The Silent Invasion: A Short History of the Necktie

Do you know the origin of the ubiquitous necktie? Who were the first men to wear a tie? Was it the French? Was it the British? You might be surprised, like I was, to find out that the silent invasion of the necktie started in Croatia!

Croatia? You must be kidding!

Indeed, one of the most common symbols of modern businessmen came from my wife’s homeland. The Croats staged a revolution that was bloodless and yet changed the face of fashion forever. It all started as a symbol of love in the seventeenth century.

As one story goes, a young solider was preparing to leave his village and join the Croat military forces at war. His beloved tied a beautifully colored scarf around his neck to remind him of her love for him. As time went on the neckerchief became a symbol for Croatian troops fighting in the 30 Year War. The French king noted the Croats for their strong fighting style. He created an elite regiment called ‘Le Royal Croate’ of Croat mercenaries who fought side by side with the French to victory.

The Croats, with their formative neckwear, caught the imaginations of Paris. Parisian began calling the Croatian kerchiefs, ‘Les Cravates.’ So the name cravat was coined and joined the world of high fashion. The new accessory quickly found its way to England and the New World as it had displaced the starched, frilly collars worn by the elite.

Today’s necktie has evolved from the brightly colored neckerchief given as a loving reminder to a solider going to war. The cravat comes in different shapes, with many sizes, patterns and colors. The style diversity seen in each tie serves to remind me that this symbol has been adopted by almost every culture worldwide. It is a borderless standard that defines men personally who want to express their style and taste.

This afternoon, I brought with me tie samples from the company that wrote the book on neckties. Croata is Croatia’s premier necktie manufacturer. They bring Croatia’s past into today modern fashion. The company goes to great lengths incorporating historical patterns into the tie fabric. As you can see from this particular tie, there are some ancient symbols that represent the first Croatian alphabet. The second tie shows a braiding that was common to everyday life in Hrvatska.

A couple of year ago, Croata broke a world record by creating the largest necktie. It was ‘tied’ around a coliseum in Paula, a city on the northern coast of Croatia. This is served to highlight the origin of the necktie and the company that is promoting its history.

So the next time that you see a man wearing a necktie, think back to the solider dawning a neckerchief. Remember that neckerchief reminded him of the love a young woman had for him to speed him home safely from the war. And so a noble symbol of love silently left its mark forever on societies around the world.

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