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…