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    A Gentleman’s Guide to Wearing a Cravat or an Ascot
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A Gentleman’s Guide to Wearing a Cravat or an Ascot

Outside of a Prohibition period piece set in upstate New York, or if you’re Prince, wearing a cravat or an ascot is largely seen as a laughable sartorial choice. To don such a garment is to automatically be judged as ludicrous and affected, trying to revive a style that fell by the wayside. In truth, the issue is chiefly that the only people trying to revive this style tend to be individuals who are already a bit absurd, which forces their neck wear to bear the same classification. The same was true of the Trilby hat before Justin Timberlake and many artists in the hip-hop community revived it. The same sort of Renaissance is all that is needed to resuscitate the ascot.

How to wear a cravat or ascot
To help learn how to be part of the solution and allow these exciting accessories to enter your rotation, you need only to determine when, where, and how to give them their proper due, and not disrespect their place. It’s a matter of attitude and ensemble, along with the keystone of any bold choice: Confidence.

Cravat vs. Ascot: Knowing the Difference

Though these words tend to fall into the category of outdated and thus have had their exact meaning diluted with time and disuse, it’s important to understand them before you go wrapping things around your neck.



The term comes from Croatian mercenaries who operated with France during the 30 Years War. They wore distinguishing neck gear which was originally named Croate, the French term for Croatian. Somewhere along the line that word was bastardized into cravat. Though all manner of neck decoration was popular prior to the 1600’s, through some linguistic turn of fate, this became popular.

As a term, Cravat refers to anything worn around the neck. A necktie is technically a cravat, as is an ascot. Bow ties, clip-ons, and even necklaces are technically cravats. Scarves are cravats. Therefore, you’ve already been wearing a cravat anytime you put on a tie.



As with many interesting fashions, the Ascot harkens back to horse racing. Specifically, the name refers to the Royal Ascot, which is England’s Kentucky Derby where attendees are expected to dress in morning formal fashion. The original ascots were bundles of silk knotted twice and held by a pin.

Ascots eventually evolved out of this and became an acceptable type of cravat to be worn when a necktie or bow tie were considered too formal. Pairing them with a blazer, a V-neck sweater, or a vest was a common way of showing that you were dressing up to dress down. Hugh Hefner famously tended to pair them with his smoking jacket attire to show that his style wasn’t sloth or slovenliness, but a choice.

When To Wear an Ascot


Though we think of ascots as excessively dressed up, they’re actually a middle ground between a collared shirt alone and one with a tie. As such, they should be worn casually. Warm days when you want to open your shirt a few buttons, but don’t want to appal the world with your chest hair, an ascot is a playful choice. Weddings – so long as you aren’t in the wedding party and therefore required to wear a particular outfit – casual business meetings, luncheons, cocktail or dinner parties, or travelling for recreation are all exceptional times to throw on an ascot.

Wearing a Formal Ascot


Formal ascots, which are often used as large ties, can often be a dressy way to spice up your tuxedo. These are worn only with formal wear and are the only kind of ascot that is worn atop your shirt, as you would a standard necktie.

What Kind of Ascot To Get


Unlike ties, which are worn outside the clothing, casual ascots go beneath your shirt and rest right against your skin. This is important to note, as anything with a texture, or any fabric that is uncomfortable should automatically be discounted. Silk is the preferred choice for an ascot, and it’s wise to never go outside of that fabric lest you run the risk of irritating your skin.

Any ascot you choose should also be a solid piece of fabric that is printed, but never woven or bearing much in the way of texture. The reason is not only to protect your skin, but because texture can catch on the whiskers of your face whenever you lower your head, which will destroy the ascot.

Ascot Patterns


The simple rule to follow when choosing how an ascot looks is to consider the outfit you’re going to be pairing it with. Patterned ascots look best with plainer shirts, sweaters, or sport coats, while ascots of a single color should be put with outfits that have more patterns built into them.

The rule here is basically the same as with ties. If you start mixing patterns together, you look too busy and your garb will give people a headache. If you go with the same pattern as your shirt or jacket, you start creating an odd uniform look that lacks contrast, which comes across as awkward. You might as well be wearing a jumpsuit.

Ascot Colors


Being more casual, and thus not typically designed to impress upon others your adherence to social conventions, ascots should be brightly colored and flashy. Even if you’re choosing a formal ascot, it doesn’t need to be as muted as a standard black or white tie. The point is to stand out, not to blend in.

The exception to this rule is if you’re already wearing clothing that is louder or more ostentatious, then you can tone it down with a plain ascot in navy or black. Since it’s almost always going to be made of silk, your ascot is always going to have a bit of shine that sets off whatever else you’re wearing.

Ascots and Pocket Squares


This is a big concern among many who aren’t sure how to meld the ascot with the pocket square. Unlike with ties, which shouldn’t be matched to an accompanying square, it’s perfectly fine to have a matched set of cravat and square. The easy way to determine what pocket square goes with your ascot, and vice versa, is to keep in mind that the square is meant to be the glue that holds disparate aspects of your ensemble together. It’s supposed to blend and meld, while ascots are intended to be show-stoppers that draw the gaze. Normally, getting colors from all facets of your clothing into a square is the way to go, but simply reinforcing your ascot is acceptable also.

A Note On Pleats


Ascots are backed by a set of unusual pleats that can be confusing. In fact, these are for function rather than form, meaning you can largely ignore them. You can wear them on the outside of the ascot or the inside. It doesn’t matter. What does matter is that these pleats are part of the knot, since they’re intended to keep the ascot’s tie from unravelling. Hidden or showing is immaterial, so long as they’re doing their job.


  1. The purpose of an ascot was to keep ones throat protected from cold air. It served as a permanent type os scarf, when it was not acceptable to wear a scarf and other outer clothing indoors.
    Further, since most were silk, they identified the affluent, separating them from the commoner. Where it’s difficult to believe today, most didn’t wash their clothing very often 200-400 years ago, so their clothes tended to get sooty, and grungy. That is with exception to the wealthy, who could afford such luxury

  2. I’m sorry, but ascots are antiquated. There isn’t a function in the world today where a man doesn’t look like the goof ball in the corner for wearing one.

  3. I’ve seen only two demonstrations of how to tie a single-Ascot and they conflict. “Retailer Soho Silk”‘s demo appears to show the thick end simply being pushed through the hole in the thin end. That’s what I’ve been doing and it’s unsatisfatory – doesn’t stay in place.
    Charles French, on You Tube (2012) does the same but ends with the “up and under”. I’ll try that.

  4. How does anyone feel about wearing these with banded collars. I think it might work well. I don’t own an ascot, but did try it with some fabric scraps I had lying around. It seemed like it looked pretty good with my check pattern shirts, as long as I used a solid color. Patterned fabrics were too busy for my taste with a patterned shirt.

  5. Worth noting, while ascots made to be worn as such are available and good, the origins are just a scarf, and can easily still serve the perfect. A men’s silk scarf works nicely, or even a think woman’s type scarf can be used in interesting ways as simple as knotted or even worn under a slight knitted neck like Cary Grant.

  6. Historically, I don’t think so. The button down was common for ivy league style, which would go hand in hand with an ascot for casual attire, and also, the button down is perfectly matched in terms of formality. Plus, the button down collar is well suited to no tie as it stays in place. If it is good enough for Mister Howell, it is good enough for me.

  7. Absolutely. This is a classic look. It could be argued that for dinner, it is too casual. But considering you will probably be the mot dressed up or best dressed person there, it should be fine. Granted, it could come across as frivolous or costumey if the dinner is intended to be a formal occasion, especially a somber one. But otherwise, have at it.

  8. My favorite jacket is my navy “double breasted” blazer.
    Is it acceptable to wear a cravat to a night time dinner with that blazer ?

  9. Good, helpful article! I haven’t worn an ascot in decades, but have just ordered one. I do notice that of all your photos, only one pairs an ascot with a button-down collar. I remember that was once a minor faux pas; does it still matter?

  10. My 15 year old grandson is interested in wearing one. And yes he does dress differently and interestingly. Very old soul. in fashion and what he enjoys. Interestingly his grand father and great grandfather both enjoyed wearing a cravat. Very classy this grandmother thinks. Thanks for the informative article

  11. Very useful information thank you. I have an ascot with a matching pocket square, and they really do elevate the outfit. I was however unsure if I should wear since they match, but will wear with confidence now.

  12. I… am flashy, ostentatious and outrageous! But I make it look good! Be uncomfortable with my being overdressed! Yes! …and I love to wear an ascot!!!

  13. Ascot is not the British Kentucky Derby. The Kentucky Derby might be considered (if you insist on the comparison) as the US’ version of Ascot. Kentucky Darby first ran in 1875, Royal Ascot dates to 1711, some 65 years before the declaration of independence.

  14. Well said, especially the opening, in which you say the person who is already ridiculous will be ridiculous no matter what they wear. Also indicating how a cravat is old-fashionese for “neckwear”, so a scarf and tie are “cravats”. But wait. In the UK, a “cravat” is an ascot. In eastern countries, a cravat is specifically a necktie. A Tootal Scarf is beloved as a men’s scarf but often worn ascot-style. And the ascot is not only worn inside the shirt. It can be worn on the outside, if worn properly.