December 3, 2020

Neckting – A Dying Art?

I am a retired former corporate exec who from his earliest days automatically put on a necktie every day of the week except Saturdays. On Sunday, before Mass, I usually selected a more serious-looking tie, one that perhaps upon reflection seemed to have a spirit of prayer or calmness about it.

The knot I automatically tied was the Windsor, named after King Edward,  after abdication, titled the Duke of Windsor, who did not invent the knot, but was the first world-famous person to adopt it as his own. Needless to say, it is still the world’s first choice among various knot options, which include the four-in-hand knot, (the most common), the Pratt knot (or the Shelby knot), the Half-Windsor knot and the Windsor also called the “Full Windsor.” The Duke of Windsor liked a voluminous knot and achieved that look by having his nectkies made of thicker cloths.

Ties for over a century have often indicated the wearer’s membership in a club, college or regiment. In the 1880s the oarsmen at Exeter College, Oxford, tied the bands of their straw hats around their necks beginning a long tradition followed to this day. The most common pattern for such ties in the UK and Europe consists of diagonal stripes of alternating colors running down from the wearer’s left. Typically, in America, striped ties are worn with no connection to a group membership and the stripes run downward toward the wearer’s right. When Americans wear ties as a sign of membership, the European stripe design may be used.

In the 1977 movie, Annie Hall, actress Diane Keaton wore a necktie, which inspired a modest trend for women to wear ties with a suit jacket.

Ties have traditionally been worn when attending formal or professional events, including weddings, important religious ceremonies, funerals, job interviews, court appearances and fine dining. In the 21st century, noted for its casual fashion statements, the tie is often left at home. For sixty years, manufacturers of neckties in the U.S. were members of the Men’s Dress furnishings Association but the trade group shut down in 2008 as a result of declining numbers of men wearing ties.

I write books about Abraham Lincoln (The Secret War Diaries of Abraham Lincoln – Including His Recurring Dreams) which are found on Amazon.com and Kindle. In most formal photos of Lincoln, he is seen wearing a large black silk bow tie that has the appearance of a knot hastily executed.

Historically, the modern necktie can be traced to Croatian mercenaries serving in France during the Thirty Years’ War (1618 to 1648). The men wore small, knotted neckerchiefs. When France won a hard-fought victory over the Ottoman Empire, Croatian soldiers were presented to Louis XIV, a monarch noted for personal adornment. He saw their officers wearing brightly colored handkerchiefs fashioned of silk around their necks. These cloths struck the fancy of the King, and he soon made them an insignia of royalty as he created a regiment of Royal Cravates. The word “cravat” was derived from the term, á la cravate – in the style of the Croats. It soon became a fashion craze in Europe; both men and women began to wear pieces of cloth around their necks. Even to this day, International Necktie Day is celebrated on October 18 in Croatia and in Dublin Tübingen, Como. Tokyo, Sydney and other towns.

I walked into my clothes closet this morning and glanced over my necktie collection. I had recently given about 5 or 6 of them to two of my sons. Among the rest I noted this array: several from the Save The Children collection, one showing brown and white children playing ball. Another showing brown and white hands meeting with American flags on shirt cuffs. Three feature colorful flower images. One sailing vessels with red, blue, pink and orange sails. One green, gold and black Scottish tartan of the Ross family. A blue tie featuring golfers. A holiday tie of colored light bulbs. Several Dona silks from Success in Style. And my favorite, a Gucci silk from Italy in pale green with a thin black design. And finally, from American Artifacts, a crossword puzzle-themed tie of black and silver-gray.

Now that Success in Style has reopened, I plan to rejuvenate my necktie array with a few choice new silks from Italy and Paris. Shirts are shirts and jacket are jackets, but only a tie can make a significant difference in how a man may look his absolute best. Vive la Cravate!

Paul R. Dunn is an author who writes books about Abraham Lincoln. He is reached at: www.abrahamlincolndiary.com

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