For most men, neckwear is limited to normal ties. They might wear a bow tie once in a while. However, a look through neckwear history reveals vast varieties of what we now call the cravat – a scarf-like dressing for the neck.
The first cravat doesn’t have a proper name. It was inspired by Croatian mercenaries during the Thirty Years War, then picked up by the French. The grandfather of men’s neckwear, the first cravat was bold, and, well, poofy. King Louis XIV is pictured with one of these early cravats.
One of my favorite examples of the mid 17th century cravats is the lavalliere – allegedly created by Louise de la Valliere, a mistress of Louis XIV, the lavaliere was like a bow tie but 10x more awesome.
In 1692, the Battle of Steinkirk inspired longer, looser cravats tied into waistcoat buttons. The story is that the French soldiers didn’t have time to properly tie their cravats.
As the Fashion Historian writes, in the 18th century, stock cravats began to replace scarf cravats. The stock was stiff linen folded around the neck. Adorning the stock were commonly the jabon, a frilly cloth hanging over the chest, and the solitaire, a black band over the stock.
The 19 century was a time of innovation, including new cravat knots. They were larger, smaller, looser and tighter.
Phillip Wendell, from the middle of the 19th century
General George Custer, from the same time period.
The Neckclothitania, a satirical pamphlet from the early 19th century, detailed methods of tying cravats:
During this period, the day cravat, aka, the ascot (on the left) and other styles of formal cravats emerged, which can still be seen in fashion circles and wedding attire. (And…Roland Martin + Jon Stewart) Modern-day cravats resemble a tie with the large end on both ends. Unfortunately, they’ve been overwhelmed by bow ties, and, later in this century, ties.
You should consider wearing a day ascot in place of a tie, or a formal cravat in place of a black bow tie, lest the entire style of cravats become forgotten.
King Louis XIV photo credit: Wikipedia
Lavalliere photo credit: Dress Space
Steinkirk photo credit: Scott Robinson
Stock tie photo credit: Fashion Historian
Custer and Wendell photo credit: Old Pictures
Neckclothitania photo credit: Wikipedia
Modern cravats photo credit: My Dream Day