Eyes on the ties: From power symbol to fashion statement

ZURICH - From a symbol of power to a fashion statement, ties in all their guises are on show at a new exhibition dedicated to the neckwear at the Swiss National Museum.

They speak volumes about their wearer, whether sported by British regimental veterans and university alumni, or US presidential hopefuls - red for Republicans, blue for Democrats.

The subtle tie-codes at various points in history are set out step by step for visitors to the Zurich-based museum.

"The concept of the exhibition is to show the different facets and contexts of the necktie and also that it had different meanings depending on the era," co-curator Joya Indermuehle told AFP.

Ties of various kinds were long worn as a symbol of social and political status.

They emerged in the 17th century when French aristocrats adopted the cravat, originally a simple scarf worn by soldiers from Croatia.

The name cravat was a nod to "Hrvat", to the Croatian word for a Croat.

Among the treasures on display in Zurich is a long lace cravat worn by Christian VII, king of Denmark and Norway, at his coronation in 1767.

From more recent history is a tie offered to US president Jimmy Carter in 1979 by American artist Jeffrey Vallance.

Vallance's "Cultural Ties" project involved sending neckties to a host of heads of state and asked them to give him one in return.

Alongside the somewhat psychedelic tie is a letter Vallance received from the White House.

"Although we can appreciate your interest, unfortunately, the President receives so many requests for souvenirs and other momentos that it is not possible for him to comply with all of them.

He believes it would be unfair to make an exception in this case when he has not do so for others. I hope you will understand," it says.

Beyond monarchs and politicians, the exhibition also spotlights ties in the art world, including those of Port Art icon Andy Warhol, or from the punk movement.

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