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What’s the Real Story Behind Men Wearing Ties?

tpauly, Flickr

Despite what many a working stiff might think, men do not wear neckties to facilitate strangulation when their bosses are less than pleased with their work.

So, why do men wear this variable, often quite fashionable, and utterly useless piece of business attire?

The answer lies in history, and Europe’s Thirty Years’ War. The logistics of that 17th century conflict are messy, to say the least, and the various alliances hard to follow. What is worth note here was the extensive use of Croatian mercenaries. Croatian soldiers, fashion innovators that they were, wore scarves around their necks as part of their uniforms, which were called kravatas.

French soldiers must have thought the Croats looked pretty smashing in their rustic scarves. Military personnel brought the idea of wearing neckties back to France, where King Louis XIV quickly introduced ‘la cravate’ to high society. Neckties soon became all the rage. Wearing a cravate allowed you to show off your individual style, by altering the size and length of the tie, as well as the colors and patterns swimming across the cloth.

The word ‘cravat,’ which owes its origins to ‘Croatian,’ eventually became ‘tie’ in English. While the design and manner of wearing a tie have evolved over the years, the ubiquity and cross-cultural relevance of this little strip of fabric simply prove that ties are here to stay.


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