When and where did coat hangers originate?

01 Sep

Coat hangers are such a simple invention, yet so useful.  It’s hard to imagine a life without them.  But it’s also difficult to imagine early Neanderthal man hanging up his loincloth in the cave – so they must have been invented at some point after clothes, right?

In the first century, approximately 430AD or so, a fine gentleman named Attila was ruler of the Hunnic Empire and was bent on invading and pillaging most of Central Asia and Eastern Europe.  The Huns caused a great deal of chaos with their savagery and barbarism, letting no obstacle stand in their path.  Originally nomadic tribes, united haphazardly at first, they were without moral bounds and rampaged pretty much at will.  They even enjoyed small victories over the Eastern Roman territories, limited only by their unexpected friendship with one of the powerful Roman generals Flavius Aetius.

In his downtime, Attila enjoyed long walks in the forest, eating in front of the fire, and flaying his enemies alive.

However, as barbaric as Attila may have been, he was an intelligent leader.  To unite and motivate such disparate tribes into an empire of such success and ferocity was no mean feat.  His lack of moral grounds and his undeniably sly mind were ingredients in the recipe for evil genius.

As part of the intimidation tactics he employed to weaken the enemy, he would invite the leader to his camp and prepare the meeting tent with luxury and warmth, but also take the skeletons of fallen foes and hang them around the walls as though they were watching.  These grim warriors served as a reminder to the guest of the power they would be facing in battle.  As time went on, this display became more ornate, with the skeletons dressed in battle gear.  Attila began to see the convenience of this and used them to display his best cloaks and furs.  Once the idea of using mannequins was born, the progression was simple – he would have just the skull, collarbones and spine hung with his garments.

The Romans, considering themselves a modern and advanced society, immediately wanted to take on the idea of hanging their finery but balked at the thought of using real human remains.  Imitations were made and perfected from carved wood and even ivory for the rich.  Attila, of course, continued to use dead folk; but by his death in 453AD the concept of hanging clothes was well established in Italy and most of Southern Europe.

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Posted by on September 1, 2010 in When?, Where?, Who?


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