According to Oscar Wilde (1854-1900), the most famous dandy of his day, “A well-tied tie is the first serious step in life.” I know I would never have taken a young man seriously had he shown up at my door for a dinner date without one. So who gets the credit or the blame, depending on your point of view, for the modern necktie?
|The Prince of Wales in 1924|
The Windsor Knot, named after one of the most famous fashion icons of his day, David, Duke of Windsor (1894-1972), became all the rage in the 1920s. Well-dressed young men all over the world took their sartorial inspiration from him and his signature necktie. But the earliest inspirations for the modern necktie can be seen some 300 years before that.
If you will allow me a small digression, I promise to find my way back.
You can tell the holidays are over. The Hallmark Channel has started putting reruns of The Golden Girls back on TV during the day. I never cared for that Show the first time around, and now that I am, in fact, a Golden Girl chronologically, I still can’t stand the Show – loved the actresses, hated the characters they played. I do miss those wonderfully cheesy, romantic Hallmark holiday movies designed to appeal to the hopelessly romantic girlie girl in us no matter how old we are. Not something my husband and I watch together, although he understands their appeal.
We do, however, enjoy watching House Hunters International on HGTV together, which is just as formulaic as Hallmark’s holiday movies. The couple is always at odds about what they want in their new home. One always wants the hustle bustle of the city while the other wants a quiet home in the country. I particularly get frustrated with the American wife who wants European “old world charm” in a 200 year-old home, but insists that it have American-style, open-concept space, a modern kitchen, four bedrooms and four bathrooms!! I have a strong urge to slap some sense into her. A quick check of the internet will, however, confirm that the Show is totally staged and scripted. One woman was profiled as house hunting in a country in which she had lived for many years and buying a house in which she’d been living for six years. The faux realtor who “sold” her the house was actually a photographer friend of hers.
That said, it’s still fun to see exotic places I’ll probably never visit, like Dubrovnik.
The other night, we were watching a couple “house hunting” in Dubrovnik, a beautiful, medieval city in Croatia, when my husband suddenly said, “You know, the Croatians invented the necktie.”
“What?” I asked. “Are you sure it wasn’t the French?” When it comes to fashion, my Gallic antennae always go up.
“No,” he insisted. “It was the Croatians. Look it up.”
So I did, and he was right, but so was I – at least the French did have a hand in it, so to speak. Here’s what happened.
In the 17th Century, King Louis XIII (1601-1643) hired some Croatian mercenaries to help him fight a war that lasted thirty years, known appropriately as the “Thirty Years’ War.” While King Louis was not at all impressed with the unreliable nature of his Croatian soldiers, who, true to their mercenary title, changed sides depending on who paid them the most, he was very impressed with the piece of cloth they wore tied around their necks. In fact, he found it so appealing that he immediately copied their neck attire adding his own flourishes à la française. Known as La Croate (the French word for Croatian), it became quite the rage at the French court, the word eventually evolving into La Cravate, the French word for necktie.
While the Croatians may have been the inspiration for the modern necktie, it was the French who popularized it across the world.
|Gordon Gekko (Michael Douglas) in the film Wall Street 1987|
Oscar Wilde was right. The well-tied necktie says that you take yourself seriously and so should the world. Let’s face it, Gordon Gekko, the ultimate mercenary, owed a huge debt of gratitude to the Croats. How successful do you think he would have been without the Power Tie?