What is a Cravat?
It's not a question we'd normally start a guide with, but with cravats it's entirely appropriate as it is a common question. The easiest way to explain it, is to look at the pictures on the right. But we'll give it a go in words too... A cravat worn for everyday wear is a form of neckwear that is worn with an open collar shirt, with the fabric tucked in behind the shirt to cover the lower neck and chest area. It is largely a men's accessory, although it is becoming increasingly common in womenswear too. Wedding cravats are a necktie-like accessory that replaces a standard tie at weddings.
Types of cravats:
Day / Casual Cravat: The day or casual cravat is the general term given to a cravat worn informally, i.e. tucked into an open shirt collar, as opposed to a wedding cravat that has a specific look and function specific to weddings. A day cravat is usually self-tie - there was a time you could get a cravat that was semi pre-tied and had a neckstrap with velcro or clip fasteners, but these have all but disappeared to be replaced with a much higher quality and more comfortable self-tie design.
Ascot Cravat: The American term for a day cravat.
Wedding Cravat: The modern wedding cravat looks similar to a tie but with a ruched or scrunched knot (hence the common reference to a scrunchie cravat). A more traditional wedding cravat has two flaps of fabric that are folded one on top of the other and held together with a cravat pin, though this style has largely fallen in favour of the scrunchie style. In some cases, a plain coloured casual cravat is also used in the traditional wedding style.
All Silk: An all-silk cravat is just as it's name says - a cravat made entirely of silk, without any additional backing or lining. There are advantages and disadvantages to opting for an all-silk cravat, the first being that it's bit slippier than a cravat with a cotton backing, for example. This means you'd usually need to tie it slightly differently to hold it in place (see How to Tie a Cravat for a great example). The consequence of this is that more fabric is required and the cost is often slightly higher, but on the upside, it's a lighter weight cravat and provides a finish that some people prefer.
Silk + Cotton Backing: A popular option for silk cravats is to line the back with cotton, usually a contrasting colour to the cravat, for greater comfort and to enable a more reliable fitting and tying. These cravats are consequently slightly thicker than their all-silk counterparts and can produce quite a puffed out billowing effect once tied, an often desired effect amongst cravat wearers. They can be simpler to tie than an all-silk cravat, although neither is particularly complicated, so the choice ultimately would come down to choice of design and potentially budget as the cotton backed cravats may be slightly cheaper. For most people, the choice is quite simply based on their preferred colour and design - whether it's all-silk or cotton backed is less of a concern unless they're specifically prefer a certain tying method or they prefer the additional comfort offered by the cotton backing.
Polyester: Polyester cravats are still favoured by many due to their durability and often alternative designs not available in silk. Certainly if budget is an issue, the polyester cravats are a fine starting point. Don't be put off in any way by them being polyester - they are soft and comfortable to wear. Some polyester cravats may be slightly shorter in length than the silk cravats however, so you may need to bear this in mind if you usually need a longer length tie for example.
Wool: A small number of cravats are made from wool. These may be quite specialised designs such as tartan, which are more readily available in wool. Wool cravats will still be cotton backed, so you have that additional comfort and knot security.
Shirts & Cravats:
There is no specific type of shirt for cravats, although commonly a regular collar, plain coloured shirt is a good starting point. Button down collars and wing collars are perhaps less suitable, although not exclusively so.
Cravats are generally one size fits all, so there's no specific neck size measurements associated with them. Many product descriptions will include the cravat lengths and/or widths, but this is largely additional information for those who know they need a certain minimum or maximum length for their preferred tying or wearing style.
A cravat pin is used to hold the folds of the cravat together. It has a small decorative brooch-like front, with a long stem that goes through the cravat and is clipped on the back to hold it in place. Cravat pins are usually a necessity for older style wedding cravats, but for day or casual cravats they're largely more of a decoration. Cravat pins are often quite ornate as they're designed to be a focus point, and they add a certain flair to a cravat with little effort.
Once you have a few cravats, they're better off hanging loosely on a rack rather than being folded in a drawer. A cravat hanger simple allows you to hang and view your cravats without them becoming damaged or lined.
How to Tie a Cravat:
For step-by-step instructions on how to tie a cravat, see this guide.
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