Neckties Then and Now

FOR millenniums men have been interested in adorning their throats and necks. For instance, about 1737 B.C.E., Pharaoh of Egypt gave Joseph a necklace of gold.—Genesis 41:42.

Today in many parts of the world, men wear what we call neckties. According to various sources, the forerunners of the modern necktie appeared in England and France in the latter part of the 16th century. Men wore a jacket called a doublet. For decoration they wore a ruff at the neck. In many cases the ruff, which could have a thickness of several inches, was a large platelike disk that encircled the neck. It was made of white cloth and was stiffened so that it would hold its shape.

Eventually, the ruff was replaced by what was called the falling collar. This was a white collar that covered the entire shoulder and fell down over the top of the arm. These collars were also called Vandykes. The Puritans, among others, wore these.

In the 17th century, a long inner coat called a waistcoat came to be worn under the usual long coat. The neck of the wearer was wrapped with a scarflike neckcloth, or cravat. This cloth was wrapped around the neck more than once. The loose ends hung down the shirtfront. Paintings from the latter part of the 17th century show that by then cravats were very popular.

Cravats were made of muslin, lawn, and even lace. The lace ones were expensive. James II of England is said to have paid 36 pounds and 10 shillings for one for his coronation, quite a sum in that day. Some lace cravats were large. The effigy of Charles II in Westminster Abbey shows his to have been 6 inches [15 cm] wide and 34 inches [86 cm] long.

There were many types of knots used to tie the cravats. In some cases a ribbon of silk was placed over the cravat to hold it in position and was then tied in a large bow under the chin. This style of neckcloth was called a solitaire. The bow resembled a modern bow tie. It is said that there were at least a hundred ways to tie a cravat. Beau Brummell, an Englishman who influenced men’s clothing styles, is said to have spent a whole morning tying one cravat to get it just right.

By the 1860’s, the cravat with long ends began to resemble the modern version of neck wear and to be called the necktie. It was also called a four-in-hand. This name came from the knot used by drivers of four-horse teams. Shirts with collars had come into style. The necktie was knotted under the chin, and its long ends hung down the shirtfront. That is when the modern necktie appeared. Another type of necktie, the bow tie, came to be popular during the 1890’s.

Today the necktie is considered by many to be an important part of a wearer’s appearance. Some people may even form an opinion about a stranger based on the type of necktie he wears. Hence, it is wise to wear neckties that are clean and that have patterns or colors that harmonize with your shirt, pants, and jacket.

 The knot selected should be tied neatly. Perhaps the most popular knot is the four-in-hand. (See diagram on page 14.) It is neat and unpretentious and is widely accepted for dress occasions. Another popular knot is the Windsor knot, which is somewhat larger. A dimple is usually made in the tie just below the knot.

Many men feel uncomfortable wearing a necktie. They dislike the pressure on their throat. Yet, some who have experienced this problem have discovered that the discomfort has more to do with the size of the shirt. If this is your problem, make sure that your shirt collar is not too small. When it is the proper size, you may not even notice that you are wearing a tie.

In many lands the necktie is considered an essential part of business or formal dress. For that reason many Christian men wear neckties when engaging in formal aspects of their ministry. Yes, a piece of cloth around a man’s neck can add dignity and make him look respectable.

[Diagram on page 14]

(For fully formatted text, see publication)

How to tie a four-in-hand knot *

1 Begin with the tie’s wide end approximately one foot [30 cm] below the narrow end, and cross it over the narrow end, bringing it back underneath.

2 Cross the wide end over again, and bring it up through the loop.

3 Holding the front of the knot loosely with the index finger, pull the wide end through the loop in front.

4 Tighten the knot slowly, holding the narrow end and sliding the knot to the collar.


^ par. 15 From the book Shirt and Tie.

[Pictures on page 15]

Necktie styles from the 17th century to the present