Some people get cravats and ascots mixed up, but it is quite straightforward once you know the difference.
The word cravat is an umbrella term used for neckwear and an ascot is a specific type of neckwear, specifically a necktie that is usually worn with a formal day suit, worn over the shirt, and kept in place with a pin.
Ascots are traditionally made from pale gray patterned silk and are usually made of a fabric that is thicker than a tie. Ascots are named after the exclusive ‘Royal Ascot’ horse race which required the men who attended to wear an ascot tie with a tailcoat jacket.
They were most popular in the 1890s, and they soon evolved into an accessory that was worn in favor of other neckwear that was deemed too formal for the occasion.
Unfortunately, ascots haven’t had a surge in popularity quite like it since, but this is more of an incentive to wear one as they are so rare.
When to Wear an Ascot
Ascots are not as formal as you may think because they are best worn casually as a substitute for a tie.
You can wear ascots to luncheons, casual business meetings, dinner parties, or recreational activities which makes them very versatile, and the abundance of fabrics, colors, and patterns you can choose from can cater to many different styles.
Additionally, ascots do not have to be casual if you do not want them to be. For example, formal ascots which are like large ties are perfect for adding elegance to a tuxedo for when casual ascots would not cut it.
Unlike ties that should not be worn with a matching pocket square, you can match one with an ascot because the pocket square takes the backseat as an accessory and pulls the whole outfit together whilst the ascot takes center stage and draws the eye.
For the best results, try to get a pocket square that includes colors from every part of your outfit, or one that matches your ascot.
How to Style an Ascot
Ascots are like scarves as they rest directly on the skin and therefore it is important to have an ascot that is made from a fabric that does not irritate your skin. Because of this, ascots are usually made from silk as its lightweight and comfortable.
The silk fabric also adds a shine to the ascot that will catch the light and add life to your ensemble.
It is best to have an ascot with little to no texture as the stubble or hair from your neck and face can catch on these small fibers as you move and destroy the ascot over time.
Once you know what kind of fabric and texture to choose for your ascot, the next thing to think about is what you want it to look like.
If you know what outfit you want to wear it with, you can consider colors and patterns that will complement the rest of the outfit.
If you are wearing a plain shirt, coat, or sweater it is best to choose an ascot with a pattern, whereas ascots with a single-color work well with outfits with a lot of patterns.
The rule is quite simple, if you mix too many patterns your outfit will look too busy and hard on the eyes but if you use an ascot that has the same color or simplicity as the rest of the outfit, it will look too uniform, and you may as well not be wearing an ascot at all.
Do not be afraid to wear an ascot with bright colors as their purpose was to add a splash of excitement to an otherwise standard suit or blazer.
Even if you are in a formal situation, try not to go for a muted ascot because you will blend in with the crowd rather than stand out and make an impression.
However, as mentioned before if the rest of your outfit is already loud and flashy a plain color ascot will be best for bringing it all together.
How to tie an ascot
So, now that you know what an ascot is, when to wear one and how to style it – let’s get down to how you tie one.
The first thing you must do is wrap the ascot around the back of your neck with the stitching against the skin, one end of the ascot must hang lower by about 6-inches than the other so that it can be used for wrapping.
Use this longer end to wrap around the other, then do this a second time.
After you have completed this step, pull the longer end through the cap between the ascot and the neck and let this longer end lie over the other end.
Make any minor adjustments you like, and you have the option to use a pin to secure the knot in the center.
The pins that are usually used for securing neckwear are called tie pins or stickpins and are decorated with gems and pearls that are great for formal occasions.
Although, if it’s a more casual look you are after you can get discreet tie pins that don’t put on as much of a show.
Finally, once you are happy with how the ascot looks you can tuck both of its ends into your waistcoat, blazer, or another V-shaped neck of clothing that you are wearing.
How to Care for an Ascot
Since ascots are usually silk, you need to be careful with how you clean them. If your ascot has a care tag on it, make sure to follow it directly so that you do not damage the fabric and destroy its colors.
Some will say that they are ‘dry-clean only’ which you should take seriously and if you want can be taken to a professional, whilst other ascots just say ‘dry-clean’, allowing you to be a bit more flexible and wash it by hand.
Since ascots are worn directly onto the skin, they should be washed more frequently than a tie. For example, if you wear an ascot weekly it should be washed at least once a month to get rid of dead skin cells and food particles.
To iron the ascot, it should be slightly damp first, and use a warm (not hot!) iron setting on the inside of the ascot with a piece of white cloth as a protective barrier between the iron and the silk.
Always store your silk ascots in a dry place and make sure it is completely clean before being stored. You can use lavender sachets to prevent insects that destroy silk fibers and non-acid tissue paper will keep the folds of the ascot soft.
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