2,000 Years of the Necktie: Croatian Cravats Dazzle a King

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

Croatian Cravats Dazzle a King

by David Johnson
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"The Sun King," Louis XIV of France, was intrigued and delighted by the colorful silk kerchiefs worn around the necks of Croatian mercenaries. A crack regiment, the soldiers were presented at court around 1660 so the King could thank them for a victory against the Hapsburg Empire.

A crack regiment

Many experts believe the French word for tie, cravat, is a corruption of "Croat." In fact, French kings maintained an elite regiment, the Cravate Royale, until the French Revolution of 1789.

Other sources say cravat is derived from the Turkish word kyrabacs, or the Hungarian, korbacs, both meaning "whip" or "long, slender object." Researchers have also noted the word cravat appeared in French before the arrival of the Croatians. They suggest the term is a corruption of rabat, French for a hanging collar.

One thing is certain: the elegant French courtiers, and the military immediately began copying the Croatians. Ordinary soldiers began adorning their necks with lace, while officers sported muslin or silk, possibly trimmed with embroidery. Even poor people wore cotton cravats, sometimes of pleated black taffeta.

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