Tie clips and tie tacks are items of men’s jewelry used to secure a necktie to a shirt front. A tie tack consists of a small emblem mounted on a sharp pin, while tie clips, bars, or slides are flat, spring-hinged clasps attached horizontally onto a tie. These accessories are affixed midway down the length of a necktie to prevent it from dangling into a plate of food or blowing in the wind, simultaneously keeping the tie’s shorter end properly hidden.
Some tie tacks resemble hatpins with long needles meant to be inserted vertically into a tie, while others are more like miniature pinbacks enclosed with a fitting behind the shirt. Often made from gold or silver and inlaid with pearls, diamonds, and other gemstones, tie pins were first popularized in the 19th century by wealthy Europeans who used them to hold their complicated cravats in place.
By the 1850s, the necktie had evolved into a more modern, slender form. Most ties of this period were made from ordinary fabrics like wool or cotton, and tie pins became the most common method of keeping them in place. However, as increasingly expensive materials were used for neckties, an alternative was needed that wouldn’t damage such delicate fabrics.
In the 1920s, tailor Jesse Langsdorf pioneered a new method of cutting ties that prevented wrinkles and allowed them to hang straighter than ever before. The tie bar soon became their default accessory, since it maintained a neat appearance without tearing neckties made from silk. In the United States, where the trend took the strongest hold, tie clips often featured lucky symbols like horseshoes, shields, or flowers decorated with rhinestones, pearls, or precious stones.
During the tie clip’s mid-20th-century heyday, personalized clasps were frequently given as gifts of membership or achievement. In the late 1920s, Herbert Hoover became the first American president to have his signature recreated on a tie clasp that was given to supporters, a move copied by many subsequent leaders. Tie bars were also made as souvenirs of historic events, like international world’s fairs or NASA’s lunar space missions.
Tie clips and tie tacks were also used to indicate involvement with civic organizations, emblazoned with everything from corporate logos to country-club names. Tie pins and clasps were particularly common to fraternal groups, featuring symbolic icons like the all-seeing eye, a skull and crossbones, or three interlocking rings.
The design of tie pins and clasps generally followed wider trends in jewelry design, with sleek Art Deco forms dominating the 1920s and '30s and more abstract, modernist pieces following in the 1940s and '50s. However, as clothing styles became more casual throughout the 1960s and '70s, neckties were worn on fewer occasions, and the formality of tie clips made these accessories virtually obsolete.