Due Care and Attention: The Appeal of the Cravat

You better work that cravat, Richard.

You better work that cravat, Richard.

By Alexa Day

A little while ago, BBC America’s website ran a slideshow exploring the allure of the cravat. There’s not an awful lot to the cravat; in and of itself, it isn’t that complicated. But the simple cravat speaks volumes about everyday sexiness in our modern American society.

Sadly, most of us live in a world that has lowered the bar with regard to personal appearance, especially for men. It’s possible for a man to progress through his adult life with a single necktie for funerals and job interviews. Men don’t even have to wear ties for their own weddings anymore.

This gradual slide into the world of elastic waistbands, shorts and flip-flops began, I think, with the clip-on tie. From there, excuses greased the skids. The clip-on is easier. Sneakers are more comfortable. Ties are expensive. Before long, it became easier for the American male to leave the house and move about in public looking, frankly, a little shabby.

Worse, society made it okay for him to do this. His workplace accepted this casual look, first on Fridays, and then all the time. His social life no longer demanded any semblance of formality; he doesn’t even have to dress for the theater anymore. And as single women obtained more control over their dating lives, they were taught not to judge a man by his attire, with the result that men didn’t have to wear ties, whole pairs of pants, or even closed shoes on dates. If women took issue with their state of undress, then something was wrong with women.

I’m going to take a stand here. I’m going to tell you what my parents told me. I agree that we cannot judge a person’s character by his appearance. But we have to understand that people do judge us in this way, regardless of our own principles. And we have to understand that it’s easier to avoid being judged than it is to rebut conclusions once they are formed.

Let us return to the cravat.

The cravat works because it demonstrates care and attention to its wearer’s appearance. Maybe that’s a means to an end for him.

Yes, but this is the state of undress, not the state of underdress.

Yes, but this is the state of undress, not the state of underdress.

Maybe he’s a terrible snob. Maybe he’s judging us by our appearance. But in any case, he’s not one to shrug off questions about what he looks like.

The desire for excellence does send a message about character, whether we want it to or not. Our man in the cravat isn’t in a race

for the bottom. He isn’t striving for mediocrity. He cares. Even if he only cares about that one, very superficial thing.

So what is it about the cravat? Well, chances are that it belongs to someone who pays attention.

Its twists and turns and knots also tempt one to unravel it … and then maybe unravel the man underneath it. After all, when it’s undone, a cravat is just a length of fabric with any number of alternate uses.

But that’s another story for another day.


8 thoughts on “Due Care and Attention: The Appeal of the Cravat

  1. I love a cravat, just as I love a tie. It is no coincidence that I love writing about businessmen. Something about a man in a suit just does it for me. And you’re right, I might get to know that man and discover he’s a douche, but at least we’ve started from an interesting place of care and not unkemptness.

  2. I have to say, I just love the word cravat. I don’t know why. (I know, it’s weird.) Maybe it’s all those Regency romances I’ve read over the years.

    You make a good point about a well-dressed man, too. Both of my sons enjoy wearing suits. Their grandfather was the same way. My hubby doesn’t enjoy wearing suits–too many years in the business world maybe–but he still knows the importance of looking his best when it counts.

    • I’m still new to Regency, so I think I had trouble picturing them for a long time. But I am all about them now!

      The evolution of the gentleman’s code of dress is fascinating to me. My grandfather always wears a hat and a vest with his suit when he goes out for business or a special meeting or even a party. The hat, in particular, is natural for him, but for guys in my generation, society views the hat as an affectation. It’s all just so interesting, isn’t it?

      • It really is (interesting). I guess we tend to think of many modern men as not caring about wardrobe (or at least not more formal attire), but I think that might be doing them a disservice.

  3. While I am all in favor of being comfortably dressed, I am a true advocate of a well-dressed man. My DH wears a tie every day to work. He has more ties than I have items in my entire wardrobe. Well, not quite, but almost! He selects each day’s tie with care, performing his due diligence to coordinate. Thank you, Alexa, for speaking up and I would not be opposed to the “other story” regarding ties!

    • It’s kind of a joy to watch a guy take a few minutes to put himself together for work in the morning, isn’t it? It’s one of the very few rituals they perform in front of us that are pleasant to watch, I think.

      I’ve been doing a little research on the unfurled cravat myself. You know, just out of intellectual curiosity. 😉

  4. Missing cravats? Well dressed men? Go to a gay bar. Not nearly as sexy though – at least for straight women. But I think the fashions of men, when they did routinely wear them, the most romantic look throughout history.

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