The origin of neckties is not just a fashion story but a 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.  Modern ties are a form of self-artistic expression.

The necktie was invented in Croatia, or at least that is where the idea of neck cloth tied as a necktie of sorts can be traced back as widely used in history. 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.

However, 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. There are accounts of neck cloths tied as a form of necktie much earlier in civilization. There is also a clear-cut relationship between fashion on one hand, and power and wealth on the other. Fashion generally follows power and wealth and without the 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.


Earlier neckwear?  The Terracotta army dressed in ties...
The history of ties also considers other discoveries by archeologists and historians. As a result of excavation in China in 1970, the so-called "Terracotta Army of the first Emperor of China" challenges the claim by the 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 them 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.

Between 101 - 106 BC, 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 a "necktie" as it is common thought that the fashion rule of Rome kept necks free of cloth.


Fast forward to the 1600s

Besides the Croatians, 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, but it was not "accepted attire" at court as old standing customs governed fashion. That changed when the Queen Mother Anne of Austria ( born in Spain ) died.   When King Louis XIV took the throne, the wearing of a cravat became acceptable.  It’s said that King Louis XIV’s 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 cravat, 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 Windsor Knot – what most people today use to tie their tie comes to us from England and the Duke of 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 (but not the tie) along with the crown jewels.  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.  His brother took the  throne and the title ‘Duke of Windsor’ was given to him. Edward captivated the world with his sacrifice of the throne for love. He sported the symmetrical necktie knot and he was given for the Windsor Tie Knot.   


The necktie reached its present form in 1924...

And the modern tie as we know it evolved from this form. The necktie shrank or expanded in width every 15 years or so 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 – although they were introduced at first as a joke.  The 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 from a man's neck.

The 80's saw the "Power Tie" but the 90's saw casual dress take its toll on ties, however they remained a statement of being serious about business but also being personal and sometimes even silly. The silly side gave way to fun novelty theme ties, like Mark Abramhoff's patent of the fish shaped tie.  Novelty neckties illustrating hobbies, Van Gogh and Monet art work, Elvis, and Marilyn Monroe, and oddly enough Harley Davidson Motor Cycles became wildly popular in the 90's.  Ties also were inspired by popular music, the comics, movies and Endangered Species themes and were the rage of non-conservative dress.  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.  A variety of avant-garde styled ties became popular with men that wanted to be noticed.

After the Millennium necktie design turned conservative taking a turn back to rep stripes. And after the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, neck wear retailers and manufacturers answered the call of patriotism with patriotic ties. The seriousness of the state of Geo-political climate attributed to conservative dress.  However by 2009, recession 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.

Not only have ties have become tradition, they are an important element of men's fashion - 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…

References: Necktie History - Wikipedia
TIME Magazine - a brief history of the Necktie

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