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A History of Cravats and Neckties

Cravats have become a well-known men’s accessory in the last few years. They have a rich history and can be considered a relative of ties or bow ties. The origins of cravats can be traced back to the 17th century. The Croatian military men wore cravats for the first time. At the beginning, caravats were from a piece of cloth knotted around the soldiers’ necks. But the difference was that the soldiers’ had a low-quality material, whereas officers wore cravats made of silk.


The origin of the word cravat is easy to trace. It comes from the French word “cravate”. It seems that they ended up with this word because people mispronounced it. They meant “croate”, not “cravate”, but, after all, the mistake took the place of the original word. By “croate”, the French people meant Croatian. So this is the nation which gave the name of this beautiful accessory, worn by men around the world these days. During the reign of Louis XIII, the French cavalry was composed mainly of Croatian mercenaries.


But the first man who wore a cravat for the first time was the poet Ivan Gundulic. He was a Croatian poet. This accessory is known around the world by a similar name in many languages: Irish – Carabhat, Spanish – Corbata, Danish – Kravata, Dutch – Kravata, Czech  - Kravata, Ukrainian – Kravatka, etc. There are many words which name this accessory, even in the same language.   


Cravats – the symbol of elegance and good taste


Cravats have become a well-known men’s accessory throughout the world and remained a symbol of good taste in clothing. Bow ties and neckties are also very appreciated, but cravats have reached a high level of popularity among those men who want to distinguish themselves in society and wherever they go. At first, cravats were a means of identification in the French troops, as the soldiers did not have uniforms like nowadays.


The shape and style of cravats changed in time. They were adopted in the Netherlands, Blegium and, very importantly, in the United Kingdom. This is the country where cravats became colourful, expressing different personalities and a different taste of each man. The cravats started to have different knots and were made of many types of materials. The Duke of Windsor used to wear cravats with a particular type of knot, thus giving the name of this knot. There are at least 85 ways to make a knot for a cravat, depending on each country or style men adopt.


Neckties, a rich history of men’s style


It’s clear that ties are a sign of evolution to modern men’s apparel. People have always adorned accessories worn around their neck, being them feathers, pieces of fabric or other natural or synthetic materials. When they emerged, ties were considered a distinctive sign of style, showing a strong personality and expressing good taste of modern men. Warriors, representatives of the burgeoisie and even the vikings wore a first form of tie around the neck. 


It seems that neckties originated in China. They were worn by Chinese soldiers more than a thousand years ago. Neckties are also represented on the statues of the well-known “terracota army” in this country. The Romans also wore neck ties, this accessory being given only to the  Roman soldiers with great merits in wars. It is believed that the present neck tie is in fact derived from cravats. It evolved into what we know today from this accessory worn for the first time in the 17th century. Many military leaders influenced fashion throughout time. Among them, Napoleon Bonaparte is a renowned figure that imposed the use of certain clothes and accessories during his reign and in the coming decades. European fashion spread over the entire world due to the colonists that took with them all the specific clothes and accessories from Europe to Asia and America. Each nation further influenced fashion, bringing its own improvements to what they borrowed from other people.


Neckties have been very popular in Europe for more than 200 years. Many changes have been made since their emergence, but basically this accessory preserved its elegant style. At the beginning of the 20th century, neckties were worn by the majority of the stylish men in Europe.  Bow ties and ascots were also preferred by men from a higher social class. The first and second decade of the 20th century recorded a decline among men who used to wear formal attires.


The changes in men’s fashion brought a preference for functional and comfortable outfits. Men’s ties started to be among the preferred choices among men. Famous designers found new ways and materials to create ties. Consequantly, new tie knots were invented, starting a new trend in men’s fashion. New colours, patterns and designs also emerged during this time, even the thickness of ties becoming smaller and smaller.


In the 1950s, people wore a new type of tie – the so-called “skinny tie”. More and more materials, natural and synthetic, started to be used for neckties. In the 1960s, on the contrary, designers created wider ties, as compared to the previous decade. There were even ties made of leather which were worn by a large number of men in combination with formal attire. Men used this accessory as a means to express their personality and the style they embraced.


Modern times, up to our days, are a new revolution for ties. Modern techniques and technology allowed the appearance of revolutionary materials, colours and patterns. The strong trend of floral ties is another important landmark of modern ties when it comes to ties. Floral patterns and paisleys are just two of the new trends that emerged these years.


Not only men prefer ties nowadays, but also women. The bright and vivid colours fit a more casual look, whereas the polka dotted tie is a piece of accessory which can be worn with an elegant suit. Some say that ties are uncomfortable and difficult to wear, but most men who just want to create a lasting impression don’t take into consideration such aspects.