For most people, the tie or bowtie is simply a fashion item or daily work attire, but have you ever stopped to think about where it came from and when? Believe it or not, the humble tie has an interesting past!
Ties seem to have been first worn by Chinese soldiers some thousands of years back. The Xian terracotta sculptures discovered in 1974 shows that the soldiers of the first Chinese Emperor, Qin Shih Huang, wore ties. The sculptures of the soldiers show a neck cloth around each soldier’s neck. The history after Emperor Qin Shih Huang does not show the use of neck tie in China whatsoever.
The necktie reappears in the rule of Emperor Trajan of the Roman Empire. Trajan ruled from 98 to 117AD. As a military genius, he led to a great expansion of the Roman Empire and his renowned military conquest of Dacia is immortalized in the Trajan marble column erected in 113 AD. Thousands of soldiers are shown wearing all sorts of neckwear. Similar to the Chinese case, no history around that era shows other Roman soldiers wearing neckties. Thus both situations suggest that ties must have been used as a sign of honor to befitting personalities.
Croatian soldiers supporting the French King Louis XIII during the Thirty Years War are the next to be seen with colorful knotted neckties after Trajan’s army. So it is during this era, so called the Middle Ages, when ties started spreading as a fashion. Louis XIV came to the throne when ties had already become fashionable in France. The trend had already passed from the Croatian military to the French military and finally to the ordinary French people. Ties were seen in the streets in different colors in various fabrics. Some people believe that the French “cravat” for the neckties must have been a corruption of “Croat.”
The evolution of the tie
It would take another few hundreds of years for the cravat to evolve into the thin strip of cloth we current regard as the tie. The cravat found its way to England in 1660 after Charles II reclaimed his throne. Aristocrats from exile came back with cravats which soon became the trend of the day, spreading even to English colonies. It became a stylish add on to a well dressed gentleman, with people wearing it in every conceivable color and style. There soon were cravats of ribbon, ruffled collars, tasseled strings, embroidered linen, cotton and lace.
In the 18th Century, wearing a tie became the height of fashion will all men donning ties regardless of status. The century marked the most rapid spread of the tie craze. Early the following century, Napoleon Bonaparte wore a white cravat during the battle of Waterloo in honor of the Duke of Wellington, who liked the color during the war. It was around that time that the word “tie” was coined from the fact the cravats were tied around the neck.
By 1818, ties were already widespread and the book “The Neckclothitania” was published to satirize the elaborate styles of tying and wearing the cravat. “The Art of Tying the Cravat” by, H. Le Blanc followed in 1828, demonstrating 32 different styles of wearing the cravat, in 16 lessons.
By the 1920s Jesse Langsdorf produced the design that runs till today. The only thing that has changed back and forth is the width, length or brilliance of the colors.
Nowadays, shopping online for ties and accessories is normal for most men. Who would have thought over 2000 years ago!
This article is bought to you by The Tie Boutique.