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History of the Necktie

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History of the Necktie


Much like the shirt, the necktie, considered a simple "intimate" garment in ancient times, with the passage of centuries has continually assumed more importance, finally becoming a distinct symbol of elegance and refinement. Born initially as a simple handkerchief, the necktie has quickly achieved a remarkable position in the life of men. Indispensable ornament of masculine elegance though also often worn by women, it expresses the personality of the wearer and becomes an important instrument in social relations.

The tie was initially born as a piece of material worn by Roman legionnaires around the neck for reasons of hygiene or climate and was called a "focale." Centuries later the French wore this "handkerchief", borrowing in their time from that which was worn by Croatian mercenaries during the Twenty Years War. In 1661 Louis XIV instituted the position of "tie maker" for the king, a gentleman who was assigned to help the king arrange and knot the necktie. Nine years after 1661 the Duchess of Lavallière, favorite of the king, was the first woman to wear a tie. In the 19th century her name would be given to the most graceful of masculine ties. In 1925 the American tie maker Jesse Langdorsf patented a long tie, less crumpled and more stable, sewn from three pieces of fabric and cut to a taper. The modern tie was born.

Speaking of ties, one cannot avoid mentioning the knot. Oscar Wilde in his "The Importance of Being Earnest" said: "A well-tied tie is the first serious step in life" The daily gesture of tying the tie assumes a symbolic and nearly magic meaning. In symbolic masculine iconography the knot represents union, marriage, fertility and therefore life. As Lèonor says to Ariste in "The Wife School" of Molière, "a sacred knot will unite us until tomorrow."

Concluding, we restate the essence of the tie with this aphorism of an anonymous Frenchman of 1820: "With the tie I take perfect care: it is the true ritual of elegance. I labor persistently for hours so that it appears tied haphazardly."

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