Thursday, February 16, 2012

Don't Tie Me Down

There are fifty ways to leave your lover, and at least one of them is in a bind over tying the knot.  As the 1800's progressed, the cravat Beau Brummel popularized evolved into a myriad of styles.  In the 1820's, it was was still stiff and high, with a simple bow in front.

 Greg Wise as Willoughby in Sense & Sensibility.

Beau Brummell and Co.

But over the next two decades, the cravat ballooned to cover its wearer's entire chest.

Benicio Del Toro in The Wolfman.

Black was the favorite color for day, with elegant white for night.  But the most fashion-forward gentlemen favored wilder patterns like polka dots, stripes, and even flowers.

It was not easy to stabilize the huge, slippery cravats - until the Tie School was founded, that is.  Opened in Paris by an Italian businessman, it offered lessons, which lasted a trying six hours, at 54 francs each.  Books with elaborately illustrated instructions were included in the price - one showed over twenty cravat styles.

And not surprisingly, the hottest new accessory was the pearl-headed tie pin.

Titanic Tie Pins

By the 1850's, with the Industrial Revolution booming, gentlemen were too busy to fuss with their clothes; the flowing cravat was trimmed back to a modest, narrow bow tie.

But, as men's clothing styles grew more austere, the necktie became on of the last spots for a fashion plate to flaunt his individuality.  There was a brief flurry of favor for stocks and scarves during the 1860's.

Until a compromise was reached: the simpler, knotted, four-in-hand tie that school boys and Wall Street financiers wear today.

Robert Pattinson in the upcoming period drama, Bel Ami.


  1. Gah! Men used to be so fashionable! What happened?!?! ;)

  2. Natalie - I know! Just think how sexy our guys would look in white cravats and top hats. ;)

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