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What Is a Cravat?

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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 27 July 2014
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The cravat is the forerunner to the modern tie, and in modern usage one can refer to a necktie as a cravat. We owe it to Croatians, who in the 17th century commonly wore either silk or cotton scarves tied under the collar. The name is actually a corruption of Croat, the French term for Croatians.

The tied scarves worn by Croatians were a part of normal wear for battle, and were noted in the German 30 Years War by the French. King Louis XIV became especially enamored of the cravat in secret talks that were meant to exert French control over Croatia. In fact, Louis was unsuccessful in these talks, and the Croatians conquered him from a fashion viewpoint. He quickly adopted the cravat for the court, enhancing its popularity in many of the large European countries.

Most early styles were much shorter than the modern necktie, and were almost always white. However, when England adopted the cravat for wear, many changes occurred. They altered the length and color of these scarves, and created numerous styles of tying them. Symbolism became attributed to wearing various colors of cravat, which still may be observed when one wears neckties. Actually the term "tie" is simply a shortened version of the phrase “to tie a cravat.”

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The modern tie design is owed to Jesse Langsdorf, an American in the textiles industry who took the fabric of the cravat, cut it into three pieces, and reattached it in a way that would promote easier tying. Since then, ties of many lengths, colors and sizes have always been popular as a part of business or formal wear for men. However, the patterned cravat may be said to hide the whims or character defects of a person.

Since the advent of the colored cravat, certain colors have special meanings. For example a blue one is associated with wholeness, calm and eternity. Red is associated with both love and rage, though in recent years, red ties were associated with the power suit and power colors. A black one is often worn at funerals, though if worn with a lighter shirt it may simply be considered elegant.

The yellow cravat may be associated with youth, fun and hopefulness. Green, on the other hand, is often either considered an ecologically friendly statement or as an expression of wisdom. Brown, which seems reasonably subdued, is actually considered representative of earthiness and sexuality.

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Discuss this Article

candyquilt
Post 3

In history class, my teacher said that neckties were first seen worn by the Emperor's army in China. I think this was a long time before the Croats wore them. It did not become popular in that era though, so maybe that's why it is not attributed to the Chinese. But they have found proof of the cravat necktie in China in a tomb that was uncovered.

ddljohn
Post 2

I think other European countries have also adopted "cravat" from the French. When I was traveling in Eastern Europe, I saw ties being referred to as "kravat."

One thing I am curious about is whether the cravat has always been wider on one side? And has it always been pointed at the end?

knittingpro
Post 1

I wonder why they were worn in battle. A cravat (or a tie, or a scarf) does not really seem to be "battle dress" to me, but who knows? I also didn't know that different colored cravats can mean different things.

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