Many events in the history of mankind eventually fade into oblivion, but others, leave their indelible marks for the entire world to see. More than 350 years ago, the Croats initiated one such influential occurrence. Although started in the 17th century in a small region on the Adriatic coast, the consequences of this event are still very much evident the world over. 600 million people now wear the ubiquitous symbol of Croatia around their necks, close to their hearts.
Believe it or not Croatia is the mother country of the modern necktie but archaeological evidence of the use of neckties goes back to the Chinese and the Romans almost two millenniums back.
China's First emperor.
The earliest known version
of the necktie has been found in the massive mausoleum of China's first emperor,
Shih Huang Ti, who was buried in 210 B.C. Desperately afraid of death, the
emperor wanted to slaughter an entire to army to accompany him into the next
world. His advisers ultimately persuaded him to take life-size replicas of the
Did Roman Wear Ties
In 113 A.D., one of
Rome's greatest Emperors, the military genius Trajan, erected a marble column to
commemorate a triumphant victory over the Dacians, who lived in what is now
Croatian Cravats Dazzle a King
"… Around the year 1635, some six thousand soldiers and knights came to Paris to give their support to King Louis XlV and Cardinal Richelieu. Among them were a great number of Croatian mercenaries led by a ban, or Croatian viceroy.
The traditional outfit of these Croats aroused interest on account of the unusual and picturesque scarves distinctively tied about their necks. The scarves were made of various cloths, ranging from coarse material for common soldiers, to fine cotton and silk for officers. This elegant "Croatian style" immediately enamoured the French, who were delighted by the new article of clothing, which had been previously unknown in Europe.
For the gallant French officers in the thirty-year war, the advantage of the Croatian neck scarf was its enviable practicality. In contrast to the lace collar that had to be kept white and carefully starched, the scarf was simply and loosely tied around the neck without need for any additional care. Just as elegant as the stiff, high collars, the new scarves were less awkward, easier to wear and remained visible beneath the soldiers’ thick, long hair.
the year 1650, during the reign of Louis XIV, the Croatian scarf was
accepted in France, above all in court, where military ornaments were
much admired. The fashionable expression, ’a la croate’, soon
evolved into a new French word, which still exists today: la cravate.
Many experts believe the French word for tie, cravat, is a corruption of
"Croat." In fact, French kings maintained an elite regiment, the
Cravate Royale, until the French Revolution of 1789.
Cravats Go to England
On his return to England from exile in 1660, Charles II reclaimed the throne that had been lost during the Puritan revolution and brought with him this new word in fashion "Cravat". Over the next ten years, this fashion novelty spread across Europe, as well as across the colonies on the American continent..." After nine years in exile, aristocrats flooded England, bringing with them a passion for the pleasures of the European courts. Weary of war, and tired of the austerity imposed by Oliver Cromwell; England wanted to have fun. Gambling, drinking, music, dancing, parties, theater, elaborate clothes, grand wigs, and yes, the stylish, new cravat, were suddenly all the rage. Soon no gentleman would have considered himself well-dressed without sporting some sort of cloth around his neck--the more decorative, the better. At times, cravats were worn so high that a man could not move his head without turning his whole body. There were even reports of cravats worn so thick that they stopped sword thrusts. The various styles knew no bounds, as cravats of tasseled strings, plaid scarves, tufts and bows of ribbon, lace, and embroidered linen all had their staunch adherents. Nearly one hundred different knots were recognized, and as a certain M. Le Blanc, who instructed men in the fine and sometimes complex art of tying a tie, noted, "The grossest insult that can be offered to a man comme il faut is to seize him by the cravat; in this place blood only can wash out the stain upon the honor of either party."
Real Men Wear Lace
throughout the U.S. and Europe are full of paintings from the 17th and 18th
centuries showing generals, politicians, and aristocrats resplendent in their
lace cravats. Lace was used for trimming, both men's and women's clothing, and
also for decorating. Windows, beds, chairs, and tables were all festooned with
eighteenth century brought unprecedented innovation in neckwear.
The Steinkirk, a loosely wrapped scarf like tie worn with the
dangling end chastely tucked or pinned to the breast, began to take
precedence over the lace cravat in the early part of the century.
So popular was the style, that women were soon attracted to
wearing the more demure version of the necktie, only in more lively
colours than the gent's basic white.
By the middle of the century, the feminine interlopers, in their
crimson Steinkirks, had prompted tough young bucks to retrench their
neckwear styles in something altogether more virile: the stock.
The stock was the most erect neckwear ever developed. It was especially designed for foot‑soldiers in France and Germany in order to encourage the martial appearance of turgid necks and thrusting chins. The stock also had the effect of increasing blood flow to the face, giving soldiers a ruddy, healthful appearance. In fact, the effect of the stock was anything but healthful, as the officers obliged the men to tighten their stocks to the point that "caused the eyes almost to start from their spheres, and gave the wearers a supernatural appearance, often producing vertigo and faintings, or at least bleedings at the nose." The excess of stiffness made it impossible for the soldiers to face left or right, never mind to stoop or to fight. And these constraining effects were rendered even more severe as sparse military budgets ensured that the stocks came in only one size. However, the stock, unlike the cravat, did not have to be tied, and its horsehair, whale bone, pig‑bristle, card, pasteboard, or wooden frame could be covered and recovered with satins, linens, cottons, muslins, silks, or calicos as the latest fads dictated. Not only that, it was a practical military style, since it showed dirt less than the Steinkirk.
Softening of the Stock
with the lace ruffs and millstone collars of nearly a century before,
the stiff reign of the stock was gradually softened by changing men's
ideas were spreading as the eighteenth century progressed, and the
trends were toward shorter and shorter hair.
The most fashionable men began sporting a simple pigtail instead
of a wig, with the trailing locks often tied or decorated with black
ribbons. The long ribbons
came to be fastened around the neck with a knot in front and the free
ends dangling over the chest. This
simple expedient led to the inevitable imitations and innovations, with
coloured and multiple ribbons soon taking over from the basic black
Royalty and landed gentry continued to elaborate their neckwear, to the point that a club of English dandies, called the Macaronis, dedicated themselves to reviving the frilly lace excesses of centuries past. In 1776, The Town and Country Magazine described the Macaroni as a "most ridiculous figure ... Such a figure, essenced and perfumed, with a bunch of lace sticking out under its chin, puzzles the common passenger to determine the thing's sex." With revolution in the air on both sides of the Atlantic, such effeminate excesses could not go unchallenged by real men for very long, and soon plain handkerchiefs, the very antithesis of frilly lace, were being tied into a distinctive common man's neckwear: the bandanna.
Cowboy Bandannas from India
workingclass Europeans, the bandanna at last provided a mark of
masculine respectability at an affordable price.
Of brightly coloured and robust material, the bandanna did not
easily show the dirt, and was quite washable when it did.
In addition, the material could be used to form a basket, lead an
animal, or mop the sweat from a working brow when not being used to
project the owner's dignity. Prohibited
in England by the Calico Acts of 1700 and 1702, the lowly bandanna even
acquired something of the cachet of the forbidden, as well as another
"the Kingsman" for the King's man or customs officer who would
normally seize the forbidden cloth.
Soon, however, European industrialists began to cash in on the
craze, and knock‑offs of the Bengali silk prints were being
manufactured at home. Over
the water, in North America, the cotton bandanna became an extremely
popular and affordable common sense form of neckwear for those colonists
who could not wholly abandon the urbane fashions of the Old Countries.
As interest in the bandanna necktie became ever more general, the time worn urge of a certain power elite to distinguish themselves from common men soon provoked the flourishing of yet another style of neckwear: the Incroyable neckcloth. Partisan politics were again at the root of fashion, and the Incroyables - literally the Unbelievables - were a dandy group of young French nonconformists who expressed sympathy with Republican ideals by revolutionary sartorial excesses. They wore strange cravats of an almost inconceivable size: "The shirt collar rose to the sides of the ears, and the top of the cravat covered the mouth and the lower part of the nose, so that the face (with the exception of the nose) was concealed by the cravat and a forest of whiskers; these rose on each side of the hair, which was combed down over the eyes. In this costume, the elegans bore a greater resemblance to beasts then men, and the fashion gave rise to many laughable caricatures. They were compelled to look straight before them, as the head could only be turned by the general consent of all the members, and the tout ensemble was that of an unfinished statue." Royalists countered the excesses of the Incroyables with more sober green neckcloths, which in turn prompted even more extravagance on the part of the Republicans: two sheets of muslin, one white and one black, wrapped around the neck, chin, and face, finished with floppy bows drooped across the shoulders.
Sailing the Seven Seas
In the 18th and
19th centuries, British sailors often wore white and blue uniforms, complete
with a silk or cotton bandanna, or scarf, usually blue.
The Modern Business Suit Takes Shape
well-dressed man about town should wear clothes that are simple, functional and
discreet, George Bryan "Beau" Brummell commanded in the early 19th
century. By advocating well-cut, tailored clothes, Brummell essentially invented
what has come to be known as the "British look."
Cambridge & Oxford School Ties
I Zingari Cricket Club, founded by a group of Cambridge University students in
1845 is believed to have created the first sporting colors. They designed a flag
of black, bright, orange-red, and gold, symbolizing "out of darkness,
through fire, into light." Blazers, caps, and ties were eventually created
in these colors.
Ties Fit for Officers and Gentlemen
the 1880s the British military finally decided abandon its array of brightly
colored uniforms that had always made such good targets. But they retained the
beloved old military colors on the stripes of the neckties each regiment would
come to adopt. These ties not only preserved the traditional colors, they
provided the only creativity for the drab new uniforms.
Bow Ties Take Center Stage
The bow tie gets is name from the French, jabot,
(pronounced ja-bow), a type of readymade 17th century lace cravat. In the 18th
and 19th centuries, bow ties came in various materials and styles.
A Tie Singing Dixie
It was too hot in the American south to wear lace
or silk cravats. However, in the early 1800s plantation owners displayed their
social superiority by wearing wide ribbons tied in bows. Worn with a
low-collared shirt, the plantation tie was the first American neckwear.
Lord Byron's Legacy
Ironically several ties have been named after the romantic poet, Lord Byron, who seldom wore any sort of neck cloth. The first Byron was a big floppy bow in white, brown or black appeared in the 1820s. In the 1840s, a Byron was made of string or narrow ribbon, while after the 1860s it was a large, often readymade bow.
Paris Presents Designer Ties
the 1920s a pioneering Paris fashion designer, Jean Patou, invented the designer
tie. He made ties from women's clothing material including patterns inspired by
the latest art movements of the day, Cubism and Art Deco.
Celebrity and Rock Star Fashion
With the advent of mass media,
celebrities such as sports heroes, movie actors, and popular singers would
create a variety of neckwear trends.
Ascots Cross the Finish Line
In Europe an ascot is a wide cravat of pale gray patterned silk only worn with very formal morning wear, to weddings, or England's Royal Ascot races, where it gets its name. In the U.S., ascot means cravat. The ascot was commonly worn for business in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Bolo: The Tie That Won the West
bolo, or bola, tie is so common in the west today that many people are surprised
to find that it is relatively new.
Turtleneck: The Anti-Tie
The turtleneck could be called the anti-tie. British writer Noel Coward started wearing colored turtlenecks in the 1920's and created a new fad. French intellectuals and their counterparts in the United States popularized black turtlenecks in the 1950s.
I think the best way to sum all of this up is with this quote from Chic Simple written by Michael Solomon, "They are not particularly comfortable. They always go out of style (or back in as soon as we have thrown them out). And they are not even practical. Yet the tie remains an essential part of a man's wardrobe because it unites all the elements of a man's outfit, giving him instant respectability and, above all, it is the ultimate symbol of individuality"