Tie / Necktie / Neckwear Definition -  Definitions for the Clothing & Textile Industry

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A necktie (usually just called a tie) is a piece of material worn around the neck. The modern necktie's original name was the four-in-hand tie. It is usually a dress requirement for businessmen and probably the most common father's gift in the world. The modern necktie along with the Ascot and the bowtie are all descended from the cravat.


A cravat is the neckband that was the forerunner of the modern tailored necktie. From the end of the 16th century the term "band" applied to any long strip of cloth worn round the neck that was not a "ruff." The ruff itself had started its career in the earlier 16th century as a starched and pleated strip of white linen that could be freshly changed to keep the neck of a doublet from getting increasingly grimy. A "band" could indicate a plain attached shirt collar or a detached "falling band" that draped over the doublet collar.

The modern form of the "cravat" originated in the 1630s. Like most male fashions between the 17th century and World War I, it had a military origin. During the reign of Louis XIII of France, Croatian mercenaries enlisted in a regiment that supported the King and Richelieu against the Duc de Guise and the Queen Mother, Marie de Medici. The traditional outfit of these Croats aroused curiosity in Paris on account of the unusual and picturesque scarves distinctively tied about their necks. The scarves were made of various cloths, ranging from coarse material for common soldiers, to fine linen and silk for officers. The word 'cravat' comes from the French cravate, and many sources state that this is a corruption of "Croat," or "Hrvat," as it is said in Croatian. However there is evidence that the word was in use in France in the 14th century and in Italy in 16th century. In one of his ballads, the French writer Eustache Deschamps (c. 1340-1407), used the phrase 'faites restraindre sa cravate' (pull his cravat tighter). Considering the interdependency of many European regions (particularly the French) with the Venetian Empire, and the fact that this empire at one time occupied the bulk of the Croatian coast, that type of cross-culturalization would not be unprecedented. Whatever the origin of the word the new form of dress became known as a cravate and the French were quite ready to give up the starched linen ruffs, that they had been wearing and adopt the new fashion of loose cravates made of linen or muslin with broad edges of lace.

On his return to England from exile in 1660, Charles II brought with him this new word in fashion:

A cravatte is another kind of adornment for the neck being nothing else but a long towel put about the Collar, and so tyed before with a Bow Knott; this is the original of all such Wearings; but now by the Art and Inventions of the seamsters, there is so many new ways of making them, that it would be a task to name, much more to describe them.

Randle Holme, Academy of Armory and Blazon, 1688.

A gentleman's cravat would be made of fine lace. Grinling Gibbons the famous carver and sculptor, made a highly realistic one, carved out of a piece of white limewood.

During the wars of Louis XIV of 1689 - 1697, the flowing cravat was replaced, except for court occasions, by the more current and equally military Steinkirk, named for the battle in Flanders of 1692. The Steinkirk was a long narrow, plain or lightly trimmed neckcloth worn with military dress, wrapped just once about the neck in a loose knot, with a lace of fringed ends that were twisted together and tucked out of the way into the button-hole (of either a coat or a waistcoat) The steinkirk proved to be popular with both men and women until the 1720s.

The Macaronis reintroduced the flowing cravat in the 1770s and the manner of tying one became a matter of personal taste and style, to the extent that after Waterloo, the neckwear itself was increasingly referred to as a "tie".

Bow tie

See article on bowties.


In the United States an ascot is another name for a cravat but in Britain it refers to different sort of a formal neckwear. The Ascot has a narrow neckband and wide wings that are folded over and held firm with a pin. The Ascot became popular in the 1880s, when it began to be worn by the upper-middle classes on formal occasions, notably the Royal Ascot race meeting from which it takes its name.


The four-in-hand tie became fashionable in Britain in the 1850s. Early ties were simple rectangular strips of cloth cut on the square with square ends. The name four-in-hand originally described a carriage with four horses and one driver. Later it became the name of a Gentlemen's club in London. Some reports state that the carriage drivers tied their reins with a four-in-hand knot (see below) whilst others claim that the carriage drivers wore their scarves in the manner of a four-in-hand, but the most likely explanation is that members of the club began to wear the new style of neckwear making it fashionable. In the later half of the 19th century the four-in-hand knot and the four-in-hand tie were synonymous. As stiff collars gave way to soft turned down collars the four-in-hand gained popularity. With its increasing dominance, the term four-in-hand fell out of usage and it was simply called a 'long tie' or a 'tie'.

In 1926 Jesse Langsdorf from New York introduced ties cut on the diagonal which meant that the tie fell evenly from the knot without twisting.

There are four main knots used. The simplest, the four-in-hand knot, is probably used by the vast majority of tie wearers. The other three (in order of difficulty) are the Pratt knot (also known as the Shelby knot), the Half-Windsor knot and the Windsor knot. The Windsor knot is named after the Duke of Windsor, although he himself did not use it. The Duke favoured a thick knot and achieved this result by having ties specially made of thicker material. In the late 1990s two researchers (Thomas Fink and Yong Mao) of Cambridge University's Cavendish Laboratory used mathematical modelling to discover that it is possible to tie 85 different knots with a conventional tie. They found that in addition to the four well-known knots, 6 other knots produced aesthetically pleasing results.

Today, ties are part of the formal clothing of males in both Western and non-Western societies, particularly in business. They have also found their way into the outfits of fashionably trail blazing females. Generally it is a thick swath made from silk or cotton, and is tied around the collar.

Power tie

In the 1980s, US President Ronald Reagan was known for his red power tie, as much a virility symbol in American corporate culture as a red convertible has been in the culture at large. Oscar Wilde said "a well-tied tie is the first serious step in life".

Many of the revolutionaries of the 20th century showed solidarity with the Workers by refusing ties. Stalin and Mao wore clothing that buttoned all the way to the neck, Nehru wore a nehru jacket and Kim Il Sung follows suit. But in 1998, when the Pope visited Cuba, and Fidel Castro abandoned his fatigues for a suit and tie.

Christopher Caggiano asked in Inc Magazine, December 1997, "Does anyone still wear a power tie?" as Casual Fridays had been extended through the week, especially among smaller, privately-owned businesses in the information-technology-services area. "Power tie" in the 1990s connoted a gift for a lawyer with scales and gavels in the print. But by 2004 power ties were experiencing a resurgence. A squib by reporter Paige Wiser in the Chicago Sun-Times August 5, 2004, "The pink power tie" made an observation that the power tie of the moment was pink. Fortune advised "Grab Your Power Tie: The 1980s Are Back."

Learn more about ties.

Bow Ties

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