Celebrating the Invention of the Necktie: It's Cravat Day in Croatia

Today on The Atlantic'World Calendar ...


cravats1a.jpg
Nikola Solic/Reuters

Strange as Croatia's "Cravat Day" on October 18 may sound to an American, this celebration actually commemorates an element of national heritage. Croatia, after all, claims to have pioneered that most ubiquitous of modern accessories: the necktie.

"Croat" and "cravat," in fact, are etymologically linked, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. They were originally different variations of the same word: "The troops are filled with Cravates and Tartars, Hussars and Cossacs," reads a sentence by David Hume in 1752. Or take the even more comical statement from Daniel Defoe in 1720 (highlighting the alternate spelling, with a "b"): "We fell foul with 200 Crabats."

The cravat apparently came to Western Europe in the 17th century, courtesy of Croatian mercenaries. Perhaps appropriately, the modern Cravat Day has an origin of similarly mixed cultural-commercial flavor. In 1990, Croats Marijan Bušić and Zlatko Penavić founded the Zagreb-based company Potomac D.O.O. According to the company's website, it was intended to fulfill Bušić's high school dream of "creating an authentic medium which would act as a mediator in the presentation of Croatia to the world." The medium Bušić settled on, after partnering with trade-savy Penavić, was the necktie. Accordingly, in 1997 the firm founded the non-profit Academia Cravatica. "By spreading the truth about the cravat," the Academia Cravatica proclaims, "we improve Croatia's image in international public. The fact that Croats invented the Cravat makes us proud to be Croats."

On the other hand, by acknowledging the role of the French people in [the] cravat's history (who had recognised this ornament on Croatian soldiers), the role of the English people (who had spread it across the world) and the role of other nations which had embraced the cravat, we want to promote partnership between the Croats and other nations as well.

Accordingly, Cravat Day debuted on October 18, 2003, when Bušić and the Academia Cravatica undertook to wrap a giant red necktie around the Roman arena in Pula. The installation proved popular enough that the team has promoted Cravat day on each October 18 since, with some spontaneous commemorations across Croatia lending momentum to the project. In 2008, the Croatian Parliament unanimously declared October 18 the "Day of the Cravat."

Opponents of so-called Hallmark holidays, make of this what you will. At the very least, there's an element of genuine national heritage here. Also, there are some rather pretty horses. Below, a few images of Cravat Day in 2003 and a traditional guard exchange ceremony just prior to Cravat Day in 2010, which staged similar ceremonies.

cravat2.jpeg

An image of the installation "A Cravat Around the Arena" on October 18, 2003. (Courtesy of Academia Cravatica)

cravat3a.jpg

Soldiers in traditional uniforms participate in a changing of the guard ceremony in St. Mark's Square in Zagreb in 2010. The traditional dress includes a bright red cravat. (Nicola Solic/Reuters)

cravat4.jpg
Further traditional military uniforms for the guard exchange. Aren't you glad it's the necktie, rather than the cap on the horseman, that's become traditional business apparel? (Nicola Solic/Reuters)

cravat6.jpgSoldiers in traditional uniform march past spectators in 2010. Cravat Day celebrations include  a ceremony of military units wearing cravats. (Nicola Solik/Reuters)

Presented by

Heather Horn is a former senior associate editor at The Atlantic.

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

Riding Unicycles in a Cave

"If you fall down and break your leg, there's no way out."

Video

Carrot: A Pitch-Perfect Satire of Tech

"It's not just a vegetable. It's what a vegetable should be."

Video

An Ingenious 360-Degree Time-Lapse

Watch the world become a cartoonishly small playground

Video

The Benefits of Living Alone on a Mountain

"You really have to love solitary time by yourself."

Video

The Rise of the Cat Tattoo

How a Brooklyn tattoo artist popularized the "cattoo"

More in Global

Just In