If you thought camouflage cargo shorts were the only cool fashion trend to come out of the military, whoo boy are you ever wrong! That more or less useless little bit of cloth that men (and sometimes women) tie around their necks every morning first entered the fashion world by force nearly 400 years ago. I’m the proud owner of at least 50 neckties… all tremendously ugly.
Croatia is proud of it’s contribution to modern fashion. Just so we’re clear, Croatia is a small country in the Mediterranean tucked in behind the Italian peninsula. They are also the fine folks who brought us the mechanical pencil. I’m also the proud owner of at least three mechanical pencils… all completely empty.
Around 1635 a whole whack of soldiers flocked to France to aid king Louis XIII in a religious war against Spain. Among them were many Croation mercenaries who were sporting this odd fashion of a brightly coloured cloth tied around the neck, and hanging down in front. It quickly caught the attention of fashionable Paris, and replaced the more common lacy tuft worn around the neck in most of Europe at that time. There was certainly a practical advantage as the white lace needed to be kept clean and starched, compared to the cravat (the word itself derived from Croation) which was was simply tied and forgotten.
In 1660 Charles II brought the cravat to England, and it continued to spread and evolve across Europe. By 1815 the way you tied your cravat was in itself a fashionable expression, suggestive of a man’s sensibilities, and thus it began to be referred to simply as a tie.