12 April 2015

The Cravat: Wearing a Men's Classic in 2015

Wearing a cravat

Christmas Day. 2012. After unwrapping the small present from my youngest sister and unravelling this stubby item of silky material, I couldn't help but think, 'It kinda looks like a tie, but it's too short and thick. Where do I wear it? How do I wear it?...What is it?' Seeing the puzzled expression on my face, she hastily explained a) its name and b) how one fashions such an item. I'll admit, it took a good few months from that opening day before I had the confidence to attempt to pull it off. Now I feel determined in helping to rekindle this long, lost classic: the cravat.

First worn in Europe during the Renaissance, the cravat slowly began to fall out of flavour and fashion by the end of the 19th Century, evolving into the neck and bow-tie. More recently though, it has seen a resurgence (as demonstrated by Martin Freeman and Orlando Bloom), providing an alternative, distinct and 'dapper' approach.

Contrary to what I used to believe, the cravat can be worn all year round, with layers for those colder months as well as with airy, S/S wardrobes. As it is a somewhat eccentric and uncommon accessory, it provides sufficient flair for my whole ensemble. I thus opt for a neutral and understated look for the rest of my outfit - you want it to be prominent and for people's eyes to be drawn to it.

To achieve this effect I pick a plain shirt, usually white. This way there won't be any distracting, uncomplimentary patterns. A white shirt provides a strong contrast and makes it immediately obvious that I'm fashioning a cravat. To ensure that it is seen, the top button is undone and sometimes the second, it depends on how low it is; if the second button is too low, unbuttoning it will make me look like a lothario. As with the shirt, I apply the same rules for the trousers (and blazer) - plain and a simple colour which does not detract.

Wearing a cravat
I wear a plain, white shirt to allow the cravat to stand out.

On colder days, I layer up with a thin, v-neck cashmere jumper. The thinness allows for the cravat to appear voluminous, creating depth away from my body whilst the v-neck maintains the formal appearance and allows it to remain in sight. When doing this, I tend to colour co-ordinate my choice of jumper and cravat, providing a more consistent, unified look, or at the very least, create a colour palette of three main colours (usually red, white and blue or green, white and blue).

My same principles apply to selecting a tie when choosing a cravat: nothing comedic, old-fashioned or geeky.  Colours can be 'different' but not too eccentric (yes to pink, no to bright yellow). I don't mind patterns as long as they're simple and classy, nothing to dominating. Cravats I own include a dark green one with golden parrots and a red, basket-weave one from Swagger & Swoon. Both work well with my current wardrobe and I'll be adding to my collection very soon. Who would have thought that on Christmas Day 2012?

Wearing a cravat
When layering, I'll colour co-ordinate or create a palette of colours.

What cravats do you currently own?

Which outfit(s) do you wear it with?

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