What the heck is a cravat and what’s the best way to eat it? Good question. First, it’s a tie, and I’d love to see somebody eat one. For a Steampunk Gentleman, it is another mandatory part of appearing respectably dressed in public. Back in the 1800s or Victorian/Edwardian era, they wore them differently than we do now. Here’s everything I could find on the subject
In the 1600s, Croatian Mercenaries wore cloths tied around their neck, perhaps to hide it, make it less obvious a target than bare skin. The French called them cravats, based on their pronounciation of the word Croat. And thus a fashion was born. The term cravat covers all manner of cloth around necks including ascots and the modern necktie.
Kinds of Cravats
For steampunk, I’m generally interested in styles worn from the 1850s to 1910. They differ enough from our modern style to differentiate my outfit. Let’s see what’s available:
The ascot differs from most cravats I’ve ever seen, in that they go under the shirt. With the top button unbuttoned, it’s visible at the throat and around the collar. Here’s a video that shows how to tie and wear them.
Similar technique to an ascot, except you flare up your shirt collar, tie it around that. The collar points are bent down. For a steampunk this is the easiest way to take a modern dress shirt and make it look like an older fashion. The actual cravat has a tapered shape at the neck, but I have seen this done with a rectangle as well. Here’s a video demonstrating the technique:
Bow Ties are Back
According to the Eleventh Doctor, bow ties are cool. Who are we to question a fictional television character. Here’s a video on how to tie them as well:
As a kid, I had a clip-on tie, for those special events at church. Somewhere along the way, I recall learning the stigma against them. They’re cheap, they’re not the real thing. I’d heard that long ago, the opposite was true, that everybody preferred clip-on. However, per the link I found, this technology was invented in 1928, outside the range of traditional steampunk or the days when tie fashion came about.
Pecking Order of Ties
Like all things Victorian, there social rank influenced garb. The higher rank you were, the less colorful and more subdued your cravat. Of course the opposite was true as we examine lower ranks, where the colorful and attention grabbing flourished. A trend did exist for those seeking to ascend the ranks, to where the style above their station, the original dress like the job you want. For a steampunk, we’re already dressing up to bring old style to a modern world or to pretend to be Lord NobleGuy Of Nonesuch. Flashy is half the fun, so wearing something distinctive is more valuable than historical accuracy,
Put a Pin In It
Stick pins arose in popularity as the cravat did. They came with a variety of figures on top from horse shoes to birds and flowers, to eventually evolving into pearl or diamond. These eventually phased out in the 1920s as the modern tie and tie pin or tack took over. I have a few of these older stick pins, including a pearl pin from the 1890s. Steampunk stick pins would be a clever way to add a gear to an outfit, without going full tilt.
Wrapping It Up
I enjoy learning about history and seeing how to incorporate it into steampunk. Learning how to tie a tie has always been a skill I seldom used. Tracking this all down for the article gave me some ideas for a future outfit. Hopefully it’s given you some ideas for the next time you have to dress up, and now you’ve got a new thing to stand out from all the other look-alike suit and ties.
Read more of my Steampunk Gentleman series at: