RetroProgressive – A word on cravats…

The other day I was perusing Hardy Amies’ ABC of Men’s Fashion (first published in 1964), where I was rather surprised to read this definition of the cravat:

This word is now only kept alive in the histories of fashion. In wear it has become a stock; and even this is almost archaic (see also choker.)”

And, of this, Amies says:

By this not very attractive word we usually mean a scarf or handkerchief worn at the neck: often to fill an open shirt. The young man has almost abandoned it and prefers to wear his shirt collar buttoned without a tie. The middle aged man often prefers the comfortable camouflage of a choker scarf as does his wife. These extras – often last minute thoughts – need handling with great care. They can ruin an otherwise neat appearance.”

How extraordinary. Thank goodness by August 2008, Nige spotted that cravats were making something of a comeback.

I also recognized this, and in the following year published a post on Nicholas Parsons’ curious love affair with cravats…and leather (circa 1967 – around the time they were already out of fashion according to Hardy Amies).

As for words I associate with cravats, “archaic” is definitely not one of them…  So here are some of the words I find a little more suitable – along with a few seemingly appropriate wearers (please feel free to add to the list):

1) Debonair, smooth, suave, worldy – Roger Moore, Nicholas Parsons, Michael Caine
2) Caddish, characterful, charming, cheeky, extravagant – Leslie Philips, Terry Thomas

3) Foppish, flamboyant , effete, arty, comic, clownish, camp – Austen Powers, Lawrence Llewelyn Bowen, Elton John
4) Creepy, sinister, scary – Milo Tindle, Earl Okin

5) Narcissistic – Mr Darcy, David Beckham
6) Comfortable, relaxed, casual, – Clark Kent (off duty), Charles Collingwood
7) Stylish, distinguished, British, heroic – Anyone wearing an RAF cravat, Kenneth Moore, Richard Todd

Nige certainly hit the button on the nose with his series of blog posts on ‘cravat heroes’. Forget Sir Hardy’s timeworn words, the necktie is but a humble relation to its esteemed predecessor, the cravat. The hardy perennial neckwear of military heroes, dating back to the French enlisted Croatian mercenaries of the 1630s (French “cravate,” a corrupt French pronunciation of “Croat” — in Croatian, “Hr̀vāt”) is a byword for boldness and bravery. So, stand up all cravat wearers and salute this hardy stalwart – soon to be a part of every fashionable man’s wardrobe. Let the battle of style be won by the cravat heroes of the world…

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About Author Profile: Susan Muncey

Trend consultant Susan Muncey, is Editor of Visuology Magazine. In 2008, she founded online curiosity shop, She writes on style and trends for several blogs, including, and The Dabbler. She previously owned cult West London boutique, Fashion Gallery, one of the first concept stores in the world. Susan graduated in geography from Cambridge University and is also an Associate Member of the CFA Institute. She lives in London with her husband.

8 thoughts on “RetroProgressive – A word on cravats…

  1. Gaw
    September 11, 2010 at 08:55

    Amies was obviously not familiar with what was happening on Carnaby Street – in 1964 plenty of modish, young men were sporting cravats in what must have been its first big revival. But then perhaps we shouldn’t expect the ‘Queen’s dressmaker’ to pay attention to that sort of thing.

    I also followed Nige and put my shoulder to the task of reviving the cravat last year. We still search for more than the odd sign of success. But now the might of Shop Curious is behind the revival the tide is surely turning. And perhaps The D could offer some free advertising space to Tootal?

    September 11, 2010 at 19:30

    Hadn’t seen these posts, thanks Gaw. Cravats do have so many useful attributes – and can double up as handkerchiefs too (for waving cravateer style to ladies). Perhaps I should have included a cool (as in Carnaby Street) category. Van Morrison comes to mind..

  3. Brit
    September 12, 2010 at 08:13

    I must say I’d never realised there were so many types of cravat wearer, but you’re quite right. Unfortunately I don’t appear to be any of them.

    Nige, on the other hand, is all of them.

    ian russell
    September 13, 2010 at 08:19

    I was given a cravat once, a paisley affair if memory serves me well. I was about ten years old.

    It’s not all about upper middle class apparel, is it? what about ‘im?

    September 13, 2010 at 08:50

    Amusing! S’pose it’s aspirational? (another category of wearer). Isn’t the ‘ascot’ the form of cravat popularized by the upper middle classes and still worn as an alternative to the tie with morning dress? I’d say the more casual, day cravat is firmly middle middle class – which is why it’s so very British and curiously kitsch and appeals to so many in today’s ‘classless’ society.. hmm

    September 13, 2010 at 08:55

    …imagine Nige’s cravats are an expression of culture, style, creativity and artiness

    September 13, 2010 at 14:01

    Just back from a weekend among the wonders of Derbyshire – and I find this – what joy! Your words are music to my ears, Susan – there can be no stopping us cravatistas now. A truly epoch-making post…

    September 13, 2010 at 16:38

    Thanks Nige. Talking of arty types (yet another category of wearer), think I’ll nominate Tony Hart as my all time cravat hero… along with a legendary cravatista called Nige, of course.

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