THE FRENCH EVOLUTION
In 1636, a victorious regiment from Croatia, in honor of
their triumph over the Turks, were presented to Louis XIV, the self proclaimed Sun King of France. These Croatian officers were wearing brightly colored, silk handkerchiefs around their necks. This struck the fancy
of the always-natty king, and he promptly established them royal insignias and created a regiment of Royal Cravattes. The word "cravat," is derived from the French word for "Croat." It is believed that this is when neckwear probably first took on political symbolism. Red
neck cloths, up to 15 feet long, were wrapped around the neck 10 times then tied in a bow as way for enterprising dandies to proclaim their allegiance to their monarch.
This new style crossed the English channel and soon, no proper chap would have considered
himself properly dressed without sporting some sort of decorative cloth around his neck. Those sartorial Brits often sported cravats festooned with tassels, strings, bows of ribbon, lace, and
embroidered linen and wore them so high that they could not move their head without turning their whole bodies. The cravat made its way to America and following the lead of the
natty gents of the continent, our own champions of the industrial revolution lashed their necks in silk.
The father of the modern necktie is the American tie manufacturer Jesse Langsdorf, who in 1920 patented the all-weather wrinkle-free tie. The secret ingredient turned out to be the
all-important slip-stitch running down the back of the tie, which is stitched together from three pieces of material, cotton tape, and a lining of wool, or even rubber in the early resilient versions.
In the "let it be" 1960s, there was a definite lapse in
the inclination of men to wear ties, as a result of the rebellion against both tradition and the formality of dress. By the mid-1970s, this trend had reversed itself, as the wearing of a tie was never challenged
much around the male-dominated office. We even got through the seventies, with its leisure suits and acre sized collars, showcasing tufts of chest hair and gleaming gold
necklaces. The width of the tie continued to grow into the middle of the decade, as did profit margins with the marketing of "designer ties", led by Pierre Cardin. The eighties saw the advent of the "power-tie", when the high-flying executive took to pale-yellow or red
silk, adorned with an array of small dots or diamonds. But just as a leopard can't change his spots, changing to the latest power-tie proved no protection for Wall Street's power-thieves.