For centuries man has worn some form of attire around their neck when wanting to look smart for some type of occasion. As the shirt has evolved so has the neck wear being designed to suit, and fit, modern types of shirts that have proven popular.
Before shirts came into fashion ruffs were worn by the gentry. These were starched neck bands that would be attached to different outfits and would act like a bib. In time they were replaced by the cravat. This was the forerunner to the modern-day ties. The cravat consists of a separate piece of cloth that is worn around the neck similar to a modern day scarf. They were worn mainly by the Croats and it was believed that the main purpose was to hide food stains on the shirts.
During the thirty years war between 1618 and 1648 the Croats started to wear the cravats as ties and from this date it encouraged other types of head and neck wear with bandanas and scarves appearing in battles. As the industrial revolution emerged the owners and managers wanted to look smart going into work and gradually the cravats became thinner and they were regularly knotted. The new tie was longer and narrower than the old cravat. With the neck tie being narrower it was less likely to come undone during the day’s work.
During this period the ties were knotted in a variety of ways which would often make the wearer look rather scruffy. It wasn’t until the start of the 20th century that there became uniformity in the tying of a knot in a tie. During the 1920’s first the “four-in-hand” knot appeared and then the “Windsor knot” was used. Both knots were believed to be first used by both the Duke of Windsor and his father, George V. The smarter wider knot is the “Windsor Knot” but it is more complicated to tie. The four-in-hand is more widely used as it is quicker and easier to use. Nearly all schoolboys use the knot when wearing their uniforms to school. The disadvantage is if the ties is pulled hard the not tightens firmly and it is difficult to untangle. This has led to the game of “Peanutting” where boys would pull their friends ties as hard as possible.
As time has passed the ties has gone through different fashions. During the 1960s the Liverpool rock band “the Beatles” would regularly wear suits accompanied by narrow ties and this carried on with the mod bands following a similar style. However, during the 1970s the style changed so that the tie was as thick as possible. At school the rebels in each year group would state their intentions by how they wore their tie. The anti-establishment method was to make sure the top button was undone and the tie was as short as possible with the widest knot. To complete the look the shirt would be hanging out
Another form of tie was used in the United States and that was the “Bolo tie”. It was popular in the western part of the country and it simply consisted of a long strip of leather with decorative metal tips. The tie would then be joined by a clasp and worn around the neck along with a smart shirt. The tie that became associated with the smartest occasions was the bow tie and it retains that status today. It was first used during the 18th and 19th centuries by taking a normal neck tie and tying it like a shoelace. As time has evolved so has its look with its width generally becoming standardized.
The most popular bow ties today are the clip on varieties as it takes away the complication of making the tie look its very best. The bow tie is either worn with a normal dress shirt or a wing collared shirt, depending on the fashion at the time.
Ties have played a huge roll in history in making shirts look as good as they possibly can be.