TIE: the inspiring endorsement | Sunday Observer

TIE: the inspiring endorsement

For centuries the focus of fashion has been on women. Men’s clothing did evolve with equal vogue but did not perhaps receive the desired attention. One such clothing accessory is the tie. Though only worn in the corporate sector in Sri Lanka the tie has gained more momentum in western nations as its apart of many uniforms from the military to the clergy. I remember wearing mine at about 10 years of age and going for a wedding, but my fashion display did not last long when one of my elder cousin sisters used my tie to wipe her lipstick much to the dismay of my beloved mother!

So who designed the first tie? What did this piece of cloth signify?

For centuries men have had some kind of shawl like garment draped on the shoulder, from the roman legions to the sages in the orient. Did this cumbersome piece of clothing somehow reduce to a scarf and subsequently a tie? The neck tie originated in the 17th century in France. King Louis X111 had hired mercenaries from Croatia who wore a neck tie (more a scarf) as part of their uniform. Its primary role was not fashion but used to hold in place the jacket at the top. It became known as La Cravate. They were tied by the “four in hand knot”. By 1900 in England there were 2 other forms of neck wear. The bowtie and the ascot. The ascot tie was worn at horse races by spectators. Mystery movie maker Alfred Hitchcock even made a film titled Frenzy, showing a serial killer who used his necktie to strangle his victims.

By 1920 the ties were selected for functionality and fit, and became similar to what we today understand as a tie. A New York tie maker Jessie Langsdorf redefined the way in which material was cut and the tie became more popular. Thus the bowtie became reserved only for formal functions. In 1930 the Duke of Windsor invented his own tying style known as the Windsor knot. During the era of the Second World War the tie was neglected, as people were in constant state of fear of air raids and invasions. No one bothered to wear a tie. However after the war the tie began to resurface with liberty of designs. In 1950 the men domain saw the birth of the “slim tie”, as suits were worn slim fit for the first time.

It’s strange that we would assume slim fit is a current fashion trend, while it is really a copy or resurgence of yesteryear. The 1960s were a time of coloruful rebellion, and the tie was worn in all shades, the Kipper tie sewn as wide as 6 inches. By 2000 the bold floral prints dominated tie designs. Today some countries celebrate International Tie day on 18 October.

Reflecting on Sri Lankan fashion it’s obvious that the tie came directly through British influence. It was quite a grand affair in vintage Ceylon to wear a “full white” suit with a tie - the mark of a gentleman. Wearing ties had an influence on ones social status those days and still does in rural areas where any bloke wearing a tie is venerated as “mathmaya”. However in Colombo the tie is slowly giving way at events such as weddings and cocktails as men prefer to be attired in lounge clothing.

Even in Parliament the once colonial tie trend has given way to the patriotic national suit. The modern tie will continues to change. But it is more important for a man to wear integrity and dignity on his shoulders.