The striped necktie is one of the most popular and fashionable looks for the modern businessman. While horizontal and even vertical stripes can be found in the sea of varying colors and patterns available in men’s neckties, diagonal stripes create a classically handsome look that’s associated with success, prestige and even power. This association may be due to the origins of the diagonally striped tie.
It’s no surprise that the striped necktie first occurs in the history of a society that’s rich with tradition and had a hand in colonizing most of the world. British military regiments of World War I are often credited with originating the striped tie, and in fact these soldiers proudly wore ties bearing stripes of specific colors and widths identifying their regiments. Although this had much to do with sparking the trend in the US and other countries, English schools and country clubs may actually be more responsible for the beginning of the tradition.
Historians tell us that in 1880, the Exeter College rowing team moved the school-colored ribbons from their straw hats to their necks as ties, and later replaced these with actual neckties. Whether this was the first instance isn’t known, but we do know that many schools and country clubs soon took up the trend and a tradition was created that is still carried on in private schools, academies and universities around the world today. At the same time schools and clubs began sporting their colors in neckwear, the British military discarded their red uniforms for a more subdued color that made them a less tempting target in battle, and regimental ties soon became prevalent.
As with many other traditions, the United States soon recognized and picked up the trend, but being the rebels that we are, the fashion grew with two distinct differences. There was much less emphasis on the right to wear a particular pattern or color combination, and the direction of the diagonal was reversed from high on the left to high on the right. The result was a new distinction in the fashion industry: the European stripe vs. the American stripe. While some organizations within the US adopted “their own” colors, this was mostly disregarded within the US fashion industry. Often, when a group in the US did adopt a tie pattern as a symbol of membership, the European stripe was retained.
It’s notable too, that many of the colors within regimental ties hold special meaning for the members of the organizations that wear them. Many of these color combinations were derived from existing flags or banners, and as with the flags of countries, each color may have been carefully selected to represent something in the history of the group, such as red for the blood of those who gave their lives for a cause. So, there may be good reason for the pride with which members of certain groups defend the colors they wear.
Over the late 20th century, striped ties became available in every color of the rainbow, and in nearly any combination imaginable. Width, spacing and even the orientation of the stripes has also been varied over the years and retailers everywhere now offer selections to match even the most unusual wardrobes. The departure from the traditional regimental striped necktie hasn’t reduced its popularity, however and many fashion-wise businessmen still consider the classic diagonal striped tie a staple of their attire. Whatever your opinion on that matter, striped neckties have certainly found their place in the business world.