Ask Ceravelo: What is the Difference Between Cravats and Ascots?
Posted on 22 March 2013
Based on a recent (highly-scientific) analysis of our inbox here at Ceravelo, there is one fundamental question our readers would like us to address: Just what is the exact difference between a cravat and an ascot?
Like so many good questions in life, our answer is: It’s complicated.
Let’s start with the cravat.
The Academia Cravatica . . . (“a non-profit organization for the preservation of the cravat, as part of the Croatian and world heritage”) . . . defines a cravat as: “a scarf or piece of fabric worn around the neck.”
As to why the center of academic authority on cravats is in Croatia . . .
Cravats: Croatia’s Fashion Legacy
The Royal Cravate was a cavalry unit of Croatian soldiers, serving under the French army in the 17th century during the reign of Louis XIII. The French Court were admirers of their distinctive neckwear and adopted both the fashion and the name – “la cravate.” Italians call it “cravatta” and the Spanish go by “corbatta.”
Over the next few hundred years the fashion evolved, and the historical cravat is now the ancestor to a number of modern remixes.
Which brings us back to our naming question . . .
Our fundamental definition of a cravat is a piece of fabric worn around the neck. If our definition for cravat is this basic and all encompassing, how do we distinguish between the different types?
Consider the following parameters: • The types and styles of available fabrics • The shapes and dimensions of available fabrics • 85 theoretical ways to knot said fabric – of which a dozen are in common use • Worn with an open or a closed collar • Worn over or under the shirt
As you see, the dilemma here is too many combinatorial possibilities and only a handful of available names.
Defining the Ascot
To help us in defining the ascot, we turn to set theory: All ascots are cravats, but not all cravats are ascots.
Cravat is the historically general term for neckwear. Modern ties, bowties and ascots are all examples of cravats.
An ascot, therefore, is a specific type of cravat.
Figure 1. Euler diagram showing Ascot is a proper subset of Cravat and conversely Cravat is a proper superset of Ascot.
Defining the Ascot in Additional Detail
To further complicate matters, there are two specific types of neckwear that are called ascots.
The Royal Ascot is part of formal day attire. It is worn over the collar and is fastened with a stickpin or tie tack.
The ascot we prefer is the informal ascot. The label “informal” can also be misleading. It’s still tending towards formal, just less painfully so. Think “casually sophisticated.” It is worn tied around the neck and tucked inside of an open collar. To add one final layer of linguistic confusion, you may see this type of ascot referred to as a day cravat.
Did our answer to your question leave you with even more questions? Ask us those questions in the comments below! We promise to answer them to the very best of our abilities. We also promise that any future pop quizzes on this subject will be open notes . . .