«A well-chosen tie, like exquisite perfume, varnishes the entire suit, it plays the same role for the suit, as truffles for lunch.. Looking at the tie, we can judge on the person who is wearing it; to know a person, it is sufficient to have a look at that his part which is between his head and chest.»
Honore de Balzac
«The art of wearing a tie», 1827
Tie (German Halstuch, which means the neckerchief) – a strip of cloth tied around the neck. Used as a decoration, accessory.
The history of a tie began in ancient times. It is known that the Egyptians emphasized their social status by a piece of a rectangular cloth thrown over the shoulders. And the soldiers of China and the ancient Romans tied scarves around the neck, which resembled the modern tie-in shape. The word “tie” is translated from German as “neck-wear” or “scarf.”
And when in 1635 the Croatian soldiers defeated the Turkish Janissaries, they were introduced to the court of King Louis XIV. The king loved colorful Croatian scarves, and this was the reason why ties became very fashionable in France. And indeed, the French word “cravatte”, meaning a tie, is very close to the word “Croat.”
In the XVIII century, the “tie” became a single article of clothing, representing a neckcloth with long lace ends. It was only in the second half of the XIX century, when it obtained familiar shape and size. About a hundred ways of tying a necktie were invented in England.
Those men who wore a big bow in “Byron style”, were romanticists, like the famous dandy and poet Lord Byron.
When someone was talked that he was wearing a “Walter Scott” tie, that meant that a tie was made of tartan fabric: such a tie witnessed a passion for historical novels of the famous Scot.
Lovers of blue ties with white polka dots – so-called “Belcher” ties – need to know that this pattern meant a passion for the sport. Jem Belcher, a docker, worked in the port of London in the days of Byron. He was distinguished for his excellent boxing skills. A piece of fabric in polka dots on the neck of a local celebrity introduced a new fashion, which, however, became widespread only in the end of XIX century.
A black silk tie was of two types – a “Talma”, named after the French tragedian François Talma, and a “tragic” tie.
All of those ties were more bows than ties. To adorn oneself with such a tie one had to fold a scarf diagonally into a strip, put the wider part of it to the throat, cross the ends behind the neck, and tie them in a bow at the front.
To keep the shape of a tie, men resorted to various tactics. For example, some wore a stiffener to the front of the tie. Stiffeners were made of whalebone, quilted fabric or bristle.
White ties from thin fabrics were designed for special occasions and colourful ties for everyday wear. Usually, they were made of silk or fine wool.
A man’s suit was gradually getting simplified and a dinner suit was no more daily wear, so the shape of the tie was to be changed, too. Outdoor activities of the British upper classes resulted in turning of a tie, which looked more like a headscarf, into a ribbon tie.
To some young people that tie seemed too complicated. It is said that one of the annual regatta participants decided not to get bothered with tying and untying his tie and he cut it in the back hoping to bind the ends later. This is how a “regatta” tie came into a light – for those who didn’t strive for elegance.
The same holds true for the “Ascot” tie with straight ends and a ready knot which was worn to visit the royal races in Ascot.
Rigorous science finds a clear connection between “Victoria” and “Albert” tie knots. But there is no historical evidence that the Prince – Queen Victoria’s husband wore a tie, the knot of which was named in his honour. Another myth is associated with Edward VIII (1894-1972), who got the title of the Duke of Windsor after abdication. His was considered a legislator in men’s fashion – very popular were pullovers, socks and boutonnieres in his style. However, “Windsor” and “Half-Windsor” tie knots were worn by many, but most probably, not by the Duke of Windsor. Although in general, in all times it’s been up to people to imitate celebrities’ style, ways of tying a tie knot, its colour and width.
The width of the tie is subject to frequent changes, but a classic tie should not be wider than eight inches. Usually, it varies with the proportions of a jacket, or rather, with the lapels width. The fashion of the XX century experienced a fascination with narrow ties (up to five centimetres) and very wide ones (up to thirteen).
The ribbon tie initially was a cause of worry for many men. It was made from a single piece of fabric in a grain-line and the knot often shifted and untied. Only in 1926, a New Yorker named Jess Lengsdorf found a remarkable solution to get rid of pins and clamps – he offered to cut ties on the bias, which made them resilient. In addition, from now on the tie was made of three parts. Unfold your own tie – and you can see how efficient and easy it is designed.
For special occasions, it is often required an unusual tie – a bow tie. The history of its appearance is not quite common, too. The bow of the steinkirk was called “Butterfly wings” and it was tied accordingly. It didn’t look like a modern bow-tie.
Its story begins in 1904 and relates to the first production of Giacomo Puccini’s opera “Madame Butterfly” (“Cio-Cio-San”). A year earlier, in 1903, the opera’s first night failed miserably. The composer had taken into account the claims of music critics and substantially edited the score. For marketing purposes before the next performance, it was announced that there was a surprise for the audience. Indeed, all the musicians were wearing bow ties, which from now on became immensely fashionable.
By the end of the twentieth century a “black tie”, or – “Black Bow” – had come to mean a tuxedo as a compulsory men’s attire for guests. And a white tie (“white bow”) – means a tailcoat.
However, bows are worn with casual jackets, too. Moreover, they can be made not only from silk or rep but also from wool, with a variety of patterns from tartan to polka dots.
Currently, the average European has a wardrobe of about 20 neckties. And every day about 600 million people in the world wear a tie.