Chances are if you’re a man you’ve worn a tie or Cravat. But where did that tie originate? The wearing of a cravat started in Croatia back in the 16th century as a part of Croatian traditional costumes. During the Napoleonic wars, it became recognized as a fashion from which the French adopted. Today, it is a must accessory with modern business suits.
The History of the Croatian Tie known as “The Cravat”
It was in Europe, in the year 1630, in Paris, at the line up of Croatian mercenaries from the military frontier under French service, Croatians were presented to King Louis the 13th as glorious warriors among the troops. What caught the King’s fashionable eye was a piece of cloth…which we now call a tie. Croats wore it proudly, and only they knew why.
The traditional Croat military kit aroused Parisian curiosity about the unusual, picturesque scarves distinctively knotted at the Croats’ necks. The cloths that were used ranged from the coarse cloths of enlisted soldiers to the fine linens and silks of the officers. Pretty soon it was the finest piece of fashion worn in the King’s Court, and only the nobles knew why it was worn.
King Charles the 2nd of England heard about this “tie” and proclaimed, “Get me a tie or I shall die!” On returning to England from exile in 1660, Charles II imported with him the latest new word in fashion: “A cravatte is another kind of adornment for the neck being nothing else but a long towel put about the Collar, and so tyed before with a Bow Knott; this is the original of all such Wearings; but now by the Art and Inventions of the seamsters, there is so many new ways of making them, that it would be a task to name, much more to describe them”.
As the fashion became a craving across Europe, only the wise knew of it’s origins. The word cravat derived from the French cravate, a corrupt French pronunciation of Croate.
Here is why they wore a cravat around their necks:
It is said that when the Croatian armies were battling on the fields of the valleys below, the wives would look down from the hills above. In order to distinguish their loved ones from the others, their wives would create ornately decorated red ties of cloth for the men to wear around their necks. This way, the wives could watch and follow their progress in battle.
The French army reintroduced the flowing cravat in the 1770s, and the manner of a man’s knotting became indicative of his taste and style, to the extent that after the Battle of Waterloo (1815) the cravat itself was referred to as a “tie”.
Croatia (Hrvatska in Croatian) today celebrates Cravat Day on October 18.