It’s a fair question: just what, in the 21st century, is a tie for? Beyond the demands of tradition and convention, a tie doesn’t keep your neck warm and – outside of the workplace, and even then it’s not clear – seems increasingly at odds with an increasingly relaxed way of dressing. It might at first appear that we’re at the end of an era. After all, men have worn some kind of neckwear for millennia. Yes, before there were offices.
Roman Legionnaires wore their ‘focale’, but it wasn’t until the 16th century that the modern tie began its evolution. Mercenaries serving the French army wore a scarf as a means of signalling their comradeship – these fighters were from Croatia, and it’s from that we probably get the word ‘cravat’; King Louis XIV liked the look and, if the king wore it, anyone who was anyone did. From then, fashion dictated shifts in the type of neckwear, the material used for it, and how it was worn.
And that mattered: how you knotted your neckwear was considered such an expression of personal style that the king, a man used to being dressed by servants, insisted on tying his own. Men of influence invented their own tie knots – King Edward VIII gave us the Windsor knot, for example – which is why the scope of available tie knots today, while typically focused around a core few, actually runs into the hundreds, of ever greater complexity and fancifulness.