Boys' Neckwear Types

Figure 1.--Here we see a boy wearing a kind of early bowtie in an American naive portrait in 1853. The boy is unidentified, but was almost certainly from Massachusetts. We are not sure what this neckwear would have been called at the time.

We have noted acwide variety of boys' neckwear. Neckwrear was not common in the early 19th century. Many boys had open collars. Stocks became common in the mid-19th cetury while bows, sometimes quite large, became popular in the late 19th century. A much wider diversity of neckwear was worn in the first half of the 20th century, but by the late 20th century, neckwear became less and less common.


We see neckwear in the mid-1850s that we are not sure how to identify. They look like a combination of the stock and bow tie. They seem to a lateral neckwear device. Nothing hans fown and thir is no bowing out like the bow tie. A good examole is the neckwear won by American boy John Van Horn in 1859.


Bows became enormously popular in the later half of the 19th Century. Bows are most associated of course with girls' clothing and hairstyles. Generally the largest, most prominent bows were used for girls. Bows were, however, also extensively used on boys, especially during the late 19th Century and early 20th Century as mother's sought to add a little flair to their sons' outfits. The largest and most prominent bows were collar bows used with boys Fauntleroys suits, some almost dwarfing the boy involved. Given the ingenuity of doting mothers, a wide variety of bows were also used with many other fashions, from shoulder ties on dresses for boys before breeching to decorative shoe bows.


The history of modern neckwear begins in Croatia wear soldiers fighting Ottoman Turks would wear colorful cloths around their necks. This was picked up by the fashion conscious French in the 17th century who were soon sporting cravats. The crrevate lost the final "e" upon crossing the English Channel. In the 19th century it was, in a sense, perfected by Beau Brummel. Boys also wore cravats until specialized children's clothes were developed in the late 18th century.


Fashionable Frenchmen vied with themselves over the size of their cravats. Those who adopted massive cravats were called the incroyables , meaning the "incredible". They wore such large cravats that their chins were hidden.


The "macaronis" appeared in England during the mid-18th century. They were dandies affecting an Italian-inspired fashion, coloring their cheeks with rouge and wearing diamond-studed pumps, and cravats with huge bows. I assume that macraonis was a derisive comment on the pasta eaten by Italians. The macraoni fashion was derisively alluded when Americans who adopted it were called yankee doodle dandies.

Open Collars

Beginning in the late 18th century, new specialized styles for boys appeared. (Specialized styles for girls appeared much later.) The most important style was the skeleton suit, which was often worn with an open collar. No gentleman would think of appearing with an open collar at the time.


The solitaire appeared in the mid-18th century. It was attached to the wigs that men wore at the time. It was attached in the back, wrapped around the neck, and brought to a bow in front over a cravat. This was not commonly worn by boys who were much less likely to wear wigs than their fathers.


Some alternatives to the cravat appeared in the 17th century. The most common was the stock. There were some other more bizarre alternatives. An alternative to the cravat existed in the 18th and well into the 19th century--the stock. A cravat was a generally long piece of cloth that would around the neck and tied in front. The stock, on the other hand, resembled protective collars that are today worn for whiplash or other neck injuries.


The neck tie is the most vissible and variable fashion accessory worn by men. "Ties are very related to their times, reflective of trends in society," reports Mark-Evan Blackman, Chairman of the menswear department of New York's Fashion Institute of Technology. Neckties as we now know them are a relatively recent fashion accesory. The primary modern male neckwear can be be traced to the 17th-century cravat, a style developed from Croatian mercenaries honored by Louis XIV. As with so much of male fashion, the style is military in origin. Ties have only been worn by boys since the 1900s, although they only became widely accepted in the 1920s. They were extensively worn in the 1920s-40s as boys routeinly wore suits or blazers to school and to a variety of events and activities that now would call for casual clothes. In our more casual modern era, many American boys rarely wear ties and may not, in fact, learn to tie a knot until their teens. Usually British boys learn to handle a tie at an earlier age.


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Created: June 10, 2004
Last updated: 5:00 AM 3/6/2009