Wrapping things around my neck, draping my nape and kissing my collarbones got me thinking. Historically only two groups of people had anything around their necks; slaves and the hanged. Right? The American newtwork news broadcaster Linda Ellerbee is quoted as saying: “If men can run the world, why can’t they stop wearing neckties? How intelligent is it to start the day by tying a noose around your neck?” I’ve always loved ties, but thought upon them as the ultimate fabric hazard for ravenous people like myself: soup, spaghetti and steak. Need I say more. Or maybe just: dodgy nightclub owners.
Some anthropologists have called the tie a phallic symbol which calls into question what one’s head represents. Same for chest-skimming lariats, a universal form of adornment, and my favorite kind of jewelry to wear – preferably covered in rainbow stones of great meaning. Side note: the lariat is also a loop of rope designed as a restraint to be thrown around a target and tightened when pulled, a well-known tool of the American cowboy. Don’t worry, I’m not into strangling myself. I really love the way they move on me when they’re tied long and low on a bare décolletage, swinging softly – the best kind of cacophony.
Believe it or not Croatia is the mother country of the modern necktie but archaeological evidence of the use of ties goes back to the Chinese and the Romans almost two millenniums back. The earliest known version was found in the mausoleum of China’s first emperor, Shih Huang Ti, who was buried in 210 B.C. Desperately afraid of death, the emperor wanted to slaughter an entire to army to accompany him into the next world. His advisers ultimately persuaded him to take life-size replicas of soldiers instead. The result is one of the marvels of the ancient world. Unearthed in 1974 near the ancient capital city of Xian, the tomb contained an astonishing 7,500 life-size terracotta replicas of his famed fighting force. Each figure is different – except in one respect: all wear neck cloths. Historians say other records indicate the Chinese did not wear ties, so why the emperor’s guards wore carefully wrapped silk cloths remains a mystery. In 113 A.D., one of Rome’s greatest Emperors, the military genius Trajan, erected a marble column to commemorate a triumphant victory over the Dacians who lived in what is now Romania. The 2,500 realistic figures on the column sport no less than three different styles of neckwear. While Roman orators often wore cloths to keep their throats warm, soldiers did not cover their necks. In fact, writers such as Horace and Seneca said only effeminate men covered their necks.
Necklaces have been an integral part of jewelry since the the Paleolithic Era and pre-date the invention of writing – in South Africa they excavated a cave that had over 41 mollusks that were strung as possible neck jewelry nearly 75,000 years ago. The oldest necklaces were made of purely natural materials – before weaving and the invention of string, durable vines or pieces of animal sinew left over from hunts were tied together and adorned with shells, bones, teeth, colorful skins of human prey animals, bird feathers, corals, carved pieces of wood, seeds, stones and naturally occurring gems. Short or long, choker or sautoir, gold or diamond, the emphasis here is on trends, which have for the most part followed the style of lowering necklines.
History, tradition, provenance: all these should be celebrated. Men and women wear things around their necks for the sheer pleasure of it, to espouse the idea of ‘hanging out’ (ok, maybe that’s just my take). Everywhere, that is, except the clerical establishment of Iran, which banned (oft ignored) the sale of the tie (and maybe even the adorned necklace) after the 1979 Islamic revolution deeming it a symbol of western decadence. Explains why former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad always looked like a stressed out middle manager in a suit sans tie.
I don’t want to live in a world where I can’t be pulled by my big phallic symbols into a passionate embrace. Do you?