The Regency Neckcloth
The Neckcloth, under the influence of Beau Brummell the finely arranged cravat became the sign of the truly fashionable man.
The Duke of Wellington was nicknamed 'the Dandy' by his men for his satorial elegance on the field, and was known to dress for his battles in grey greatcoat with a cape and a white cravat. This was unusual for the time as military men generally used a black stock. Napoleon, who respected the Duke and attempted to imitate his style, changed his own black stock for a white cravat on the day of the battle at Waterloo, not apparently with an increase in his fortunes.
White linen was the traditional material for neckcloths, however after the Beau's flight to France other colours became acceptable.
Starch was an essential element in neckcloths until the 1820's when the styles such as 'The Byron' were draped and softer. This style did not really gain popularity until the 1830's.
The Neckclothitania (picutred here) was published in 1818 and showed some of the popular styles of the day. It was published as partly as a satirical document, but it provided information on the styles that were actually affected at the time. Styles such as the Mail Coach were so bulky as to be almost ridiculous and completely at odd's with Brummell's original ideals. He did not affect extreme's of fashion, but believed that style was essential in the quality of ones linen rather than the extremity of it. Another difference by 1818 was the colours were becoming fashionable in neckcloths, in Brummell's day, the only acceptable colour for man's neck-cloth was blanc d'innocence virginale , the purest white.
His collar was copied and grew to extreme heights that covered the ears and were held away from the neck by whale bone stiffeners, and meant men could no longer turn their heads to see, but had to turn their entire bodies. It did however spawn an industry of publications and experts who taught men of fashion how to tie their cravats.
There were, of course, cravat styles for members of certain clubs, The Whip, the Barouche, the Defiance and the 'Four-in-Hand'.
The Four-in-Hand is the basis of the style of neck tie that every man now wears.
The following is reprinted from Neckclothatania.
How they were tied
The Oriental - The Oriental made with a very stiff and rigid cloth, so that there cannot be the least danger of its yielding or bending to the exertions and sudden twists of the head and neck. -Care should be taken that not a single indenture or crease should be visible in this tie; it must present a round, smooth, and even surface - the least deviation from this rule, will prevent its being so named. This neck-cloth ought not to be attempted, unless full confidence and reliance can be placed in its stiffness.-it must not be made with coloured neck-cloths, but of the most brilliant white. It is this particular tie which is alluded to in the following lines.
'There, had ye marked their neck-cloth's slivery glow,
Transcend the Cygnet's towering crest of snow.'
The Mathematical - The Mathematical Tie (or Triangular Tie), is far less severe than the former. There are three creases in it. One coming down from under each ear, till it meets the kust or bow of the neckcloth, and a third in an horizontal direction, stretching from one of the side indentures to the other. The height, that is how far, or near the chin is left to the wearers pleasure. This tie does not occassion many accidents.The colour best suited to it, is called couleur de la cuisse d'une nymphe emue.'
Osbaldeston Tie - The Osbaldeston Tie differs greatly from most others. This neck-cloth is first laid on the back of the neck; the ends are then brought forward and tied in a large knot, the breadth of which must be at least four inches and two inches deep. This tie is well adapted for summer; because instead of going round the neck twice, it confines itself to once. The best colours are ethereal azure.
Napoleon Tie - Why this particular Tie was called Napoleon, I have not yet been able to learn, nor can I even guess, never having heard that the French Emperor was famous for making a tie - I have, indded, heard it said, that he wore one of this sort on his return from Elba and on board the Northumberland, but how far this information is correct, I do not know. It is first laid as in the former, on the back of the neck, the ends being fastened to the braces, or carried under the arms and tied on the back. It has a very pretty appearance, giving the wearer a languishingly amourous look. The violet colour, and la couleur des levres d'amour are the best suited for it.
American Tie - The American Tie differs little from the Mathematical except that the collateral indentures do not extend so near to the ear, and that there is no horizontal or middle crease in it. The best colour is ocean green.
Mail Coach Tie - The Mail Coach or Waterfall, is made by tying it with a single knot, and then bringing one of the ends over, so as completely to hide the knot, and spreading it out, and turning it down in the waistcoat. The neck-cloth ought to be very large to make this Tie properly - It is worn by all stage-coachmen, guards, the swells of the fancy, and ruffians. To be quite the thing, there should beno starch, or at least very little in it - A Kushmeer shawl is the best, I may even say, the only thing with which it can be made.
The Trone d'Amour - The The trone d'Amour is the most austere after the Oriental Tie - It must be extremely well stiffened with starch. It is formed by one single horizontal dent in the middle. Colour, Yeux de fille en extase.
Irish Tie - This one resembles in some degree the Mathematical, with, however, this difference, that the horizontal indentture is placed below the point of junction formed by the collateral creases, instead of being above. The colour is Cerulean Blue
The Ballroom Tie - The Ballroom Tie when well put on is quite delicious - It unites the qualities of the Mathematical and Irish, having two collateral dents and two horizontal ones, the one above as in the former, the other below as in the latter. It has no knot but is fastened as the Napoleon. This should never of course be made with colours but with the purest and most brilliant blanc d'innocence virginale . The Mailcoach was best made out of a cashmere shawl and had one end brought over the knot, spread out and tucked into the waist. This style was particularly popular with members of the 'Four-in-Hand Club'.
Horse Collar Tie - The Horse Collar has become, from some unaccountable reason, very universal. I can only attribute it to the inability of its wearers to make any other. It is certainly the worst and most vulgar, and I should not have given it a place in these pages were it not for the purpose of cautioning my readers, from ever wearing it - It has the appearance of a great half-moon, or horse collar - I sincerely hope it will soon be dropped entirely - nam super omnes vitandum est.
Hunting Tie - The Hunting or Diana Tie, (not that I suppose Diana ever did wear a Tie) is formed by two collateral dents on each side, and meeting in the middle, without any horizontal ones - it is generally accompanied by a corssing of the ends, as in the Ball Room and Napoleon. Its colour Isabella - This cloth is worn sometimes with a Gordian Knot.
Maharatta Tie - The Maharatta or Nabog Tie, is very cool, as it is always made with fine muslin neck-cloths. It is placed on the back of the neck, the ends are then brought forward, and joined as a chain link, the remainder is then turned back, and fastened behind. Its colour, Eau d'Ispahan.
Brummell's MethodBrummell's morning toilette was a long drawn out affair, often taking upwards of two hours. He often allowed his friends to sit in the room adjoining his dressing room as he tied his neckcloth so there are numerous accounts of his art. First a collar was attached to his shirt - before being folded down this was so large it hid his face and head. Then the neckcloth was wound around the outside of the collar and the collar turned down. Brummell then acheived the effect he desired by standing before his looking glass, his chin poked to the ceiling. By gradual and gentle declensions of his jaw he would crease the cravat into the desired shape, dabbing at it with a piece of linen to keep the creases even.
Brummell deplored excess - and the later fashion for ridiculously high collars and neckcloths gained only his sardonic amusement rather than his sartorial approval.