Friday, September 21, 2012

Day Cravattitude.

(Part 7 of the series, "The Secret Life of the Tie.")
Chapter 85
This week, we continue our walking-tour of the various forms of proper men's neckwear, and take a look at the unique and versatile day cravat. The first thing to learn is, don't call it an ascot. I know, most people do...but they are WRONG, and that error leads to much confusion. The ascot, as we saw last week, refers to a formal cravat worn in the daytime. Logically, you'd think that would be the thing called a "day cravat." Nope: the "day cravat" is more closely allied with the scarf, worn under the shirt against the neck. It is not a cravat at all, and it certainly was never acceptable to wear at Royal Ascot -- unlike the ascot, which was.

Confused? Don't worry, most people are. Take a deep breath, and empty your mind of your preconceived ideas and anything you think you know on the matter. 

Now, absorb this: an ascot is a formal nœud Gordien or Ruche cravat, that is to be worn only with daytime formal wear. We covered it thoroughly last week. Nothing else is an ascot. 

Next, absorb this: a day cravat is a loosely tied scarf, worn a certain way under an open-collar shirt. Nothing else is a day cravat.

Finally, absorb this:

Jeremy Piven is one of those people who are confused. He thinks this is an "ascot," and since ascots are "formal," he can wear it with a tuxedo to awards ceremonies. Wrong, wrong; oh, how horribly wrong.

A day cravat is sports wear, that has been worn since the 1920s. It was a rakish, comfortable alternative to wearing an everyday tie. It is leisure wear. It is resort, lounge, casual, day wear. It is in no way, shape, manner, or form, anything remotely related to anything close to approaching formal wear.

This is an important point, which is why I'm drilling it into your skull. Because a day cravat is not dressy, the opportunities to wear it in one's everyday life explode into endless possibility. Consider:
1. It is comfortable, more than any other mode of neckwear. It is worn loose around the neck, under an open shirt collar.
2. It is versatile. It can be worn under anything with a neck opening: button-down or dress shirts, sweaters, even tee-shirts and jackets.
3. It is easy to tie, simpler than the easiest long tie knot.
4. It is casual: no jacket or waistcoat is required, it looks just fine with shirtsleeves, and doesn't look as "studied" as a bow tie.
5. It is subtle. Unlike a dangling long tie, a day cravat affords the barest bit of color and interest at the neck.
6. It is elegant. Subtle as it is, it adds a note of insouciance to any casual outfit, without glaring out or resulting in an affected appearance.
7. It is nearly universal. Just about any scarf or square or scrap of fabric can be pressed into service as a day cravat.

It is this last point, on the universality of the day cravat, on which we'll spend some time today. 

Day cravats can be purchased as ready-made items, of course. As a rule, they look like this, rather like wide-bladed ties that are pleated in the center. (Compare this to last week's ascot, and you will see that the two items look similar, but are made completely differently.) These can be purchased for the day-cravat-inclined, and are still sold in surprisingly large numbers by any number of retailers worldwide. Day cravat wearers are on the rise, although most of them will insist that they are wearing ascots. Like the ascot, ready-to-wear day cravats are not inexpensive, nor are they required for the novice or student cravatsman. Let's look at some day cravat options:

First, we'll make a day cravat out of a simple scarf. This one is silk, tasselled on the ends, and is 12 inches wide by 40 inches long: just fine for our purposes. (I picked it up at the local secondhand shop for a couple of dollars.) For this series, I'll use a neutral-color buttondown shirt over my tailor's form, to give a sense of the finished effect.

The first thing to do is lay out the scarf and fold it lengthwise into a narrow strap. For this one, folding in thirds, and then in thirds again, did the trick. Lay the strap across the back of your neck, the right end over the left. 

Then, (using long tie notation) tie the knot with a Li Ro Li Co -- essentially, a simple Onassis finish to a four-in-hand. Spread out the end of the scarf...

...and fold it down over the knot. Straighten the cascade...

...and button your shirt to the first button. (Only cads wear day cravats with two buttons unfastened!) Adjust to show as much or as little pattern as you wish. The neckband can sit proud of the collar, with a prominant puff to the front, or it can sit low, with just a bit showing out the front.

Several previous installments have extolled the virtues of wearing an unlined jacket on the beach or at a resort, worn with a scarf in lieu of a shirt, and Bermuda shorts. Here is an example of that mode, and it is just about the most comfortable thing you can imagine.

Now let's look at another option, this one a kerchief, 26 inches square. (Same secondhand shop, one dollar.) Diagonally, it measures about 40 inches: good for our purposes! To form the neckband, lay out the square in a diamond shape. Fold in thirds by bringing the top and bottom points in. Fold in thirds twice more. Lay the strap across -- this time keep the left hand short and the right hand long. Cross the right over the left, and form the knot as before...

...but this time, "unfurl" the point before making the final Co move.

Bring the point over and down...

...button up, and adjust. 

Here's the effect with a v-neck sweater instead of a shirt. (This is as much of a day cravat as you'd want to show: it works a bit better with a crewneck.) This looks quite sporty with a jacket. I have also mentioned the combination of a jacket, tee-shirt, and day cravat in a previous installment.

As you can see, a wide variety of scarves and fabrics can be used as day cravats. Most of these can be found in the ladies' section of Your Favourite Store. No fear, scarves are unisex for our purposes here. As long as it's at least six inches wide and somewhat longer than a yard long, it can be made to work. Remember that at most only a few square inches of the pattern will be seen under a shirt -- so a scarf that looks positively garish when seen all at once, may just work well as a day cravat. Keep your eyes and your mind open, scout for patterns, and you just may find pleasant surprises in the oddest places.

There is another option, that you may have in your closet right now. Yes, a common long tie can be made into a passable day cravat...but it requires a little minor surgery.

The back seam needs to be released about four inches up the back of the wide blade, to give a suitable width to the blade. Needless to say, don't do this with your favorite tie! Remove the label and tack-stitch, and then unzip the back.

After surgery. Leave the tip in place. You'll probably uncover the woolen interlining, but that's okay -- it won't show.

Pull the right end short, and cross over the left end.

Make the knot as before, spread the end out flat...

...and fold over the front.

The narrow end of the tie will hang down low. A convenient way to deal with this is to pull the narrow end up and pin it to the wide end. This will also give some weight to the blade and keep it from pulling free.

The effect after buttoning. Many secondhand ties that would be otherwise unwearable can be given second lives by wearing them as day cravats. 

So, we've seen that nearly anything can be tied under a shirt as a day cravat. Where, then, shall you wear it? 

In short, just about anywhere that you would go in shirtsleeves. Day cravats are sporty, outdoorsey things, just the ticket for those days when we slide into Autumn. Walks, picnics, croquet, bocce, lawn-bowling, or those sorts of traditional Anglophilic pursuits, of course. But, really, when's the last time you'd played bocce? I thought so. Think of it this way: you wear a long tie most days. On some days you wear a bow tie. That leaves a lot of days when you walk around with your shirt open. Nothing wrong with that -- you can't be buttoned up every day of your life. But now you have a little something new to put under your shirt on those days you do go tie-less. It's quick, easy, effortlessly elegant, and you just might get attached to them. You owe it to yourself to give it a try!

Click here to go to Part Eight of The Secret Life of the Tie.

Click here to go to the next essay chronologically.

Click here to go back to the previous essay chronologically, Part Six of The Secret Life of the Tie.

Click here to go back to Part One of The Secret Life of the Tie.

Click here to go back to the beginning.


  1. Sorry I didn't add this to my other comment -- could you do something on neck scarves of the type sported by Roy Rogers and Gene Autry? (A good example of these could be seen on the recent US stamps featuring their likenesses.) Thanks!

  2. Scarves, you say? Why certainly! It just so happens that we'll be covering scarves in just a couple weeks!

  3. Many thanks. Oddly enough, I was wearing a day cravat yesterday -- I was in shirtsleeves and seeing friends at a casual dinner place. They said they would not have recognized me without one.

  4. You may want to edit the old post 'Spicy Tie Recipes' [Feb 16, 2011] which reads:

    "The ascot, also known as a day cravat or foulard, is a less-formal form of cravat that is usually worn under an open collar."

  5. Whoops! Thanks, Richard; that one got by me. I'll go and correct that now...Thanks for keeping me consistent!

  6. Never read such drivel in all my life but then thats why you "yanks" aren't exactly leading voices on fashion. Please go back to sleep or shoot something

  7. Thank you for your thoughtful and constructive criticism. Now, would you mind expounding upon your statements? Honestly, it takes all kinds to make a world, but if you cared enough to write, maybe put some facts with your vitriol. "Drivel," for instance. Really? In your entire life, THIS is your benchmark for drivolity? Perhaps you should read more. ;)

    This isn't a "leading voice of fashion" website, and doesn't pretend to be. It's a bit of fluff and fun, with some practical tips and history included. The fact that "yanks" DON'T know how to dress themselves like grownups, is the impetus for pouring years of my time and energy into this blog, on my own time, for free, so good folks like you can tell me how much you hate it. Thanks.

    p.s. Just to show you what a good sport I am, I'm not just deleting your comment for being pointless and abusive.

    1. Top rebuttal there, my friend. Don't know where your man's from, but your reply certainly reads like something I'd be used to in Irish culture (which some of us may begrudgingly admit is probably owing to British influence).

      '...the impetus for pouring years of my time and energy into this blog, on my own time, for free, so good folks like you can tell me how much you hate it. Thanks.'

      That's fecking class. Good man.

  8. Mr Thompson, thank you for your learned comments on day cravats and ascots, very enlightening to a standard office-tie wearer like myself. I have a dilema... whlist looking at ideas for what to wear when I get married I came across the day cravat and loved it. Unfortunately as you point out it is not formal wear. Can I forego tradition as I am the groom (and my finace approves)? Can I tie an ascot during the day and then switch to a day cravat for the disco? Any thoughts would be appreciated.

  9. Hi, Rik! My opinion on the matter (for what it's worth -- it is after all YOUR wedding) is to embrace the tradition, at least for the ceremony itself. Marriages are steeped in centuries of mythos; twenty years on down the line, you want your children to look back at the pictures and not be embarrassed by your fashion choices!

    I'd strongly suggest that when you stand next to your bride-to-be, you should strive to match her level of formality. With most wedding dresses, that would be formal daywear, and certainly nothing less formal than a stroller. (After dark, go for white tie. Never wear a tux for a wedding, unless it is after dark and very informal.) Your role in the ceremony is to make your fiance look her best -- if you get too "fashionable," it will take the attention off of her.

    After the ceremony, at the reception, when the bride changes out of her dress, then by all means you can (and should!) forego tradition and dress as you wish to match the party atmosphere. I actually think a day cravat sounds smashing. Perhaps pair it with a velvet smoking jacket for your grand departure!

    Congratulations on the wedding; I wish you many fat children. :)

  10. Thank you for your wise counsel Mr Thompson. As you say it would not be good form to make the bride appear overdressed on her wedding day. So I'll keep it formal for the daytime and go with a day cravat in the evening. The velvet jacket never gets worn enough, so I'll make sure it has an outing before I head off (and get to work on having some fat babies).

    Thanks again for your advice, much appreciated.

  11. Can i pair this with white shirt, blue jeans?

  12. Sure! The informality and inherent outdoor-sportiness of a day cravat lends itself to blue jeans, if they are done well. (That is, not too worn, not too low in the waist, and traditionally cut. Think classic 501s.) The one thing I'd caution is to make sure your white shirt is made of sufficiently substantial stuff that the cravat underneath does not "bleed through."

  13. Thanks a lot for this very informative guide to day cravats! I got one today, tied it like in the long tie guide, and it looked and felt just great!
    Is there a certain way to tie the ready-made double blade one, or should I just stick to what is shown on this page?



    Bergen, Norway

  14. A ready-made is usually tied just like the other examples I've used here: Li Ro Li Co, a simple around-and-over like an unfinished four-in-hand knot. If the silk is especially slippery and prone to come slack as you move around, it can be made more secure by completing the four-in-hand knot underneath an Onassis finish: Li Ro Li Co T Li Co. There are some variations, but as long as the front blade shows properly and is relatively secure, any method of tying is as good as any other!

  15. For warm weather climes, where a day cravat might also be used to trap perspiration, what would you recommend?

    Recently on a trip to Vegas (that is, Paradise, NV), I used a purple paisley bandana, tying it in the classic bandit triangle, but lower, using the triangle as an abstract blade, and hiding the knot behind my collar.

    Do you have advice on the use of bandanas?

  16. Absolutely! Jump forward to Part 8 of this series: my installment on the bandanna and neckerchief. The ol' cowboy necktie is just the thing to deal with the heat and concomitant perspiration out West; either tied in back like you describe, or rolled and tied in a loose square knot in front.

  17. Stumbled upon this blog whilst lost in the ambiguity of what a 'cravat' is. Helped a lot, thank you. I see that what my British husband wore for our wedding was indeed out of order after all!

    We had a rose theme - me wearing a rose-patterned dress with a white rose bouquet and rose headpiece, him wearing a subtly rose-patterned silvery waistcoat as part of his black morning dress.. And then he said he needed a cravat, an alien concept to an Asian girl like I am. I guess what he meant was an ascot. But we ended up choosing this dark blue, rose-patterned day cravat, and tied it like a scrunchie tie! Surprisingly, everything worked well together in the photos. Haha.

    I also have a blog in my native language, and I think I now could introduce my friends to Western formalwear with more confidence. :)

  18. That jacket + scarf as a cravat combo sans shirt sounds like a dream to wear. Thanks for the great advice!

  19. Interesting, I don't see many men wearing cravats these days, which is a shame because I like them!

  20. Hello there,
    Quick question, is it acceptable to wear a day cravat to a evening event?

  21. Thank you for your outstanding article on Day Cravats. I really appreciate the time and effort you have put into your article and sharing all your ideas with the public. It was very imformative and gave me some excellent ideas.
    thank you again.

  22. To those who take an interest in such things, I have just uploaded a 25-minute video on the subject of the Day Cravat, the Ascot and the Ruche Tie.


  23. This Articale has been really helpful for most of the readers.i like this post and shar more my friends.and very buttyfull all image.
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  24. Wow, this was so comprehensive and helpful. Thank you for your attention to detail. My husband recently decided he wanted to start wearing these, and I planned to sew one. But he goes through fads, so I thought I could just do one with his old ties. Thank you for your advise.

  25. can you wear a day cravat for dinner? Same, if a wedding9 assuming not part of wedding party) is a later afternoon affair, and dress is semi formal can you wear a day cravat?

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  29. Read so many posts about day cravat and not a single one of them mentioned a very important thing that day cravat can do. Day cravat is the best thing that can prevent a shirt collar from getting dirty. A day cravat looks best with any kinds of outfits and this article is correct, just never treat it as a formal wear.