The necktie as a fashion accessory has undergone many dramatic transformation since its first use in the early 1600; in fact the neckties of antiquity bear little resemblance to today's modern necktie (or bow tie).
Early Inception and Mutations
At the time of the Thirty Years War, Croatian mercenaries wore small neckerchiefs knotted around their necks while in the service of the French. This caught on with their French comrades and before long a modified style of neck-wear known as the cravat spread like wildfire across Europe. The cravat is more of a generic term used to describe any piece of cloth worn around the neck for decoration. In fact what started as a simple strip of fabric tied around the neck in the early 1600's became complex strips of lace that took much time and effort to properly wear by the late 17th century.
A subset of the cravat became popular on the battlefields of France in the early 1700's where soldiers would quickly twist together the ends of their cravats and tuck the twisted fabric into their shirts. In many ways this brief return to simplicity was a foreshadowing of the modern necktie.
The mid to late 1800's brought a renewed interest in the proper wear of the cravat and many books on the proper wear of and tying techniques were published. This is notable because at this time the noun “tie” started gaining foothold as a replacement for cravats.
The Modern Tie
The modern tie (long-tie) and bow-tie as we know them today came about in the late 1800's and early 1900's with the industrial revolution. The intensely laborious factory jobs created by the revolution necessitated a piece of neck wear that was quick and easy to put on and stayed secure throughout an entire work shift. Because of these requirements the overly elaborate cravat lost popular appeal and the modern tie became the regular mainstay.
Little has changed with the long-tie and bow-tie since their rise to popularity during the industrial revolution. New construction techniques (like bias cutting or fabric lining) have made for more robust and versatile accessories, clip on attachers have replaced the need to actually tie a tie (though are considered tacky and not often used); the basics however have remained unchanged and are unlikely to in the foreseeable future. Other derivations of the tie such as the bolo or the ascot occasionally rise and fall in popularity; changes to the look and feel of men’s ties themselves, however, are not on the horizon.
Other Suggested Readings:
How to Clean a Silk Tie – A guide on the best cleaning techniques for silk
The History of Silk – Read the interesting story about silk, when silk was first made, how it is made, what it is used for, modern production techniques, and much more.
How to Tie a Tie – Our guide with illustration on six of the most popular necktie knots.