History of the Cravat
For men today, a necktie and bowtie could be considered compulsory parts of their personal wardrobe. Whether or not you regularly wear a suit and necktie and whether or not you often have black tie or white tie events that call for a bowtie, most men have at least one of each in their closet. However, for men of bygone eras, it was all about the cravat. You could consider it the earlier ancestor of today’s modern necktie and bowtie.
So, what exactly is a cravat? A cravat is a long piece of cloth that is used as a neckband. While it’s no longer as popular today, it was a staple of men’s every day clothing in centuries past. However, the origins of the cravat may actually surprise you.
The cravat came into existence as far back as the 1600’s. It’s thought to have originated from The Thirty Years War, having military origins. King Louis XIII of France enlisted Croatian mercenaries to aid the French side in battle. From the soldiers and lower ranking officers with cotton and linen fabric tied around their necks to the officers and higher-ranking officials who instead used fine fabrics like silk featuring lace embroidery and trimming, the mercenaries were all found with the neckwear. The trend quickly took on and was widely adopted. The French mispronounced the word “croate”, meaning Croatian, and instead articulated “cravate”, which eventually evolved to what we today call the cravat.
When Charles II returned to England in 1660, he brought this latest fashion trend home with him. The cravat become highly popular with the English men, particularly the nobility. The men and their valets made the style their own, creating many different ways to tie the cravat and adorning them with jewelry and other embellishments. While cravats were commonly worn in white, it was also the English who introduced cravats in varying colors and patterns.
The popularity of cravats didn’t end in the 19th century. In fact, up until the 1960’s and 1970’s, cravats still quite often adorned the necks of men. However, as fashion evolved and trends came and went, the traditional cravat was largely overshadowed by today’s ubiquitous necktie and bowtie. That is not to say that the cravat is no longer stylish. In fact, gentlemen of today can make quite a fashion statement by wearing the traditional style. Brad Pitt, David Beckham, Pierce Brosnan and Michael Douglas are just a few of the stylish men who have, at one point or another, been seen wearing a style of cravat. With that said, don’t be afraid to take a fashion forward step, wearing a stylish cravat of your own the next time an occasion calls for a suit and tie.