Codpieces and Cravats (was Re: The Origin of The Cravat (Was: Are Ties Phallocarps?)

Joel and Lynn GAzis-SAx (
Mon, 20 Nov 95 06:45:21 GMT

The codpiece is still with us.

Doubtless, some readers are starting to feel around their fronts trying to
find the fold which hides this vestigial garment. I assure you that it is
still there. But it has moved.

Codpieces were frontal protrusions which originated as an opening in the
trousers. Men of fashion took to stuffing the flap with cloth and in the
course of fashion history, the size of this fold became so large that other
purposes were sought for it. One of these was as a place to keep one's
valuables -- coins, etc. Up to this time, most people kept their valuables
wrapped up in a piece of cloth which they tucked in wherever they could find a
place for it. Someone got the idea of using a codpiece (a fashion item which
came and went in the 16th century) as more than a place to keep the family
jewels. They kept all kinds of small valuables and were pleased with the

Codpieces, however, grew to ridiculous proportions and probably got in the way
sometimes. By the end of the 16th century, they had fallen out of fashion.
But now men, who had grown used to the convenience of the codpiece's secret
compartment, needed a new place to keep their valuables. They invented the
drawstring pouch which was hung only a few inches from where the codpiece had
once bounced happilly before the world. The problem with the drawstring pouch
was simple: they were very easy for thieves to cut off. To lose someone's
money meant financial ruin -- a fate which both castrati and whole men could
suffer. No matter where one hung the bag, it was exposed to thieves, unless,
as some genius finally figured out, one hung it *inside* one's garments.

At the end of the 16th century, revisions in fashion tastes had safely placed
the genital family jewels out of harms way in the pants. Money and other
items which had once ridden with them soon moved back there. The first
pockets were side seams sewn into the trousers. As pants became looser, the
seams moved up until once more, the everything that had once gone into the
codpiece was within but an inch or two of being reunited.

Pockets are the survival of the codpiece. Though the history is fragmented,
the cravat, too, may have had a utilitarian function once. Roman soldiers
wore long scarves which they soaked in water and wrapped around the neck.
While this may or may not have led eventually to the Hrvat cravat, we do know
that many styles of cravat existed in Croatia for centuries. The bow tie,
like the necktie, originated in Croatia. Men from different villages wore
different scarves. Some folded them in a diagonal, knotted the middle and
tied the business around their necks.

When the first Croat soldiers showed up wearing their linen and muslim cravats
in France (a hundred years or more after the demise of the cumbersome
codpiece), the French began appearing in public wearing neckwear of their own
made of linen and lace and named these contraptions after the Hrvat
mercenaries who had brought them. No one is sure why Hrvats wore them: some
had suggested that they had a utilitarian use and others suggest that they
were nothing more than a specialized military embellishment like medals or
epaullets. Whatever the reason, the necktie might have gone the way of the
codpiece (for different reasons) had it not been for whims of the English
monarch Charles II who wore them.

England became the heart of the cravat legacy and whole books were written
about the ways to properly put a knot in one. Since that time, neckties have
been long or short, colorful or bland, narrow or broad depending on the whims
of those who currently wear them.

Does the tie have anything to do with the codpiece? Well, they are both made
of cloth and in the minds of some, excite the imagination of people who see
breasts in cakes, wombs in pockets, etc.....

That's the long and short of it!

Joel GAzis-SAx

Joel and Lynn GAzis-SAx Main email: Visit Alsirat, the horror magazine
The Marx Brothers@Darkweb (Joel) Whoopi@Darkweb (Lynn)