A brief look at the modern history of the tie. And some other things that might be of interest.
The true origin of the tie is somewhat muddled and depends on the definition of said object. If you take a more loose stance towards it, you’ll end up in Rome before the Trajanus column which is the oldest portrait of a man in something that loosely resembles a tie. The so called “focale” came from the Roman legionnaires who used what we nowadays would call a scarf to protect throat and neck from dirt and dust during long marches towards frontiers to quell barbarous insurgency. A nice image to mull over as you, casually, tie a four in hand knot in front of the mirror.
In the early eighteen hundreds George Bryan Brummel (a.k.a Beau Brummel) devised a new style, a starched linnen scarf tied around the neck. Legend has it that Brummel always had a large amount of starched scarfs in case he should be mispleased with the fashioning of the knot at which point he would simply chose a new scarf and tried again.
If you want a more modern version, the one patented by Jesse Langsdorf in the middle of the 1920:s, will probably be more recognisable. This blueprint of the modern tie was not only cut 45° contrary to the fibres of the material, but the tie was also made by three separate pieces of cloth. This made it less flimsy in comparison to its predecessors. Before this innovation ties were cut by the lenght of the fibre, which meant that the knot would leave ugly marks on the tie after wearing and consequently made it less durable. The genius of the more modern construction is clear as the same technique is used in most ties to this day.
In 1880 the members of a faculty at Oxford University agreed to wearing the ribbon usually found in their straw hats (please don’t ask…) around their necks. The rush of students and faculty members at the local tailor must´ve been quite notable and soon the practice was popularised at several other institutions and clubs. This style was later picked up by the middleclasses to signal succes and wealth. The patterned tie popularised at this time (turn of the century) was called the Macclesfield tie… Probably because it was produced in Macclesfield which, at the time, was the Mecca for the processing of raw silk from the Orient.
The modern club tie signals a connection to a prestigious institution/club and it might be suitable to take this into consideration before buying one. Maybe a bit of research into the background of the pattern of the tie? Of course no one could be faulted for wearing a pattern because of purely aesthetic reasons. In fact juxtaposing these kind of symbols could, if you´re clever enough, be quite entertaining, but then again I’m not British. A great favourite of mine is the pattern of the Life Guards. Nice big bold stripes.
What to Look For
If you’re not an expert in the exciting field of how to determine the quality of cloth, it might be a good idea to feel the fabric of the tie you’re going to purchase. You’ll need to when you tie it anyway. Test the fabric in the same way you might test the fabric of a suit. Pinch it and see if it leaves a permanent mark/wrinkle. Be moderate. Shopassistants will have seen this before, but they might not be so patient if you start flogging the tie against a chairleg. You basically have two choices: silk or wool. Traditionally a silk tie is the safest bet. The wool tie is more popular in certain regions than in others. Due consideration needs to be spent on how you match fabrics in an ensemble. No surprises there. Though it might be worth to note that some wool ties lend themselves better to certain collars and tie knots. If in doubt try it in front of a mirror with differing collars and knots. What is most pleasant to you is probably down to taste
You might like to buy a handmade tie. Actually for a tie to be called handmade, the only seam that has to be made by hand, is the mid inner seam (that connects the three different parts of your noose). A tailormade tie has the advantage of being perfectly adjusted to your build and the shirt/s you’re going to wear it with. The biggest pro (I believe) is that if you’re able to decide the thickness of the liner you can also decide the style of the knot. Let me rephrase: if you want a big knot get a tie with thicker lining, don´t tie the knot in a more elaborate way to get that eyecatching result.
It might also strike your fancy to purchase an all silk or 100% cashmere tie. These are not in effect purely made of aforementioned materials, as the interlaying liner will in all probabilty not be in the same material as the “shell fabric”. There are of course exceptions like the seven-fold-tie. This tie is made from a quadratic piece of cloth and is shaped by folding seven times. No liner to make up the bulk of your tie.
The term selftipping tie, means that the two ends of the tie are lined with the same material as the ties shell fabric is made of. This is more often than not the trademark of Italian ties.
A knit tie is a very nice alternative to the standards. You’ve almost certainly seen several nice photos of stylish actors and artists in these kind of ties. Knit ties will almost always have a “blunt” end.
These ties not only look good, but are also quite practical as you usually find that it is a lot easier to tie these and get a symmetrical tie-knot. Quite often the part that you actually tie around your neck is made slimmer, which means it’ll fit perfectly underneath most collars.
Ties should be treated like shoes, ie. let your favourite tie rest quite often. If you do find that a night about town has wrinkled your favourite, either hang it in the bathroom after you´ve showered or carefully roll it around the width of your palm. You’ll find it in better shape in the morning. Never wash a tie. And if you do leave it to the drycleaners, be warned: you just might get those telltale flat edges resulting from ironing. This will ruin the appearance of any nicely made tie. If you do find yourself with a soiled/dirty tie you might be able to save it with a stain remover. Try the agent on a part of the tie that doesn´t show when you´ve tied it to make sure that the remover doesn’t bleach the tie.
[Published 18 October 2001]
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