Wednesday, July 1, 2015

BOOK NOTE: The Tie: A Global History

The Tie: A Global History
Scheideggar & Spiess, hard cover,  280 pages
148 color illustrations, 25 halftones, $70.

The not-so-humble necktie has had its ups and downs, as a symbol of conformity, self-expression, status, sophistication, authority and outrageousness. It is the single traditionally male accessory that can seamlessly pull together or stridently sabotage the wearer's look. Appearing first in the 17th century, as the Croatian Cravat, it wove its way through many incarnations, including the military Steinkirk, the frilly Jabot, the floppy Lavalliere, and the sleek, no-nonsense Long TieAs The Tie: A Global History makes clear, the necktie has remained an oddly compelling bit of haberdashery for nearly 500 years.

The lacy jabot (rhymes with aglow):
what the well-heeled highlander
  wore in the late 17th century.
Some female justices on the US
Supreme Court wear them today.
                                                                                                             The ever-suave Fred Astaire
                                                                                                                         in a long tie

The Tie is published by the Swiss National Museum in Zürich and coincides with a major exhibition there. (Textile production, particularly silk and taffeta, looms larges in Zürich's legend; many of the images in the book come from the museum's own vast collection.) The fascinating volume is filled with wide-ranging essays by international scholars, journalists and fashion historians, who lend their voices to an exhaustive study of the shapes, colors, history, aesthetics and social implications of this phenomenon. Lighthearted chapters such as "Rock ‘n’ Roll Ties" and "The Tie in Women’s Fashion" balance out a more academic discussion of the necktie's long history, and the predominance of Switzerland as a source both of designers and fine textiles.

Above and below: Textile patterns from the
Swiss National Museum's collection
The necktie -- it's not just for men any more!

Christopher Makos

Andy Warhol Altered Image, 1981

Diane Keaton created a much-imitated new look for her role in "Annie Hall" (1977)

Born wearing a necktie?
Who is this man, anyway?

For lots more info on ties -- including photos and tips on bargains
that can be found on some very stylish items -- visit my webmaster
Aaron Doucett's blog, The Thrifty Prep.


  1. Very nice article

  2. One interesting facet of the necktie is how the "standard" width that is considered fashionable has oscillated through the decades. It seems that the newly accepted widths are stylish just long enough before fashion turns on itself (as it tends to do) and what once was "trendy" would be mocked for it's out-of-dateness.

    From my studies in the subject, I have determined the following "trends" in tie widths:

    1920's: Very short and wide..Bow ties more common
    1930's: Ties became longer, somewhat average width. Art-deco designs
    1940's: Ties became wider, more vivid, printed designs
    1950's: Mid-50's led to very skinny ties, and more conservatively designed.
    1960's: Early 60's mod influence. A clash in style between 50's conformism and 60's expressionism
    1970's: ties increasing in width,. getting uglier
    1980's: wide ties popular. ~4"+ widths common
    1990's: slowly starting to slim, 3.5" standard
    2000's: Slimmer than the 1990's, and generally less awful
    2010's: "skinny" ties again popular

    So who knows if we will ever get back to wide ties again, but as you can see it has certainly been inconsistent across the past 100 years. I sadly predict the trend will go towards "no ties" as the average "hip" workplace dress-code gravitates toward flipflops and t-shirts from pressed suits and leather shoes. But who knows!

    1. I enjoyed your analysis, Aaron. I wonder if it would be possible to create an animation demonstrating the changes in necktie styles over the past 100 years (length, width, popular colors and textile patterns.) If anyone could do it, YOU could!