It's one of the vital pieces of attire for business people across the world - but where did ties come from?
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It’s weird when you think about ties – imagine describing them to someone who’s never heard of them. Generally speaking, they’re decorative. A tie won’t keep you warm the way a scarf would. And, depending on the material, it’s not going to be a good napkin, mop or towel. We just tie these things around our necks and walk around as if to say “that’s right, world, I’m doing important stuff today”.
Beginning in the early 1600s, both Louis XIII and his successor Louis XIV used Croatian mercenaries during various battles. These mercenaries wore scarves or knotted neckerchiefs as part of their uniforms – finer material for officers, and more coarse for the rank and file. The scarves did have a function, in that they likely helped tie jackets together, but the King was more impressed by the mercenaries’ fashion sense. And he wasn’t the only one.
Over the next few years the scarves – which were called ‘cravates’ or cravats, swept across France. They were more comfortable than the starched linen ruffs that had been the norm, because they were loose and less restricting. As these cravats became more popular with the wealthy, they also became more intricate, with new materials like lace, increasingly sophisticated knots and so on. The cravat soon spread to other countries, earning fans like England’s Charles II.
Of course, at this point there were numerous variations on the original cravat, but these didn’t look like the relatively slim, modern ties we see today. We didn’t even call them ties. During the reign of Louis XIV the original cravat gave way to a variation called ‘the Steinkirk’, which had a single knot and a narrow shape. As the years turned into decades and the decades in centuries, the tie continued to evolve and we created variations like the bowtie.
Here’s a weird tangent: Do you remember the song “Yankee Doodle Dandy”? There’s a part in there where the verse goes “stuck a feather in his cap and called it macaroni”. Turns out that’s more than just a nonsensical rhyme. “Macaroni”, you see, described a specific type of fashion sense, and the men who subscribed to it.
In the late 1700s a group of controversial fashion aficionados known as ‘macaronis’ began tying their neckwear in certain knots and styles to indicate their tastes, which reportedly led to their cravats simply being called ties.
There are hundreds of other interesting things about ties aside from their evolution, which continues today. You can thousands of sources telling you how, where and why a tie should be worn a specific way – as well as why it shouldn’t. While their popularity may wax and wane over the decades, which is the case with most fashion accessories, it seems that ties – or something like them – are here to stay.
Croatian Mercenary photo is licensed under Creative Commons:
I, Modzzak [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5-2.0-1.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5-2.0-1.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
"Yankee Doodle" is in the public domain. This recording was performed by the United States Army Chorus and is also in the public domain.
The Straight Dope: “What is, or was, the purpose of men’s neckties?” http://www.straightdope.com/columns/read/439/what-is-or-was-the-purpose-of-mens-neckties
“Evolution of the necktie” http://www.tie-a-tie.net/blog/the-evolution-of-the-necktie/
Croatian History: “The Tie” http://www.croatianhistory.net/etf/cravate.html
“Academia Cravatica” http://academia-cravatica.hr/interesting-facts/history/
Tieroom History: http://www.tieroom.com/necktie-history