Who Invented the Necktie?
BY AWAKE! CORRESPONDENT IN GERMANY
AROUND the world some 600 million men wear them regularly. In Germany the average man owns about 20 neckties. Many a man has wondered with some irritation, while putting on a necktie, ‘Whose idea was this, anyway?’ Where did the tie originate?
Steenkerke, a town in Belgium, claims the honor of having “invented” the necktie. In 1692, English forces made a surprise attack on French troops stationed there. According to the German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung, “the [French] officers had no time to dress correctly. But without ado, they tied their uniform scarves around the neck with a loose knot and pushed the ends through the buttonholes of their jacket. Voilà, the birth of the necktie in its original form.”
However, the soldiers’ fashion novelty was not exactly unprecedented. Experts on the history of neckties point out that centuries earlier, warriors for the Chinese emperor Cheng (Shih Huang Ti) wore a scarflike cloth folded around the neck, indicating their rank.
Perhaps the most famous, though, were the scarves worn by Croatians fighting for King Louis XIV of France. During a victory parade in Paris, the French were so taken by the Croatians’ scarves that they called them cravates, from Cravate, a Croat, and began wearing the scarves as well. “From then on,” writes the aforementioned newspaper, “there was no stopping necktie fashions, although the soldiers in Steenkerke were the first to make the scarf into a knotted tie.”
During the French Revolution (1789-99), a man would indicate his political inclination by the color of the “croat,” or scarf, around his neck. In the 19th century, elegant European society “discovered” this form of attire. It was then that the cravat was elevated from the military and political arena and entered the wardrobe of the male population at large. Today the necktie is more than accepted in many societies worldwide; in certain settings, it is even mandatory.
[Picture Credit Line on page 31]
Historic Costume in Pictures/Dover Publications, Inc., New York