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Feb / Mar 2011
Tied up

WRITER: Sandra Peters

It’s a revival of sorts, neither the first, nor the last. Men of many generations tried to shake the obligation to wear tie, and while ‘La Cravate’, has never been entirely gone from the corporate landscape, its reign was less pronounced in the 1980s and 1990s. Today, male employees are not only expected to do their job with the utmost competency, they also have to dress the part.

Historically worn by Chinese soldiers during the provincial wars in Japan, the tie later took up residence in France during the reign of Louis XII. The king had been campaigning for the recruitment of Croatian soldiers and they, as part of their uniform wore a long knotted piece of fabric around the neck. Some historians are therefore of the belief the word ‘cravate’ derives from the word Croat.

A lacy and silky fashion statement of the rich, the tie’s victorious march led first through Europe and over the following 200 years reached even the most remote corners of every continent. 

With the Industrial Revolution a rather practical generation of ties emerged; they had become longer, yet slimmer. This predecessor of our 140cm standard necktie was called a ‘Regate’; its advent, eliminating the privilege for the royal and the rich, made the tie accessible to all, and a staple in every businessman’s wardrobe.

In 1926, Jesse Langsdorf, an inventor out of New York, had the idea to cut the tie in diagonal direction over the fabric. Today the standard technique, it creates a product that holds its shape, and is overall less prone to soiling. 

In the 1930s pioneers of the women’s liberation movement dressed with a definite touch of the masculine; the tie symbolised their fight for equal rights. Then, just as now, women sporting tie were considered utterly charming, the masculine accessory accentuating their feminine appeal. It is no coincidence that George Sands, the famous spearhead of women’s lib, was known to have a string of lovers.

While it remains a free fancy for us women, men, traditionally less required to engage at the fashion front, should know that following a few simple rules, will make the tie-drama less painful: 

1. While it should of course reflect your personality somewhat, you must evaluate the tasteful combination of your tie with your shirt (refer to page 86 and 87 for more on this topic). Also don’t forget to choose a suitable shirt collar as this is what frames your face. 

2. Cartoon neckties are taboo, even the tiny black-on-black ones.

3. Choose only ties made from fine silk. Avoid the loosely wound, wide ties and the plastrons – unless you’re after the dandy look and the reputation that goes with it.

Now make sure to look after your tie as it’s almost impossible to remove stains form silken ties, but taking the fast track to your trusted drycleaner is your best bet. Also try not to wrinkle it, as silk ties are likely to perish under the iron. If it does need some straightening out then try hanging it on a special tie rack for a couple of days and leave the rest to gravity, fibre relaxation, and humidity.

Remaining ‘sans carvate’ is a luxury that, alas, can only ever be afforded by the most powerful man in the room. As the saying goes, “If men can run the world, why can't they stop wearing neckties? How intelligent is it to start the day by tying a little noose around your neck.” For all but a select few, you’ll never have a choice in the matter.

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