The art of tying a piece of material around your neck in the name of fashion did not come about until around 1650. Part of the Croatian military uniform, King Louis XIV of France embraced the scarf-like material around their neck as fashionable attire and named it ‘La Cravate’.
In these earlier periods, cravats were often similar to scarves and tucked into buttonholes, but by 1818 were popular enough that a book, Neckclothitania, was published that illustrated 14 different ways to tie one. It marked the initial use of the word ‘tie’ in reference to men’s neckwear, which by the mid 19th century had replaced the word ‘cravat’ on a mass scale.
Before the turn of the century, the first mass-produced ready-made ties
had been patented and were increasingly popular worldwide. It was not until the 1920s, however, that the style was finally picked up on by couturiers. The first designer ties were created in France from luxury materials and adorned with exquisite patterns.
The Four-in-hand knot, also known as the Schoolboy knot, is the simplest method used to and is the most popular, often referred to as the only know you need to know. The Windsor knot, which is the wider triangular shaped knot, did not appear until 1936 when the Duke of Windsor, King Edward VIII, needed a better knot to tie his thicker ties. This has become a very popular choice, often simplified into the half-Windsor, suitable for most occasions.
Over the 20th century, ties changed frequently with the differing trends of the time. After the invention of the Windsor knot, thicker ties were the norm up until the 1950s, when, with the Mod and Teddy Boy subcultures, skinnier plain ties came into fashion.
What celebrities were seen wearing started to shape fashion trends worldwide in this period. In the classic 1967 film, Bonnie and Clyde, Warren Beaty’s starring role wore white ties over dark shirts. The old-school American gangster style fell into the public mainstream and was everywhere. Similarly, when Elvis Presley swapped his plain black tie for a kipper – a much wider style often in garish colours and patterns – his fans followed suit.
Today, we are accustomed to slightly wider than those of the 1950s and 60s, but much finer than a kipper. They are a lot more colourful and available in a vast array of patterns, prints and fabrics, but a classic darker wool or silk style reigns supreme.