October 18 is a special holiday dedicated to. . . . neckties, specifically the broad flowing ties known as “cravats.”
The holiday was initiated in 2003 by the Academia Cravatica, a Croatian non-profit dedicated to bolstering the global image of Croatia. On October 18, 2003, Marijan Bušić and some colleagues tied a huge red cravat around the ancient Roman arena at Pula on the Adriatic Coast. The installation was so popular that every year since, Croatians have tied cravats around statues and monuments as a symbol of Croatia and of dignity and self-awareness. In the Croatian capital of Zagreb, men parade in replica 17th-century militia uniforms with red neckties. In 2008 the Croatian Parliament recognized Cravat Day as a national celebration.
Many people associate neckties with French fashion from the era of King Louis XIV. But fifty years before Louis XIV, a 1622 portrait of Dubrovnik (Croatia) poet Ivan Dživo Gundulič shows him wearing a scarf tied as a cravat. The cravat arrived in France with Croatian soldiers who fought in Germany and France during the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648). Their battle dress included a distinctive red neck-scarf made of coarse fabric for common soldiers, and fine cotton or silk for officers.
By 1656 the distinctive scarf was called a “cravat,” from the French pronunciation of Hrvatska, or Croatia. Frenchmen – including the king – came to prefer the loose-flowing cravat over their previous starched-linen ruffs. When King Charles returned to England from exile in 1660, he brought the new fashion with him. As shown in the accompanying video, cravats -- including red ones -- are still a popular alternative to more tailored English-style neckties.
How can you celebrate Cravat Day in the United States? You could try putting a giant red necktie around your favorite monument. But a much easier way, suggested by the Academia Cravatica, is just “to call the knotted scarf around their neck by its original name the cravat instead of tie and necktie.”