Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Blame it on the Croats

Did you know that last month was National Necktie Month?  Do you care?  Well, a lot of men once did and some still do. 

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. 

Dubrovnik, Croatia
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?   


  1. Comment sent to me by my friend Anna:

    "Will show your blog to Novis. He loves ties and has a huge collection of it. Interesting it comes from Croatia. By the way, Dubrovnik is beautiful!!!!"

  2. Dearest M-T, a man once told me a necktie is the equivalent of high heels for a woman, and the case can be made each are pulled out when one needs to look classy.👠👔

    I do not care for the Golden Girls either. The jokes are too formula and not clever. The veteran actresses all rose above their material, for sure. After years of stage work in a tough field, I’m glad they retired with big bank accounts at least.🙂

    1. I love that quote, Debra. Nothing like a pair of high heels and a great necktie to look classy.

      As for the Golden Girls, I think Betty White is the only one still alive and she is well into her nineties. May she be well and happy for many years. I always loved her, especially as Sue Ann Nivens on the Mary Tylor Moore show. Great show, great writing, great delivery of those great lines by a brilliant cast.

      Cheers, M-T

  3. Dearest Marie-Thérèse,
    It always will remain a fine gentleman accessory and I love it!
    My husband Pieter has quite a collection of silk ties and nowadays one often goes without a tie.
    Not always though and I still love the complete look, with a nice suit!
    As for any TV series, I'm out as we were way too much out of the country for even following anything.
    Both of us never were much interested either. We love historical movies and love reading.

    1. Ma chère Mariette,

      I couldn't agree more w/your assessment of this best of all gentleman's accessory. Of course, it's the perfect complement to a great suit, as you so correctly state.

      Historical movies are, also, my favorites and, yes, you can't beat a historical biography of some of the great figures who have shaped our destiny. Dan is currently reading a wonderful biography of Winston Churchill. Of course, he has quite a collection of Churchill biographies, but there is always something new to learn about these brilliant icons.

      Warm hugs to you and Pieter,

  4. I also never have liked Golden Girls. But, to digress, I too love ties. As a teen I would wear a scarf tied like a tie, with an old fashioned tie pin, and put matching cufflinks in my shirts, at the cuff. I still only ever wear scarves tied in The Windsor Knot. I mean, who wouldn't?

    1. I, too, had a real penchant for tying my scarves in a Windsor knot when I was young. How wonderful that we have that in common. And....I still have several sets of cuff links that I wore in white Oxford Cloth shirts back in the day. Of course, I have a varied repertoire of scarf tying these days, especially my Hermès scarves, but your comment does bring back fond memories.

      Always love your comments. Thanks for stopping by.

      Cheers, M-T

  5. I never liked the Golden Girls and the show Friends !

    Like a man in a tie and my winter high school uniform had a tie ... boy , that was a looong time ago ! LOL

    1. I love when my readers share old memories from looooong ago. Makes getting older so much more fun if you have someone to share it with.

      Cheers, M-T

  6. I like bow ties. We do a Victorian High Tea in Colorado in the summer, and our husbands wear bowler hats and bow ties(they are the waiters)..and they look amazing!

    1. What a fun and gracious event. I, too, like bow ties. When my husband wears his tuxedo, I always think it's the bow tie that does it for me....or maybe it's the cummerbund (LOL).

      I would love to join you one summer for the Victorian High Tea. You'd get my husband in a bow tie, no problem, but you'd never get him in a bowler (sigh). Otherwise, I'd have to say he serves me well.

      Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment.

      Cheers, M-T

  7. Glad I scrolled back to this post. I do love a man in a tie.

    1. So do I, Deborah. Oscar had it quite right. My husband was wearing a suit and tie when I met him. He still wears a long-sleeved, white oxford cloth shirt and tie w/a nice sports jacket to work every day.

      Glad you scrolled back, too.

      Thanks for stopping by.

      Cheers, M-T


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