Stocks & Neckcloths

Thanks to the influence of Beau Brammel, the arbiter of fashion in Regency England, finely-arranged neckcloths became a must for any fashionable gentlemen. But not everyone was a fan. There were those who still preferred to wear stocks, an ancient and more uncomfortable type of cravat, usually quite wide, which were fastened in the back by a knot or hook, while in the front, they had a sort of pre-tied bowtie. Both neckclothes and stocks could be worn in lots of different ways. A cavalry officer, writing in 1830, shows us some fashionable ways of arranging neckwear, in his book The Art Of Dress:

The origin of stocks is very ancient, though for the last half-century they have been worn almost exclusively by the army, navy, and marines, until first revived into public notice by his late Majesty, in the year 1822, when they immediately became an universal fashion. Though at first viewed with a prejudiced and jealous eye by friends of the old school, after some opposition from the petits maitres tribe, they at length found their way into the opera and ball-room, and became a portion of full-dress costume. But this has only occurred since his Majesty was pleased to display one at Drury-lane theatre, composed of velvet and satin, from whence the present full-dress stock takes its name. Habit still, however, in some degree, reflects upon stocks for evening costume, and the adoption, though increasing, is by no means at present popular among the ton. I now proceed to describe the three fashions I have classed them under.


or Full Dress. This stock the shape of which is left in a great degree to the wearer’s pleasure, is composed of the richest black Genoa velvet and satin, the latter of which, sloping down each side of the velvet, terminates in the centre with a very handsome tie, representing a small gordian knot, with short broad ends. From the beautiful and lively contrast, of the velvet and satin, this stock is peculiarly becoming to dark complexions, as nothing can afford a stronger relief than the deep sable of its exterior. His Majesty and his royal brothers were always remarkable for wearing them extremely high on the cheek, so that the sides came close under the ears, extending to the utmost verge of the chin. Though this certainly gives a very noble and fine effect to some countenances, the rage for it has passed away and is now deemed singular.


is nearly straight-sided, very pliant, and composed entirely of black silk, with a common bow in front. Though of an humble aspect beside its more haughty and aristocratical contemporaries, its appearance is unassuming and businesslike. Fashion decidedly Oriental.


is remarkable for the plain stiff elegance of its form, which is composed of corded silk, edged with kid and lined with crimson; unlike the two former fashions it has no tie. The shape or stiffner should be made of a thick whity-brown leather, which is beaten into shape upon a proper block, it should then be of so unyielding a nature that no force of the neck can bend it. A good shape ought to bear new covering at least a dozen times. The tout ensemble of this fashion expresses plainness and dignity with neatness and hauteur in an infinite degree.

Of stocks in general, it may be observed, that they are both handsome and economical, and are not attended with half the trouble of cravats, to which they become a pleasing change, more especially so in dark or gloomy weather, when light-coloured neckerchiefs have a very forlorn appearance. Of course it need scarcely be said that the military and plain beau should never be assumed for full dress. A large sable-coloured hook and eye, will be found an excellent and easy substitute for a buckle behind, the arrangement of which is frequently tiresome in the extreme.

With regard to Neckcloths, it is first indispensably necessary to premise, that previous to putting into execution the fashions here developed, the utmost attention should be paid to their washing, bleaching, and starching; the latter of which must generally be used in such proportion as to stiffen the cloth to the consistence of fine writing-paper.


This, perhaps, of all the following ties is, when well executed, the most exquisite, and requires the greatest practice. The cloth, of virgin white, well starched, and folded to the proper depth, should be made to sit easy and graceful upon the neck, neither too tight nor loose, but with a gentle pressure, curving inwards, from the further extension of the chin, down the throat, to the centre dent in the middle of the neck. This should be the point for a slight dent, extending from under each ear, between which, more immediately under the chin, there should be another slight horizontal dent, just above the former one. It has no tie; the ends, crossing each other in broad folds in front, are secured to the braces, or behind the back by means of a piece of white tape. A brilliant brooch or pin is generally made use of to secure more effectually the crossing, as well as to give an additional effect to the neckcloth.


or Napoleon, is most simple, but by no means inelegant, being nothing more than the neckcloth first placed on the back of the neck, brought round in front, and the ends crossed and fastened as in the preceding method.
This, like some of the ensuing fashions, when the cloth first comes from the back of the neck, is decidedly a summer wear, consequently most in vogue during June, July, and August, when it is delightfully cool and refreshing. A plain gold pin I recommend as the most handsome fasten for the front. Cerulean blue is the greatest favourite in this form; but this, with other colours that may be named, are only submitted to the reader’s fancy.


This somewhat resembles the Ball-room, having a collateral dent coming from under each ear, but has only one horizontal. A small gordian knot is the fasten. Colour, emerald green.


This is very plain and neat. As there should not be the slightest crease visible, the greatest regard should be paid to having the cloth starched as stiffly as possible, without which it is very liable to bend. The sides should be quite straight and smooth, rather larger below than above, with a square knot in front.
White is almost the only colour exhibited in this fashion.


This is most conspicuous for its height and tightness, and from the three creases on either side. Like the Corsican, the ends should be crossed and placed out of sight. A pin or brooch, bearing the representation of a fox’s head, or some apposite emblem, is generally worn. Favourite colours, white, bright buff, or white spots on a blue ground.


This tie is alone original, from the slight perpendicular crease it has on either side of the chin. A slight collateral dent should likewise be on each side, but extending very little forwards, while the folds of the cloth should come close under the ears. A small, flat, gordian knot is the general accompaniment to this, though I have known them worn with the ends plainly crossed over the breast. Colour, light brimstone.


The fold of this should be extremely narrow, for, like the Corsican, it is first brought from the back of the neck, consequently chiefly intended for summer. The tie, which is remarkable, is an enormous barrel-knot, at least four inches in length, and two deep. As this is entirely a fancy tie, and chiefly worn by sporting characters, any fancy colour is appropriate.


Two things are absolutely requisite, rather out of the common course, to form this tie, which should resemble a waterfall. In the first place, the cloth should be immensely large; in the second, it should have no starch. The tie is made by folding the cloth loosely round the neck, and fastening it with a common knot, over which the folds of the cloth should be spread, so as entirely to conceal it. This is the fashion most in repute among all professional swell drivers, from the mail-coach down to the hack or cabriolet. Colour, generally white, but not unfrequently various, as suits the taste of its numerous wearers.


Of all summer fashions, this, as its name may signify, is most in celebrity for its coolness, from being composed of the finest muslin. The ends are brought round the neck in front, linked transversely, and fastened. This, forming part of a nabob’s costume, is worn generally under the tropics, for its uncommon ease and coolness, where I have seen it receive a very handsome and showy effect by the introduction of a ring as a slide, instead of the previous method. Colours may be various, but always light – chequered are, perhaps, most adopted.


When a starched neckcloth is brought home from the wash, it will be immediately seen that one side is smooth and shining, the other more rough; this is occasioned by the one being ironed and the other not. I do it myself, and consequently recommend it to others, that the rough side should be worn outside during the day, but that on putting on a cloth for the evening, the smooth side should be the visible one.

After having folded the neckcloth, and made out the depth, &c, according to the wearer’s taste, as I have previously said, the ends should first be folded as in the annexed engraving, the right-hand end of the cloth turned down, and, vice versa, the end on the left, turned up. The second method, perhaps, is the most general in use, more particularly when a handsome knot is in request. This is effected by gradually deepening both sides of the cloth, commencing from that part touching the back of the neck to the extreme ends. These first folds, by the way, should invariably be ironed out by the washer, and never attempted by the common vulgar method of turning down with the hand.

The advantages of these rules will soon be discovered. It removes the awkward appearance caused by crossing the ends behind; the ends are also by this means brought forward in a smooth and uncrumpled state, and fit to make the knot. It also makes the neckcloth lay smooth and even behind a thing which hitherto has been much neglected. The same care almost should be given to the back as the front part.

After the knot is made, take a piece of white tape and tie one end of it tight to one end of your neckcloth; then carry the tape under your arm, behind your back, under the other arm, and fasten it tightly to the other end of the neckcloth. The tape must not be visible. This way prevents the knot from flying up, which would thereby shorten the length of the cloth, and, in short, greatly injure its appearance. On putting on the neckcloth, take that part which is immediately under the ears with your thumb and finger, and pull it up till it reaches the ear, and contrive to make it maintain permanently that position. Nothing displays more mauvais gout than seeing a cloth forming a straight line from the chin to the ear. Let the front part of the cloth be brought in a line with the extremity of the chin. Nothing gives a person more the appearance of a goose than to see a long part of the jaw and chin projecting over the neckcloth.

Great attention is requisite in starching of neckcloths, or they will turn yellowish, which gives the idea of having a dirty cloth on. Starched neckcloths, independently of their superior look when compared with those which are not so, are also equally comfortable both in summer and winter. The indentures of a starcher, and which, of course, when received inside, are projections, prevent the whole mass of linen touching the cheek. And in some (the eastern for example) no part, except the extreme top and bottom edges, ever in any way touch the neck, which consequently leaves that part free and cool, thereby preventing in summer that overpowering heat occasioned by unstarched linen surrounding and closely clasping the neck on all sides. In winter also it has its advantages; for the starch completely fills up all the smallest and most minute holes (I do not mean holes occasioned by wear, &c, but those which exist in all linen from the nature of its construction). and thereby effectually prevents the admission of the least portion of cold air.

Neckcloths should always (except those worn in the evening and even then they may in ordinary be worn, if the ribs or chequers are not too visible), be made of ribbed or chequered materials, as it makes far better ties than when the stuff is plain. Muslin makes beautiful ties, especially for evenings. I had forgotten in its proper place to mention, that after the neckcloth is finished, you should pass your finger along the upper ridge, in order to make it lay smooth, and look thin and neat.

Further reading:
The Art Of Dress by A Cavalry Officer

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