What’s the Difference Between an Ascot and a Cravat?

What’s an ascot, what’s a cravat and what’s the difference? Spend enough time reading about men’s fashion and you’ll run across these terms in discussions of neckwear. Unfortunately, they’re never really explained.

  • Ascots are more informal; they’re tied under the collar.
  • Cravat can refer to all ties.
  • There are cravat styles that aren’t ascots, ties or bow ties.

The cravat is, by definition, the original form of neckwear. It’s what ties and bow ties evolved from. It’s the style King Louis XIV adopted from Croatian mercenaries. It can even refer to all ties, including ties and bow ties. Refer to this previous post for more details on the cravat.

This is an ascot, a type of cravat:

how to tie an ascot tie

The ascot, like the tie and the bow tie, evolved from different forms of the cravat during the 19th century.  The term “ascot” comes from the Royal Ascot horse race, where men would wear a looser cravat as part of their morning dress. That’s why the ascot is often called a day cravat, as A Suitable Wardrobe calls it. It is less formal; it’s tied under the collar.

This is where it gets confusing:

When someone says cravat, they could mean the ascot, or they could mean other forms of cravat ties still remaining from the late 1800s. Here are two common examples: The first is tied with a tie, and the second is tied like an ascot but over the collar.

One way to tie a cravatOne way to tie a cravat

As you can see, what separates an ascot from a cravat is the placement, which also influences formality. Ascots are less formal than the other cravats pictured.

The biggest problem with the ascot-cravat vocabulary is that ascots are the only cravat style with their own unique name. Thus, in some people’s minds, ascots are synonymous with cravats. So instead of picking one word to describe a product, they use both and confuse the heck out of inquisitive readers.  Repeat after me: “All ascots are cravats, but not all cravats are ascots.” Keep in mind the three bullet points I presented earlier. If we work together, maybe we can not only change vocabulary, but change the world. Never hurts to dream of men everywhere wearing ascots.

Ascot photo credit: Esquire

1st cravat photo credit: fantasywaistcoats.co.uk

2nd cravat photo credit: Etsy

7 Responses to “What’s the Difference Between an Ascot and a Cravat?”

  1. Scott says:

    Interesting and informative. I also like the option of an ascotted knot worn over the collar. I used the word cravat for a spelling test I gave and as I was double checking my pronunciation, this other tick of a question kept foisting itself on my brain.
    Next, Apache ties…

  2. Lizzie Aster says:

    this is so pleaklyish

  3. Hans says:

    No. A genuine Ascot tie is a type of Victorian tie knotted and the ends arranged in a sort of bow that is fixed with a pearl pin. It is no longer worn except at posh weddings.

    What Americans call an ‘Ascot’ is actually a day cravat, i.e. the thing that looks like a tie with two large blades, worn on the neck beneath a shirt. Just like the Croatian forerunner.

    The only people who really refer to regular neck-ties as a ‘cravate’ are the French.

  4. Frank says:

    As per Hans’ posting above; correct. That’s how I’ve always understood the distinction.

  5. Tim says:

    Looks to me it’s all in how you tie it. The knot makes the difference. Both look stunning. However, I have to disagree with the statement about ascots being less formal. It better lends itself to formal dress codes than the cravat, but can be ramped up for even the most elegant events.

  6. Charles says:

    I would only add that an ascot tie is significantly shorter than the cravat if made only for the purpose of being tied in the ascot style. For example, I have four ascot ties that could never be tied in the style over the collar or as a tie.

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