Tying cloth around one’s neck began long before Borrelli, Brioni, and Burberry – as far back as Ancient China, Egypt and Rome. But a fabric square is no tie. Although not quite a tie either, the cravat is considered granddaddy of the accessory in question. When Croatian soldiers arrived in 1600’s France during the Thirty Years’ War, they brought a curious fashion trend: they tied thin bands of linen around their necks. Impressed, the French adopted the fashion, dubbing it “cravate” – from “Croat” - and the style soon spread throughout Europe (because – honestly – anything is better than a ruff).
With the Industrial Revolution came a new demand for simple, reliable neckwear that would last the workday. Finally, the modern necktie was born. The English called it the four in hand, because of its knot’s similarity to a common horse rein tie by the same name. By 1926, New York tie-maker Jesse Langsdorf created the three-segment necktie; its width's fluctuated over time, and popular patterns have come and gone, but the Langsdorf tie remains the tie worn today.
Regardless of the decade, tie knots have been a crucial fashion consideration. The four-in-hand knot mentioned above is the original and easiest to tie, although some criticize it for looking lazy and uneven. The Pratt or Shelby knot is a little more symmetrical and works well for most occasions. The half-Windsor is slighty thicker than the Pratt, with a more polished, formal look. Finally, the Full- or Doulbe-Windsor is thickest and most formal, but also considerably more complex to tie.
Although ties have become less everyday and more formal, they remain a powerful cultural symbol. During the Feminist Movement, women would wear ties to stake their claim to previously male-dominated social spheres. Conversely, some non-Western countries abhor ties as a symbol of Western oppression; even some Western companies ban neckwear, regarding it as stuck-up and stiff. This might seem like a lot of emotion over an accessory, but it only proves how meaningful parts of our culture can become – even a simple strip of fabric.