October 1, 2014

Advice for Fall: Tie One On

by Christine Kirkham, Coordinator, Montana Digital Newspaper Project

Ad for the Copper City Commercial Company in
Ad for the Copper City
Commercial Company in
the Anaconda Standard,
September 1897.
The world’s annual couture expo, Fashion Week, is currently underway in Paris. Women’s clothing styles shift rapidly, so an outfit that was au courant a few years ago may now look dated. But for men, the classic suit-and-tie has endured for decades.

I decided to see if I could pinpoint, in Montana's historical newspapers, the arrival of that familiar silhouette sported by executives, bankers, and other white-collar workers. When did Montana’s city-dwelling men begin looking, well, new-fashioned?

Ad for Lymon's in Butte,
Anaconda Standard, June 1899.
A quick survey of menswear ads shows male dress remaining decidedly Victorian well into the 1890s. Consider the smoker at right. Besides the telltale bowler and 'stache, there’s a heaviness to the coat, which hangs to the knees in back. For the 1899 gentleman at left, the coat is still boxy and the high collar stiff.

But perhaps the one item dating these men to pre-1900 is their neckwear. Aristocrats and military officers had sported ascots, scarves and cravats for centuries. But after the Industrial Revolution, everyday Joes needed a similar dignified appearance — without the nuisance of fastening an elaborate knot. The man of the modern era needed neckwear he could put on quickly, sans manservant.*

Caldwell (Idaho) Tribune, October 1910.

Consider the 1910 park strollers at right, looking casual, comfortable, and streamlined. (Those hairless upper lips add to their modern look.)

Finally, the neckwear worn by the dapper fellows below, from 1922, bears a striking resemblance to the Langsdorf tie, which is still in use. They are wearing what would become the white-collar uniform for the next hundred years.

Thousands of fascinating ads like these can be found in Montana's digitized newspapers at Chronicling America, where historical Idaho newspapers will begin appearing soon.

Lewis-Wedum Department Store ad, Glasgow Courier, September 1922

* SOURCE: The Origins of the Neck Tie