred to as four folds, or lined seven folds. These imposters frequently have the folds of the silk ending halfway through the middle of the inside of the tie. These ties, while very thick, are essentially the same as regular lined ties, with the exception of the decorative origami like folds at the ends of the tie. They are most easily identified by the bottom square, the part of the back of the tie that hangs in front of the belt, which is not one single sheet of silk-normally the introverted pattern is exposed-but is two pieces of the silk with the liner in between. In contrast to authentic sevenfolds, these ties' heft and body are derived by the weight of created by the folding of the silk upon itelf.
These other "seven-fold ties" are also referred to as Six-fold ties. They are typically self-tipped and lined. These are historically Italian made, although they are increasingly being made elsewhere. For this reason, they are often referrd to as being "Italian style", while the sevenfold tie is usually untipped, unlined and is the "American style'"''. The Talbott (Robert) Family is often credited with bringing back the sevenfold design which was almost lost as a result of the 1920s era depression. It was much more expensive to make a tie completely of silk, so the lined tie with other tiping fabric was born. The classic sevenfold tie has no interfacing (interlining) of any kind yet drapes beautifully due to the weight derived from the precise folding of the silk upon itself. Generally a medium weight, 25-30mm, silk is best used for creating one of these truly handmade ties.
The clip-on necktie is permanently knotted bow tie or four-in-hand style affixed with a metal clip to the front of the shirt collar. This 20th-century innovation is considered by some to be stylistically inferior, but may be considered appropriate by some for wear in occupations (e.g., law enforcement, service clerks, airline pilots, etc.) where a traditional necktie could pose a safety hazard. Clip-on ties are also the most common form of child-sized ties.
The Windsor knot is named after the Duke of Windsor, although he did not invent it. The Duke did favour a voluminous knot; however, he achieved this by having neckties specially made of thicker cloths.
In the late 1990s, two researchers, Thomas Fink and Yong Mao of Cambridge's Cavendish Laboratory, used mathematical modeling to discover that eighty-five (85) knots are possible with a conventional tie. (They limited the number of "moves" used to tie the knot to nine; longer sequences of moves result in too large a knot or leave the hanging ends of the tie too short.)
The use of coloured and patterned neckties indicating the wearer's membership in a club, military regiment, school, et cetera, dates only from late-nineteenth century England. The first definite occurrence was in 1880, when Exeter College, Oxford rowers took the College-colour ribbons from their straw boaters and wore them as neckties (knotted four-in-hand), and then went on to order a proper set of ties in the same colours, thus creating the first example of a college necktie.
Soon other colleges followed suit, as well as schools, universities, and clubs. At about the same time, the British military moved from dressing in brightly and distinctively coloured uniforms to subdued and discreet uniforms, and they used neckties to retain regimental colours.
Some secondary schools in the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand maintain the wearing of a tie as part of their school uniforms, with its design being specified. Some primary schools also permit pupils to wear ties.
The most common pattern for such ties in the UK and most of Europe consists of diagonal stripes of alternating colours running down the tie from the wearer's left. Note that neckties are cut on the bias (diagonally), so the stripes on the source cloth are parallel or perpendicular to the selvage, not diagonal.
The colours themselves may be particularly significant. The dark blue and red regimental tie of the Household Cavalry is said to represent the blue blood (i.e. nobility) of the Royal Family, and the red blood of the Guards.
In the United States, diagonally striped ties are commonly worn with no connotation of group membership. Typically, American striped ties have the stripes running downward from the wearer's right (the opposite of the European style). However, when Americans wear striped ties as a sign of membership, the European stripe style may be used.
An alternative membership tie pattern to diagonal stripes is either a single emblem or a crest centred and placed where a tie pin normally would be, or a repeated pattern of such motifs. Sometimes, both types are used by an organisation, either simply to offer a choice or to indicate a distinction among and levels of membership. Occasionally, a hybrid design is used, in which alternating stripes of colour are overlaid with repeated motif pattern.
Many British schools use variations on their basic necktie to indicate the wearer's age, house, status (e.g. prefect), or participation in competition (especially sports). Usually, the Old Boys and Girls (alumni) wear a different design.
The debate between proponents and opponents of the necktie center on social conformity, professional expectation, and personal, sartorial expression. Quoting architect Louis Sullivan, Frank Lloyd Wright said: "Form follows function". Applied sartorially, the necktie's decorative function is so criticized. In 2005, Arizona State University established to not discriminate by gender, however, it retained the rule requiring men to wear neckties and women to wear nylon stockings and high heeled shoes in the office of the president, and for ambassador visits and official meetings.
Necktie opponents cite risks of wearing a necktie as argument for discontinuing it. Their cited risks are entanglement, infection, and vascular constriction. Entanglement when working with machinery or dangerous, possibly violent jobs such as policemen and prison guards, and certain medical fields. The answer is to avoid wearing neckties, or to wear pre-knotted neckties that easily detach from the wearer when grabbed; vascular constriction occurs with over-tight collars. Studies have shown increased intraocular pressure in such cases, which can aggravate the condition of people with weakened retinas. There may be additional risks for people with glaucoma. Sensible precautions can mitigate the risk. Paramedics performing life support remove an injured man's necktie as a first step to ensure it does not block his airway. Neckties might also be a health risk for persons other than the wearer. They are believed to be major vectors in disease transmission in hospitals. Notwithstanding such fears, doctors and dentists wear neckties for a professional image. Hospitals take seriously the cross-infection of patients by doctors wearing infected neckties, because neckties are less frequently cleaned than most other clothes. On 17 September 2007, British hospitals published rules banning neckties.
Removing the necktie as a social and sartorial business requirement (and sometimes forbidding it) is a modern trend often attributed to the rise of popular culture. Although it was common as everyday wear as late as 1966, over the years 1967–69, the necktie fell out of fashion almost everywhere, except where required. There was a resurgence in the 1980s, but in the 1990s, ties again fell out of favor, with many Internet-based companies having very casual dress requirements.
Casual Fridays has become a very popular tradition, in which employees were not required to wear ties on Fridays, and then — increasingly — on other, announced, special days. Some businesses extended casual-dress days to Thursday, and even Wednesday; others required neckties only on Monday (to start the work week). At the furniture company IKEA, neckties are not allowed.
An extreme example of anti-necktie sentiment is found in Iran, whose theocratic rulers have denounced the accessory as a decadent symbol of Western oppression. In the late 1970s (at the time of the Islamic Revolution) members of the US press even metonymized Iran's hardliners as turbans and its moderates as neckties. To date, most Iranian men have retained the Western-style long-sleeved collared shirt and three-piece suit, while excluding the necktie.
Many clubs, associations, schools, churches and businesses will have custom woven and printed ties manufactured in specific colors, patterns and designs to signify membership. They are available internationally from companies like Bowler & Blake and American fashion designer Marisol Deluna in addition to their own signature collections.
For 60 years, designers and manufacturers of neckties were members of the Men's Dress Furnishings Association but the trade group shut down in 2008 due to declining membership due to the declining numbers of men wearing neckties.
According to an independent survey , some of the finest designers and manufacturers available in the U.S.A. are: