Cravats are the opposite of an essential. It is for this reason I ever so slightly balked when my editor asked me for my first Sartorius column in the paper to entitled: “Mens Essential Accessories: Cravats.” In fact, for the first week of research I rather felt the proverbial noose tightening.
Unfortunately, for the longest time, I have associated the Cravat with a bowlful of Jaguar car keys and what I imaging are some rather horsey looking middle aged swingers. But as a scruffy young American once said: “the times they are a’ changin’.”
Once again the Cravat is in full swing (pardon my pun). What’s more, they are one of many steps being taken by fashionable gents to break the cold, tedious grip of male fashion slovenliness (MFS © ee. Sartorius).
Today many of the rules that once governed male attire are gone. Just a couple of weeks ago I read an article in the Spectator decrying the death of the business suit tie. Even for work, men can comfortably arrive wearing just jeans and a t-shirt (you know who you are). If we had carried on the decline we were on, very soon I think we might have had men earnestly fighting for the freedom to be oppressed and restricted by their mortal foe: trousers.
But through the cracks of fashionable lawlessness, has grown inventiveness and a liberality to revive items like the cravat. I will admit when I saw a young man trying on cravats with a t-shirt I did wonder if this was always for the best, but who am I to judge? Moreover, as with any regime change, ‘what comes after’ is giving young gentlemen the chance to try clothes they might only have imagined wearing to a 90s wedding or Royal Ascot.
The cravat is firmly in this camp of accessory. It is as unattainable as a top hat, requires the bravery needed to tie a bow tie, and provides the wearer with the pointless flair of a pocketwatch.
“To the uninitiated it looks like an inverted silk hanky bib, shoved down the front of your shirt.”
But the cravat has previously been so resolutely tied to ‘occasional wear’ that most wouldn’t think of it as just an alternative to wearing a tie. Nevertheless, today ties and cravats are seen as interchangeable.
But all neckwear was not created The cravat is actually older than the tie, in fact, it’s the tie’s earliest ancestors – a living fossil. In the 16th and 17th century. Named after the French military unit (who pioneered the look): The Croats (Croatians). Cravats went on to become so popular that they effectively killed the ruff. Just as soon as everyone was wearing them, men needed their cravats to set them apart. Thus the colourful cravat was born. The bloom of colours and patterns gracing the necks of gentlemen soon turned into extravagant knots and new ways of tying the cravat, which, inevitably, was how the tie came into being.
While the 60s and 70s remade the cravat for a new generation, the modern cravat is not a psychedelic kerchief anymore. Now they are for the man who makes the effort to stand out, complete with the stamp of authority that comes with wearing what most people think of as formal wear 365 days a year.
On your behalf I have tirelessly sought out the best cravats London has to offer. But do remember chaps, if you do have a healthy bed of chest hair the cravat will most certainly not be required. You are a man after all; covering one of the few definitively manly parts of your body with a floral paisley cravat is perhaps a little too close to self-castration.
Cravat Club – Arlo, Woven Silk Day Cravat
Colour – Carmine Red with Brilliant White Polka Dots
TM Lewin – Gold Paisley Cravat
Colour – Gold with printed paisley design
Forzieri – Lavender Floral Print Silk Ascot
Colour – Lavender
Ede and Ravenscroft – Floral Emblem Diamond Silk Cravat
Colour – Navy/Burgundy
Ede and Ravenscroft – Circle Outline Printed Silk Cravat
Colour – Red/white