The necktie can be traced back to 1618-48 during the Thirty Years' War when Croatian mercenaries wore small, knotted neckerchiefs during their time in French service. The Parisians noticed their unique accessory and decided to take it on for themselves. Originally named "Croates", these neck pieces became known as "Cravats" and the result of this new item being noticed meant that the cravat started a fashion craze in Europe where both men and women wore pieces of fabric around their necks. In the late 17th Century these cravats were made out of lace which became fussy garments to arrange precisely... the wearer taking great pride in the arrangement and fastening of their neckpiece.
(thanks wiki.org for the info and picture)