Friday, May 15, 2009

The Necktie - The History of a knot

Here's a really quick history of the necktie. In ancient Egypt, a thin cloth was hung down below the neck and tied to show social status. In ancient China, the first Emporer of Qin bears a necktie in every single sculpture currently existing. For the most part, the necktie roots are tied to early Croatian mercenaries (Ain't this a manly factoid!!). From a little research (yep, I took a total of 5 minutes to search 'necktie' in google), I was able to find out that the Croatian word "Hrvati" and the French word "Croates", both terms meaning Croates, combined to create the word "cravat", which in the early name of neckties. We next see a major knot development at The Battle of Steenkerque, which took place in 1692. In this battle, the princes, while hurriedly dressing for battle, just wound these cravats around their necks (Ah,ha The Steinkirk).

Moving on, we see Stocks appear in 1750 and later transform into Macaronis (Think Yankee Doodle) and Incroyables in France. By this time, we have all these types of clothe being swung around the neck of a man with no specific rules of attachment. (Hehehe, what a play on words.) So at this point, in the extravagant history of the necktie, we see the Neckclothitania published. Now, although it doesn't have the most creative name, it serves it purpose and organizes cravats into 14 different ties and how to knot them. This book also uses the term "tie" for the first time. Probably becuase it was wrote by a man, and we get lazy, and its a lot easier to print TIE than CRAVAT. Hell, i'm going to take a break now.

Okay, I'm back. We can now see that there's some organization is the Cravat-Tie-Neckcloth fad. We have a book. We have interest. And we have a lot of different types of cloth in our closets. But guess what happens, people try to be different. We see the popularity grow for white cravats, and the use of scarves, held in place by a ring, appears. It's popular with a lot of the sailors of the time (1850s). I blame this fad on the great ancestors of the Village People.

Finally, the modern necktie appears as the industrial revolution rolls on. Some manly-man, probably an Iron Worker or Coal Foreman, said "Hell with girly scarves, I need a black tie. Something long and thin, and doesn't require a lot of time. I'll even tie it like the reins on my horse carriage." And that's what they did, the four-in hand knot became popular.

Soon every man was wearing one(or at least a form of them such as the bowtie), even Abe Lincoln and Robert E Lee. Braxton Bragg probably didn't, but he sucked as a Civil War General anyways. Poof. Now it's 1920, and Jessee Langsdorf is working on a tie design. Like all great innovators, he figures out how much easier the production of neckties are with just a little tweek. 45 degree angles. And almost every tie since them has been cut this was.

During WW1, we see hand painted ties become popular. WW2 gave us a wild selection of ties. Casually growing wider and wider. In the sixties, like most things, this changes. Designs become more restrained, thinner. This continues through to today.

A few other things. There are 85 ways to knot a tie. By Thomas Fink and Yong Mao, the book "The 85 ways to tie a tie", was published in 1999. According to a review, "The discovery of all possible ways to tie a tie depends on a mathematical formulation of the act of tying a tie. In their papers (which are technical) and book (which is for the layman, apart from an appendix), the authors show that necktie knots are equivalent to persistent random walks on a triangular lattice, with some constraints on how the walks begin and end. Thus enumerating tie knots of n moves is equivalent to enumerating walks of n steps. Imposing the conditions of symmetry and balance reduces the 85 knots to 13 aesthetic ones."

sidenote: Math is the language for lovers. Really dorky lovers that think Pythagorum was cool.

In conclusion, I've decided to wear a Pratt knot today and not a Windsor knot. Woot me!

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