2,000 Years of the Necktie: Real Men Wear Lace

Updated August 5, 2020 | Infoplease Staff

Real Men Wear Lace

by David Johnson
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Neckties Through the Ages

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Art museums throughout the U.S. and Europe are full of paintings from the 17th and 18th centuries showing generals, politicians, and aristocrats resplendent in their lace cravats. Lace was used for trimming, both men's and women's clothing, and also for decorating. Windows, beds, chairs, and tables were all festooned with lace.

Although England produced prodigious quantities of lace itself, lace from Flanders and Venice, considered the best, was imported in vast quantities. Because of strict trade regulations, lace smuggling became an international pastime.

For those who could afford it, no price was too costly. King Charles II is said to have once spent 20 pounds and 12 shillings on a single cravat. This was as much as five times an annual middle class salary

Lace was not the only material used for cravats. Plaid scarves, ribbon, embroidered linen tasseled strings and ordinary cotton were all pulled into service. Some neckwear was so thick it was able to stop a sword thrust.

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