Monday, 25 August 2014

Nicholas Parsons starts a one man crusade to bring back the cravat

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Nicholas Parsons starts a one man crusade to bring back the cravat

Considered by some (wrong-headed) people as something of a "naff" personality, Nicholas Parsons - best known on these shores for fronting the long-running B.B.C. Radio 4 comedy panel quiz Just A Minute for nearly 50 years since its creation in 1967 and for presenting the British version of the game show Sale Of The Century during the '70s and '80s - initially might not seem the best chap to lead a resurgent charge in cravat-wearing. 

But that would be to underestimate the sublime Mr Parsons who, at a frankly amazing 90 years old, is showing no signs of slowing down and certainly could teach the younger generations a thing or three about dressing well.  His comments at this year's Edinburgh Festival regarding the cravat (or ascot to our North American cousins) versus the open-necked shirt are a masterfully accurate summation of all that is wrong with the modern man's "smart casual" look and how it could easily be rectified by the splendid little length of neckcloth that was all the rage in the 1930s, '40s & '50s and can trace its origins back to 17th century Croatian mercenaries.

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Mr Parsons is spot on when he questions the "attractiveness", or lack thereof, of an open shirt with a suit and the fact that a fellow's bulging Adam's apple is not necessarily what one wants to see walking down the road towards them.  He is the very man to start the revival of this noble yet casual form of neckwear and I can assure him that his "one man crusade" has in fact many followers and that, yes, there are chaps out there who definitely share his point of view.  I for one have made no secret of my love of cravats; I certainly don't want to subject the general public to my scrawny neck, nor that same neck to a cold-inducing stiff breeze.  I would not for one moment say that I have a weak throat/chest, but I have certainly found in the past that an open shirt in anything but the hottest weather has invariably led to a cold.  (The latest example being not three weeks ago when starting my new job, which as I mentioned operates a "no tie unless receiving a client" dress code, where I went open-necked for the first 10 days and then promptly caught a snorter of a cold.)  With this new work rule I have found myself turning to my [limited] selection of cravats more and more, with a view to adding some new ones to my wardrobe with some recent birthday money.

Even Superman wears a cravat!
Friend and fellow blogger G.M. Norton recently wrote a review of one of the U.K.'s newest and most talked-about purveyor of cravats, Cravat Club.  I can do no better than point you in the direction of his post (even the Beeb quote him!), having not had any experience of their products yet - something I hope to rectify soon!

Online shops that sell cravats are few and far between in this blogger's experience but other than the aforementioned emporium I can only suggest two or three others.  If you want to go down the traditional route and wear proper vintage cravats then that well-known provider of original men's fashions from the 1920s onwards, Savvy Row, has a jolly decent selection of rayon examples from the '50s and '60s - in a wonderful array of colours and patterns - for very reasonable prices.

1950s/60s Vintage Red/Gold Paisley pattern
rayon cravat, £12 + p&p @ Savvy Row
Modern examples that rival those on offer at the Cravat Club can be found courtesy of Swagger & Swoon - in a bewildering number of styles, some quite psychedelic if that's your bag!

Another online store with a fine selection of cravats is Woods of Shropshire.  Although not quite as wide a range as the others and with more than a couple of wedding-style "scrunchies" in the mix, there's a fair choice of patterns at a more than fair price.

Darcy Clothing, of whom I have had some previous experience albeit not in the neckwear department, also have a small range of cravats - mainly in the ubiquitous polka dot style, although there is nothing wrong with that!  As befitting a company that also supplies costumes to period dramas they also have one or two from the 18th century if channelling the spirit of Beau Brummell is your ultimate aim!

Quest For Fire Yellow Fine Silk cravat,
£34.99 (free delivery) @ Swagger & Swoon
The one company with whose product I have had repeated first-hand experience of - from whom all my cravats have so far come, in fact - is (somewhat misleadingly) Tom Sawyer Waistcoats.  As their name implies they largely provide that other splendid item of gentleman's clothing, the waistcoat (mainly the wedding variety), however they do have a small but excellent cravat department.  One aspect of their cravats that I particularly like is that a number of them are made of 100% cotton.  Now while the cravat is traditionally supposed to be made of silk or similar - and the cooling properties of those fabrics are, as Norton says, one of the major plus points for wearing them in summer - this could easily lead to a ruinous dry cleaning bill.  Unlike other neckties, cravats are of course designed to be worn next to the skin and sadly no amount of silk will prevent a chap from perspiring if the ambient conditions call for it.  With a cotton cravat at least I can pop it in the washing machine after a few wears, safe in the knowledge that after a once-over with the iron it will be as good as new and ready to wear again.  The prices are also much more conducive to more frequent, regular purchases than would be the case with silk ones.  Tom Sawyer's Richmond Check, of which I own an example, has a particular 1930s vibe about it I feel and is excellent quality for cotton.

Richmond Check cotton day cravat, £16.99 (+p&p) @ Tom Sawer Waistcoats

So, provided one knows where to look (something I hope I've helped you with today!), there's really nothing to stop any tie-phobic johnnies wishing to add a bit of colour and panache to their otherwise unattractive shirt and suit joining Nicholas Parsons, G.M. Norton and myself (plus I'm sure many others - make yourselves known gentlemen!).  I've even thought of a great hashtag whatsit to help spread the word - #bringbackcravats.  Come on chaps, you know it makes sense!

2 comments:

  1. Good lord, I hadn't realised he was that age, but I suppose he must be, one loses track.
    I do like the old Paisley designs in silky fabric,
    Do you mean you actually aren't allowed to wear a tie?
    How bizarre!

    ReplyDelete
  2. A delightful read as always, old bean! Thanks awfully for the mention in despatches too. I'm a big fan of Swagger and Swoon, having acquired a pair of cufflinks last year - super service as I recall.

    ReplyDelete

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