The history of men's ties has its roots in Croatia. Ivan Gundulic, a Croatian poet, was the first known person to wear a cravat, the predecessor to the modern tie. Cravat was the word used to describe a cloth worn around the neck; it is derived from the word Croat. Cravats became widespread in 1660 when Louis XIV of France was visited by a Croatian regiment celebrating their victory over Turkey in battle. The officers of the regiment wore silk pieces of cloth around the neck. These neckpieces were originally designed to keep the wearer warm. Louis XIV adopted the style and his influence increased the cravat’s popularity.
The cravat replaced the former practice of wearing a ruff and lace collar around the neck. In the nineteenth century, cravats were the height of fashion, and men were not considered stylish unless they wore a cravat. Cravats were made of tassels, lace, plaid scarves, and embroidered linen. The individuality of the wearer was expressed by the styles of the cravats. During this period, cravats could reach up to a foot tall forcing the wearer to keep their head high.
In the latter half of the nineteenth century, ties became more universal in style and less formal. The popularity of wearing ties spread from the upper classes of society to the general population. The new style of tie allowed the wearer the ability to move his head with more freedom. The modern necktie has maintained its shape since 1924 due in large part to Jessie Langsdorf. Langsdorf, a textile manufacturer, cut the tie fabric into three parts then sewed it back together in its current shape. His patented tie design is still worn today. During World War II, manufacturers began making ties with artificial silk which marked a change because ties were formerly judged by the quality of the fabric from which they were made.
Necktie popularity suffered in the 1960’s but returned in the 1970’s with the advent of ties featuring special printing techniques. Ties were wider in the 70’s but the 80’s saw the development of a narrower version. Humorous tie designs showed up in the 80’s in addition to the formal ties already in use. In the 90’s, ties began appearing with cartoon characters and more complicated designs and patterns. Today, ties are three to four inches in width, made in a variety of styles and colors, and remain popular despite a small downturn during the dotcom revolution.