I have wanted to write this specific post since the 16th of January. I have known (most of) the story for a couple of years care of my girlfriend Zeljka but not another day is going by without my getting this written.
There are few things that women agree upon when it comes to men, but I would be willing to bet that the allure of a man wearing a good dress shirt and a handsome, and well-tied, silk tie is certainly one; the attraction is almost as primal as the overwhelming desire we have to pull the end of ribbon to get at a gift.
The modern necktie takes its origins from the red kerchiefs worn by Croatian soldiers in the 17th century (Thirty Years War). The sartorial word, cravat, derives from the corrupted French pronunciation of Croat(e) ‘La Cravate’ thus coming into the lexicon of the day. If you do a search online this is generally accepted as historically accurate, but it’s only a portion of the story. All those websites toting this to market their wares fail to mention how this long piece of muslin or silk wrapped once about the neck of a Croatian soldier and tied in a loose knot came to be – lovers.
It was the tying of such by a woman upon her sweethearts’ neck, sending her man off to war with a prayer and a promise of fidelity that started this. Essentially, in accepting the kerchief, he was bound to her should he return from war. In the contemporary sense, the use of various metaphors of business as war, it is the same and Fast Company best sums it up: “Business in the New Economy is a civilized version of war. Companies, not countries, are the battlefield rivals.” And the spoils of those wars fought daily? Still the companionship of a lover to come home to. Which brings me back to the almost primal connection we have to unwrapping a present (though I am unaware of any sociological or psychological studies to document the phenomenon) a hand on his chest just at the heart monitors both the elevation of his breath and heart rate, fingers slipping into a silk knot at a man’s throat and gently, but firmly, loosening it (and him) from the constraints of his day – in my humble opinion there is not a-n-y-t-h-i-n-g more seductive. I digress.
“Personal style isn’t simply an exercise in parroting but rather an exhibition for our own stories – from the gait of our walk to the rhythm of our speech to the manner in which the necktie falls from the knot.” ~ LZ Granderson
And it is this space, “the manner in which the necktie falls”, that I revert to the Croatian origins of the tie. You see back in January I was in Rijeka, Croatia for the day. Stunned by the Baroque beauty architecture of this city of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire (from 1466 onward 450 years), as I said I knew of the back-story of the cravat, and though I had seen a handful of Croata shops in the previous two and a half months of my stay in Croatia I had not yet entered one of their stores. Something was different energetically and visually here though. On the wall directly behind the glass door was a colour of fresh cream silk Charmeuse cravat (photo at left). Because just as a Tuxedo should only be worn with a hand-tied black silk bow tie this swath of finished ivory silk had the same net effect on my psyche. Suddenly all I saw was a romantic nod to a time when harpsichords and viola de gamba were played and men wore embroidered waistcoats, breeches with hose (showing off their legs to great advantage), and cutaway jackets made of fine silk brocade or velvet embellished with passementarie, and a tiny part of me involuntarily swooned. I had only meant to ask to take a picture, but before me was quite literally the history of the tie in a series of watercolours hung upon the walls and that history pulled me into it as well as the store where stories and pride of both country and company ebulliently poured forth from Sven, the store’s sales manager, I was enthralled. To discover that not only are 99% of Croata offerings made within Croatia’s geopolitical boundaries but the hyper-exclusive and limited edition (only 25 of the same tie are produced) nature of these make an Hermès tie as common as an Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirt; somehow all this was translated into further validation for making this dragon shaped country bound by the sea my permanent home.
I tied a red silk kerchief around the neck of a singular, imaginary, Croatian man that day, pledging my heart and love to the country in the process. At the time I didn’t know how accurate that troth would become in the coming months, and the reality I now live daily – though still from afar. Can’t wait to get my fingers into that knot that binds me, loosen it, and be welcomed home.
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