When most of us are deciding which tie to wear we rarely pause to think about why we do so. And why would we, the tie has been a staple in men's fashion for as long as any of us can remember. Our fathers and grandfathers wore ties and so did theirs before them. Different styles were of course worn, but it was still a standard part of their dress. This begs the question of how and why this men's fashion staple originated. To answer this question one must look at the precursor to the modern men's necktie: the cravat.
There is a history of men's neckwear worn for military purposes dating back to at least Ancient Rome. However, neckwear was not really used as a fashion accessory until the 17th century. The precursor to the modern men's necktie became popular in 17th century France, but actually had its origins in what is now modern day Croatia. During the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648), French King Louis XIII hired Croatian mercenaries to fight on his behalf. These military men wore a small knotted piece of cloth around their necks as part of their traditional uniform.
The Cravat Regiment stationed at St. Mark's Square in Zagreb, Croatia (Photo by Roberta F.)
It is said that this piece of cloth around the necks of the Croat soldiers aroused the curiosity of Parisians and King Louis XIII himself. Some even say that King Louis made them a mandatory accessory at royal gatherings and that he himself named this neck cloth "The Cravat" to honour the Croats. Modern day Croatia takes pride in being the birthplace of the cravat and celebrates October 18th as Cravat Day. There is even a guard of honour stationed in Zagreb that wears replicas of the uniforms worn by those soldiers who fought in the Thirty Years' War.
In a future post the evolution of the tie from the cravat will be discussed. But for now, we hope you learned something new!