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.
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.