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The Necktie: Whence it came



NeckwearThe most creative of men’s sartorial finishing touches—the necktie—is as much historical curiosity as modern fashion statement. Where men’s fashion remains, on the whole, understated, the necktie boasts a proud flamboyance in the midst of an otherwise sedate wardrobe. How is it that the necktie has come to be the exception to the rule, as it were, in men’s fashion?

Neckwear was first worn as part of the uniform of Roman soldiers in the first century A.D. From the seventeenth to late nineteenth centuries, neckwear usually took the form of a long strip of cloth wound around the neck and tied in a knot. This neckwear variant went by many names: steinkirks, neckcloths, cravats, scarves, and bandanas. Cravats were extremely popular, and the method of tying the cravat became a contest in creativity that could, in the nineteenth century, cement a man’s reputation as a dandy. One man, Beau Brummell, was so well-known for his fantastically tied cravats that his name was later used as a necktie brand in the mid-twentieth century.

Brummell (public domain image)

Beau Brummell

By the end of the 1800’s, neckties, ascots, and bowties ruled the day. The “tie” as we know it today was patented in the mid 1920’s by Jesse Langsdorf. His patent changed the cut of the tie to help ease the process of wrapping the tie around the neck and tying the knot, in addition to adding a touch of comfort. Now ties are cut from a fabric with a woven or printed design into three pieces “on the bias” (diagonally) and sewn together.

With the plethora of movies and television series set during the prohibition era, we are currently seeing a resurgence in vintage fashion.  So next week we’ll analyze the neckties of the 1920s to the 1930s. We’ll take a look at how to identify these ties as well as how to integrate them into a modern wardrobe.

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