A necktie can be worn as an expression of personality or more simply as a means of refining and adding formality to an outfit. Ties are a staple of style and for the last few centuries have been a part of most men’s daily wardrobe.
The humble necktie has a long history, dating back to China’s first emperor Qin Shi Huang, who is best known for being buried alongside his army of terracotta warriors. The young emperor was paranoid about the afterlife and when he came into power at age 13 in 246 BC, he started construction on his tomb. Approximately 8000 life size terracotta warriors were manufactured to guard over his body with horses, chariots and 40,000 real bronze weapons at their side. The warriors all wore a terracotta neck cloth, one of the first recorded forerunners of the modern day tie.
Modern references of the necktie take us to medieval Europe where the fashion-conscious Parisians were captivated by traditional neckerchiefs worn by Croatian mercenaries serving in the French military. The neckerchiefs were worn as a symbol of belonging to a particular faction or group, a tradition still seen in clubs and schools today. This exciting new garment was referred to as a ‘cravat’ by the French and worn publicly by King Louis XIV in 1650, sparking a fashion craze with men and women all over France wearing lace cravats in an effort to appear chic.
The evolution of the cravat took place gradually, shaped in part by the 1692 battle of Steenkerque during which French soldiers were forced to fight with rumpled cravats that were hastily tucked into their button holes, as the result of a surprise attack. This style of cravat became known as the Steinkirk, and in altering the traditional threading of the fabric, took an important step closer to the modern necktie.
During the industrial revolution, clothing in general became less decorative and more functional. Our modern day necktie was born in slimmer silhouettes, which were easier to fasten and less likely to come undone. The morning chore of attaching a tie became a thing of the past and cemented the enduring popularity of knots such as the simple four-in-hand, aka ‘School Boy.’