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Hi, Matt:

Where does the necktie come from?

-- Tieless Tim Cotes, Shelter Island

They came from hell, I tell you! HELL! Well, actually, France. The same country that gave us high heels. In the first century, Roman soldiers tied water-soaked hunks of material around their necks to keep themselves cool while they marched around Europe slaughtering people. I guess it's understandable why neckwear never caught on as a fashion statement then. But one day in the late 1600s, soldiers from Croatia showed up in Paris. They wore linen scarves around the necks of their uniforms. The French nobility took one look, and the next day men and women in the trend-setting upper classes had long, flowing things tied in a knot around their necks. The rest of Europe looked to the French court for guidance before they got dressed every morning, so soon everyone was wearing ties. The British King Charles seemed particularly fond of them. Neckties became a fashion and status statement. Serious treatises discussed proper knotting techniques. Ties and knots were named after famous people and places. And we sheep have been knotting cloth around our necks ever since. There's no indication that the Croatian soldiers used their scarves as the Roman soldiers had. So it looks as though the necktie was useless on day one and is still useless 350 years later.

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