Neckwear dates back 30,000 years when primitive peoples adorned their chests with beads and bangles. Throughout the ages, people continued to wear wood, metal, pearls, feathers, glass, or cloth around their necks. Perhaps the superstition widely believed in the Middle Ages that bodily ills entered one through the throat had something to do with the continued popularity of a protective neckcloth, or perhaps soldiers felt more secure in having their neck covered in battle.
The first neckties, known as cravats, were worn by soldiers in the seventeenth century. According to legend, Croatian mercenaries, after having fought over Turkey, visited Louis XIV in Paris to celebrate their victory. The Sun King was so impressed by the colored silk scarfs the soldiers wore around their necks that he adopted the fashion himself. The mercenaries, called the Royal Cravattes (from the Croatian word kravate), lent their name to what became a popular fashion accessory. The style quickly spread to England after exiled Charles II returned from France, bringing with him his interest in cravats, and they have continued to be a part of men's neckwear since then.
The stock tie, which appeared to be a welltied knot in the front but was actually fastened at the back of the neck, was an alternative to the cravat for almost two hundred years, only to be forgotten by the early 1900s. The modern necktie became the norm in the twentieth century. Ninety-five million ties are sold in the United States annually, generating more than $1.4 billion in retail sales, according to MR Magazine and the Neckwear Association of America's 1992 Handbook.
The most commonly used fibers for the manufacturing of neckties are silk, polyester, wool and wool blends, acetate, rayon, nylon, cotton, linen, and ramie. Neckties made from silk represent about 40 percent of the market. Raw silk is primarily imported from China and, to a far lesser extent, Brazil. Domestic weavers of tie fabrics buy their silk yarn in its natural state and have it finished and dyed by specialists. Technological advances have made possible the use of microfiber polyesters, which produce a rich, soft fabric resembling silk and which can be combined with natural or other artificial fibers to produce a wide range of effects.
The design of neckties is an interactive process between weavers and tie manufacturers. Because small quantities in any given pattern and color are produced, and because fabrics can be so complex, tie fabric weaving is seen as an art form by many in the industry.
Much of neckwear design is done in Como, Italy. If a new design is requested, time is spent developing ideas, producing sample goods, and booking orders against the samples. Most of the time, however, weavers work with open-stock items (designs that have been previously used and have a lasting appeal). Weavers use computerized silk screens, a process that has replaced the more time and labor-intensive manual silk-screening. When working with a standard design, the designer fills in each year's popular colors, changing both background and foreground colors, making it broader or narrower, larger or smaller, according to demand. The
Once the design is complete, it is sent to mills where it is imprinted onto 40-yard bolts of silk. The bolts of silk are then sent to the United States for manufacturing.
The main components of a necktie are the outer fabric, or shell, the interlining (both cut on the bias), and the facing or tipping, which is stitched together by a resilient slip-stitch so that the finished tie can "give" while being tied and recover from constant knotting. The quality of the materials and construction determines if a tie will drape properly and hold its shape without wrinkling.
A well-cut lining is the essence of a good necktie. This interlining determines not only the shape of the tie but also how well it will wear. Therefore, it must be properly coordinated in blend, nap, and weight to the shell fabric. Lightweight outer material may require heavier interlining, while heavier outer fabrics need lighter interlining to give the necessary hand, drape, and recovery. Most interlining manufacturers use a marking system to identify the weight and content of their cloths, usually colored stripes, with one stripe being the lightest and six stripes being the heaviest. This facilitates inventory control and manufacturing.
A completed tie measures from 53 to 57 inches in length. Extra-long ties, recommended for tall men or men with large necks, are 60 to 62 inches long, and student ties are between 48 and 50 inches in length.
The technique is characterized by the irregularly spaced stitches on the reverse of the tie when the seam is spread slightly apart; by the dangling, loose thread with a tiny knot at the end of the reverse of the front apron; and by the ease with which the tie can slide up and down this thread.
Relatively recent disruptions in the supply of raw silk from China, in addition to technological advancements, have highlighted the advantages of using man-made fiber yarns. These artificial fibers are readily and dependably synthesized from domestic resources and are also usually yarn-dyed. Microfiber polyester or nylon fibers (with a denier per filament count of one or less) can be bundled into yarn finer than cotton and silk and can be combined with natural or other man-made fibers to produce a wide range of effects. Introduced into fabrics as air textured, false twist textured, or fully-drawn flat yarns, they produce a rich, soft, silk-like hand.
Boucher, Francois. 20,000 Years of Fashion: The History of Costume and Personal Adornment. Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, 1966.
Gibbings, Sarah. The Tie: Trends and Traditions. Barron's, 1990.
History of Costume from Ancient Egypt to the Twentieth Century. Harper and Row Publishers, Inc., 1965.
Schoeffler, 0. E. and William Gale. Esquire's Encyclopedia of 20th Century Men's Fashions. McGraw Hill, Inc., 1973.
Yarwood, Doreen. The Encyclopedia of World Costume. Charles Scribner's and Sons, 1978.
— Eva Sideman