Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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In Fashion…All about ties

The other day, I saw a shop assistant in a well-known Chennai mall trying to tie a necktie. He was obviously quite uncomfortable doing that. But a new rule had just been brought in that required employees to sport a tie. It is fine, since the mall was air-conditioned there was no question of discomfort. But in a generally hot and humid country such as India, the piece of cloth round your neck can be bothersome.

I remember in my schooldays at Kolkata, we wore a necktie only during winter. It served a purpose: protecting your throat from harsh, cold winds. Beyond this, whatever anybody may say, the tie can be a great fashion statement. It does make one look smart, and alluringly so.

What is more, the tie is making a dramatic comeback. Necktie sales dived during the past decade when “casual Friday” entered office-room parlance. But in the past 12 months or so, men in their early 20s and 30s have begun to embrace the tie. In America alone, necktie sales have risen by 13 per cent between March 2006 and March 2007, from $ 303 million to 3 million.

Men in their 40s and 50s may find this turn of events amusing, because they had won the right after years to hang up the “old choke chain”.

Be that as it may, the tie is trying to catch our attention even in India, and I have been noticing that the design and fabric have improved remarkably in recent months. There are some great colours and greater patterns, both stripes and floral. Time was when I bought my ties only in England, which had an awesome choice. Of course, I paid stupidly high prices in pounds to have them. Today, something nearly as good is available in India, and they are a very reasonably buy.

The history of neckwear can be traced back to China, to the tomb of The first emperor, Ch’in Shi Huang-Ti. All of the terracotta warriors uncovered wore neckerchiefs.

The mordern necktine,however, can be traced back to the “Thirty Year War” which was fought from 1618 to 1648. There were many Croatian horsemen fighting for the French and they wore small, knotted neckerchiefs. That started a fashion craze in Europe where both men and women wore pieces of fabric around their necks.

In the late seventeenth century, the men wore lace cravats that took a large amount of time and effort to arrange. These cravats were often tied in place by strings, arranged neatly and tied in a bow.

After the Second World War, hand painted ties became an accepted form of decoration in America. The widths of some of these ties went up to 4.5 inches. These Loud flamboyant ties sold very well all the way through the 1950s.

The 1960s brought about an influx of pop-art influenced designs. The first was designed by Michael fish when he worked at Turnbull and Asser. The term kipper, was a pun on his name.The exuberance of the styles of the late 1960s and early 1970s gradually gave way to more restrained designs. Ties became narrower, returning to their 2-3 inch width with subdued colours and motifs, traditional designs of the 1930s and 1950s reappeared, particularly paisley patterns. Ties began to be sold along with shirts and designers slowly began to experiment with bolder colours.

Today, ties are just stunning to look at, and if worn well, they can be the last word in fashion.

(Webposted October 24 2007)