An ascot is one of several styles of necktie worn by men for centuries. This particular style is a variation on the earlier cravat that was worn by most men throughout Europe by the early eighteenth century. Cravats were originally made popular by King Louis XIII of France in the 1630s. The king had hired Croatian mercenaries to fight a number of battles against the Duke of Guise and the Queen Mother. These mercenaries often wore brightly coloured scarves around their necks. To reflect his solidarity with his hired troops, the king took to wearing the same style of cravat or scarf around his own neck. From there, the fashion spread across Europe. These cravats were often made of coarse material and would chafe the necks of the wearers, but the ascot tie, though similar in size and shape to a cravat, was made from fine silk.
The ascot tie derives its name from the Royal Ascot horse racing meetings and, since the 1880s, has been popular amongst the upper classes in Britain as a formal tie for business and morning dress. Interestingly, at the Royal Ascot races today, the wearing of the ascot tie is no longer permitted. Instead, a formal, or bow, tie should be worn, along with a waistcoat to match the man's suit.
The ascot tie is, however, popular with men when dressing for formal events, most notably weddings, and other family functions. It should be worn with a cutaway morning coat, and striped grey trousers that are straight—cut, not flared.
How to Wear an Ascot
As ascot can be worn in one of two ways. The first, and much more formal, way is to wear the tie outside the collar of a shirt, preferably a bat-winged or conventional collar, tied and pinned neatly at the front. This is the more proper method of wear, and is favoured in morning or wedding suit outfits.
The second (and mainly American) way is to wear the ascot loosely knotted actually inside the collar of a shirt, unpinned, with the shirt having the top one or two buttons undone. This is much less formal, and is often referred to as the 'day cravat'. The day cravat was very popular during the early part of the twentieth century for such pursuits as golf and other outdoor activities. The Duke of Windsor frequently wore one. Day cravats are often woven using a finer silk to ensure they are more comfortable and chafe less against the neck when worn.
Day cravats are worn by the United States Army Officer Candidate School as part of their uniform. A black day cravat is for basic office candidates whilst a white day cravat is worn by senior officer candidates.
In the children's film 'Toy Story 3', Ken is shown wearing an ascot when he first meets Barbie, and, in the cartoon 'Scooby-Doo', the character Fred Jones sports an orange ascot. The comedian Drew Hastings has often been known to wear a day cravat, while Al Pacino's character, Michael Corleone, in 'The Godfather', can be spotted wearing one in more than one scene. Conversely, many London clubs that insist on a dress code will not permit their patrons to wear a day cravat.
The Shape of an Ascot
The ascot has a narrow piece in its centre designed to go round the back of the neck, whilst each end is flared, with wide, normally pointed wings. Thus, each end resembles the wide end of a conventional neck tie. In appearance, the ascot tie may look much the same as a self-tie bow tie, but each end is noticeably larger in the flares and the tie itself is considerably longer to allow the ends to fall down the front of the shirt. Whereas a formal ascot is cut and stitched to narrow at the neck, the day cravat is normally cut to be a fixed width, with the narrow neck achieved by pleating or folds. In some more modern ascots, the ends are flattened rather than pointed.
Traditionally, ascots are grey or black in colour and are often reversible, though since the start of the twentieth century, this has been relaxed, such that any muted, subtle colour and pattern system is allowed. Modern ascots come in a wide variety of colours, often with contrasting sides, so the wearer has the choice of which way round to wear them. From the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s, brightly coloured, often psychedelic ascots were worn by mods and were associated with teenagers and young adult males. These relatively modern ascot wearers favoured the day cravat look in the wearing of their ties.
How to Tie an Ascot
There are basically two ways to tie an ascot.. The first is the Ascot knot, where the ends are folded together, ruffled up slightly around the front of the neck, then held in place with a tie pie. If the wearer is dressing for a formal occasion, such as a wedding, the tie pin should match the cufflinks.
The second way to tie an ascot is similar to the modern four-in-hand method used to tie conventional ties, with the ascot sometimes being worn inside the collar of a shirt in the day cravat style. The knot should be much looser than a four-in-hand and should cover the collar area of the shirt directly below the man's neck.
The Vintage Ascot
The vintage ascot is essentially the original style of ascot, in black or grey silk, popular around the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, although the ascot of the late 1960s to early 1970s is sometimes referred to as 'vintage'. The mid to late twentieth century ascots were usually made in bright, brash, and often garish colours, with paisley patterns being particularly popular. Towards the middle of the 1970s, the paisley patterns tended to have darker backgrounds, a style that remains popular today with some wearers. Both are available on eBay,, and they are easily distinguishable from each other. Today, many collectors of vintage clothing see the vintage ascot as a desirable part of their collection, and so are willing to pay for the privilege of owning such an item. This is particularly true if the ascot was once owned and worn by a famous celebrity, film star, or other character from history.
The Ascot Tie Pin
If the wearer is wearing his ascot with a vintage tie pin, it should be positioned centrally on the knot, piercing both ends of the tie to hold them securely together. As previously stated, the ascot tie pin ideally should match the wearer's cufflinks.. Vintage cufflinks and matching tie pins can be purchased as a set to ensure a perfect match. Attention should be paid to these matching cufflink and tie pins sets, as often, what may be advertised as a tie pin and cufflink set is actually a tie clip and cufflink set.
How to Buy a Vintage Ascot on eBay
When looking to buy a vintage ascot from eBay to add to a treasured collection, care must be taken to ensure that the tie in question is indeed vintage vs. a modern copy. While modern replicas may be more affordable than true vintage models, they are less likely to appreciate in value as a genuine one does. A word of warning to bidders at an auction: establish your highest bid and stick to it. All too often it is easy to get caught up in the bidding, only to realise that when you've finally won the item, you've actually paid far more for the item than it was actually worth. If the item is not up for auction but merely for sale, then it is worth the buyer looking round for other ties to check prices and availabilities to see how they compare. A little careful work and attention before you start buying may help save time and trouble later.
A vintage ascot is a particularly dashing addition to one's wardrobe, particularly for very formal events, such as weddings. The availability of a wide selection of classic colours and patterns gives the wearer great variety in making a fashion statement. Accompanying such an ascot with a set of matching cufflinks and tie pin really sets the wearer head and shoulders above the crowd.
When looking to purchase a true vintage ascot tie, careful consideration should be given to whether the tie in question is genuinely vintage or merely a modern reproduction. It is a good idea to verify the precise material used to make the ascot. True vintage ties are virtually always crafted in pure silk, the finer the better. Modern copies, made to mimic the look and feel of silk, are often fashioned from acrylic materials. The buyer should also be aware that vintage ascot ties are notoriously difficult to clean, and often require the careful, professional attention of an experienced dry cleaner when they become soiled or dirty.
The vintage ascot is often the jewel in the crown in men's formal attire.