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The story of the necktie that has come to dominate gentleman’s neck wear begins with the popularity of the cravat in the 19th century. In the late Victorian period the industrial revolution came into full production. There was a great need for more practical neck wear than the evermore detailed ways of tying the untamed silks of the basic cravat. Enter the knot named the ‘four-in-hand’ that enabled the cravat to be tied quickly and securely so that it could remain in place and look good the entire work day. With the help of the British monarchy we can explore the necktie’s development.
This knot created a longer, more elegant shape that allowed the silk to dimple and emphasize the gloss of the fabric. This allowed the necktie to be used in a very formal outfit., as may be seen both in George V’s portrait above and his father, Edward VII below,
where he has a more casual outfit (most likely for grouse hunting). His grandson, Edward VIII took the four-in-hand to the fully casual outfit,
and it became the standard in a gentleman’s outfit replacing the previous, looser-shaped cravats.
It was Edward’s grandfather, whose love of a fat four-in-hand knot, lead to the other popular necktie knot being developed, the Windsor. Edward VII, son of Queen Victoria, was a style icon in his own right. The extra wide manner of his necktie’s design in using thick fabric so that his four-in-hand knot would be quite wide at the collar, as this portrait from the time of his coronation shows,
Unable to afford bespoke ties, the gentlemen trying to emulate Edward VII’s style developed the Windsor knot, although the source for this name is not clear. What is clear is that his sartorial grandson, Edward VIII most likely never sported a Windsor knot, using the trusted four-in-hand to great effect to the ends of his days. But more on the different types of necktie knots (and what they say about the man wearing them) in a future post.
Throughout the 20th century and into the 21st, the necktie has become the dominant form of cravat.
- Gentlemen’s Cravats – A Brief History (kingpinchic.com)
- Kimberly’s How-To Guide: Tie a Tie part 1 (thatswhatkimsaid.com)