For centuries, men have worn cloth around their necks, which has been just as much for decorative purposes as it has been for utilitarian ones. Still, there is much confusion around the how to properly dress the neck, not to mention next to zero standardization with regard to terminology.
What kind of tie should you wear? Will you look ridiculous in a bow tie? How the hell are you supposed to tie a scarf, anyway? Can you still wear ascots nowadays? In this introduction to neckwear, we will walk through the different types as well as their history while presenting you with more guides for further reading.
Simply use the links above to jump ahead or scroll down to keep reading.
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Types Of Neckwear: An Overview
To kickstart your neckwear journey, we will break down the various different types of neckwear that you can integrate into your wardrobe. We’ll tell you the basics and then present you with our related guides for further reading!
Far and away the most common style of neckwear for men, the necktie is sometimes referred to as a “four-in-hand”, which is more precisely the name of a common knot. Able to be tied in a multitude of ways, neckties are appropriate for any situation excluding business casual and black or white tie dress codes.
Necktie Guides For Further Reading
- Top 10 Best Tie Brands
- How To Tie A Tie
- Correct Tie Length
- Top 10 Best Tie Clips & Tie Bars
- How To Wear A Tie Clip
Perceived as either dapper or nerdy, bow ties go through periods of popularity and disdain. Regardless of the whims of fashion, we feel that there’s always a place for the bow tie in the well-dressed man’s wardrobe, so long as you tie it yourself!
Bow ties can be worn casually with odd jackets and trousers, and they must be worn with a tuxedo or full dress clothes.
Bow Tie Guides For Further Reading
Cravats & Ascots
More on this below, but the definition of the word “cravat” varies depending on where you live. In some cases, it can be used interchangeably with a cravat. Meanwhile, it may simply refer to any article of clothing intended to be worn around the neck.
For instance, British use “cravat” to refer to ascots and “day cravat” to refer to neckerchiefs. If the cravat would be really associated with any one unique style of neckwear, it would be a rouche or scrunch tie.
As for the Ascot tie, it can be quite confusing! Indeed, an Ascot tie can be either exceedingly formal or particularly casual depending on the style. Traditional ascots are only worn with morning dress; they are secured to the shirt front with a tie tack after being tied in a simple knot.
Otherwise, casual Ascot tie varieties are typically worn under a shirt like a neckerchief as a business-casual accessory.
Cravats & Ascot Furthering Reading
Men have been wearing scarves since time immemorial. Though most of us stick to wearing cashmere or merino wool scarves in winter, silk scarves will give you warmth with some added “oomph” to an outfit.
Neckerchiefs (silk scarves tied kind of like ascots) haven’t been popular amongst the masses for many years now, but that’s no reason to avoid wearing them!
Learn everything you need to know with our detailed men’s scarves & neckerchiefs guide!
What Is A Jabot?
We’ve been quite surprised to receive a few comments regarding jabots, which is a very rare type of neckwear these days. Primarily made from lace, which is attached to the collar with a neckband, the Jabot originated around 1650 and was a popular type of neckwear during the 17th and 18th Centuries.
During these periods it was often worn by the aristocracy until it became a more popular choice for women during the late-19th Century. Despite a brief resurgence in the 1960s where it inspired adding frills to evening shirts, it is now almost exclusively worn as part of a ceremonial or official uniform.
For instance, it is often worn by judges in the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Court of Justice of the European Union. Similarly, it can sometimes be seen on Scottish evening wear as well as the Speak of the British House of Commons. In popular culture, jabots were worn by Prince and Austin Powers.
Interestingly, “jabot” means “crop” in French, which is a bird’s thin-walled portion of the alimentary tract. When storing food prior to digestion, it expands and makes the chest swell and puff out.
History Of Neckwear
You may be familiar with the French word cravate and its English equivalent “cravat”, which we detailed above. Indeed, this is where the story of the modern necktie begins.
Modern neckwear, like so many of the garments we don every day, has a military origin. In the 1630s, France’s King Louis XIII was at war with The Duke of Guise and Marie de’ Medici.
King Louis enlisted a regiment of Croatian mercenaries to aid in his military efforts. Interestingly, these Croatians wore ornate, knotted scarves around their necks. Enlisted soldiers wore coarse, though cloths, while officers wore more delicate, silken or linen ones.
At any rate, the French word for Croatian is Croate. It isn’t a huge leap to see that cravate is a corruption of this word, as the pronunciations are quite similar.
In a nutshell, this neckwear was named “cravat” due to a widespread mispronunciation.
The French adopted the cravat into their everyday wear years later. Given the increasing interdependence of Europe at the time, the garment made its rounds to other locations in the world.
Beau Brummel, the famous British dandy who ushered in minimalism, simplicity, and use of dark colors that we still use today in modern dress, was known for wearing a starched white neckcloth in the early 19th century. Our neckwear -ties in particular- is derivative of that neckcloth.
Outfits were not complete without such a neckcloth in his time, and one can argue that an outfit is incomplete without a tie in ours.
Neckwear In The Present Day
While we don’t wrap our necks in linen to protect ourselves in battle anymore, we do wrap our necks in silk to keep warm, go to work, or just make a positive impression on those around us.
Even for those unfortunate chaps who don’t dress well can garner some extra credit for throwing on a tie. A slob in a tie is better than a slob in a t-shirt.
There’s still a market for neckties in the workplace, though it’s still recovering from the dreadful dress-down 1990s. Bow ties still retain a bit of professorial nerdiness but have seen a resurgence as men became more style-conscious in the 2010s.
Scarves, of course, are much more utilitarian than any kind of tie and thus have a place in every man’s closet, regardless of his own personal level of style.
Ascots seem to be solely for dandies, though we certainly encourage you to try one out!
Why Do We Still Wear Ties?
Neckwear is a peculiar animal. Just about anything we wear fulfills at least one of these roles:
Ties and even some scarves do none of these things. They are entirely superfluous outside of their role as aesthetically pleasing. Centuries ago, wearing silk about the neck that served no utilitarian purpose was an indicator of wealth, just as starched white collars were. So why do we continue to wear them?
Ties are the lynchpin of the tailored ensemble. A suit is not quite a suit without one, and they serve to dress up more casual outfits. Indeed, you could argue that they’re similar to jacket lapels, vents, and other decorative facets of formal attire.
Our argument is that so long as tailored clothing is around, ties will be with us too. On the flip side of that, should tailored clothing ever be phased out of our sartorial lexicon (and Heaven forbid that it doesn’t), the tie will likely go with it.
Though we live in a more casually dressed world than almost any generation before us, what we wear around our necks is still important. Indeed, as men have moved away from ties, those who choose to wear them set themselves apart even further.
We encourage you to be one of those men, and it’s our hope that the guides we’ve created put you on solid footing to do so.
Head to the menu above to see all of our neckwear guides. Otherwise, check out some of our favourites below: