Zoom September 2010

United States patent number 1448453, granted in early 1923: The detailed structure of the modern necktie by American tailor Jesse Langsdorf. This was the definitive step in the evolution of this iconic garment accessory. It was only a matter of time before the necktie was embraced by civilized clothes culture worldwide. Although archeological evidence shows cloth neck adornments in both ancient China and ancient Rome, the true ancestor of the modern necktie is the cravat. In 1660, a contingent of Croatian mercenaries was considered heroes for their help to the French army and was invited to the royal court of Louis XIV. Their distinctive knotted scarves caught the eye of the court, becoming copied (and possibly named after Croatia) and turned into elaborate, frilly neckwear made from high-quality fabrics. Eventually all levels of French society, much of Europe and the American colonies adopted this fashion. But in the 19th century, in response to the burgeoning business class created by the Industrial Revolution, more comfortable, practical neckwear designs became widespread. Eventually, one of the descendents of the cravat design became the “four-in-hand” necktie, possibly originating as a variant of the classic bowtie knot using the same small strip of fabric. As the 19th turned into the 20th century, the “four-in-hand” gradually took the shape of the modern tie, increasing in length and forming the distinctive elongated diamond shape. Then Langsdorf took it to the next level. The four basic tie knots are (in order of increasing difficulty) the four-in-hand (favored for its simplicity), Pratt (made famous by TV personality Don Shelby), half-Windsor (not related to the Windsor knot in any way) and Windsor (is said to emulate the wide knot favored by 20th century English king Edward VII, a member of the House of Windsor). Beyond the classic knots, a research duo in the late 1990s at England’s Cambridge University calculated that there are 85 knots possible in the conventional necktie, so there is some latitude for creative tie knotting. Nowadays neckties are big business and continue to be a menswear staple. Even Grateful Dead legend Jerry Garcia tried his hand at tie design.

michael isenbek

Michael Isenbek, Associate Editor, dabbles in both fiction and nonfiction writing, coordinates the Pulse event listings and writes the text for "Zoom," among other editorial tasks. He has a Master's Degree in Liberal Studies and a Bachelor's Degree in Cultural Studies with a concentration in Journalism from SUNY Empire State College.