Why the Necktie Is an Enduring Fashion Icon
The necktie: it’s an instrument of expression, a useful tool, a status symbol, and a stamp of masculinity. It is easy to work with, for designer and users alike. A silk necktie serves as one of the few good-and-true accessories that fully complement a gentleman’s formal wardrobe.
And in those qualities lie the power of its enduring fashion.
To be sure, very few men’s formal clothes allow much room for expression.
Oh, men can be very expressive with their shirts and sports jackets. But in the conference room, where expressivity can be most acutely desired, what can the unfortunate male express himself with?
Women can wear dresses with different colors, in varying lengths and depths. But what about the poor schnook trapped in a suit? Except for small details such as fit, tailoring, and quality of material, men’s clothing really all look very much alike.
It’s a sad truth: from twenty feet away, the typical guy will have difficulty telling a good suit from a bad one. In contrast, identical dresses can look very different because of the number of accessories women put on them.
But neckties are different. They come in different colors, different shapes. At a formal business setting, your necktie could be the only thing that will let you express to the world that you’re feeling cheerful, dour, rebellious, comic, bullish, or bearish. It can say “I’m just here to watch,” “I think all of you are nuts,” or “I’m the boss here, and my vote is the only one that counts.”
Without his necktie, what little room for expression would be left to the average suit-wearing man?
The first neckties were created with very practical purposes in mind. They were pieces of cloths used as bibs and napkins, to keep mouths and doublets from getting soiled.
They were also used to hide unwashed shirts—a use probably still applied today.
Nowadays, neckties have been used as belts and hair ties. Silk neckties can be erotic props in the bedroom. (Oh, don’t pretend you don’t know what we mean!) A necktie tied around the fist makes a good make-shift glove for street fights.
And, of course, a silk necktie makes a pretty safe gift for men when you can’t think of anything else to give!
A status symbol
In the 1800s, a book called Neckclothitania was published. It contained instructions on 14 different ways of tying neckties.
Since then, necktie tying has become an art form.
Nowadays, in addition to the quality of a man’s silk necktie, how well it is knotted can also speak volumes about that man’s style, affluence and class. And women who like to take care of their men take pride in how well they can tie their man’s necktie for him.
The stamp of masculinity
The earliest practice of wearing neckties came from the Croatian mercenaries in the French army in 1618. Their small, knotted, traditional kerchiefs that they wore around their necks started a European fashion craze.
In fact, the necktie is such a successful fashion accessory that in several points in history up to today, women have tried to borrow the necktie for their own use as well.
Nonetheless—probably because it was worn first by soldiers—the necktie has carried with it the exclusive stake of the male species.
And because of this stamp of manliness and status, plus its usefulness and expressivity, the tie has, and will be, men’s fashion accessory of choice for years—nay, centuries—to come.