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:

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.

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