The ascot is back! We’ve spotted the chic cravat everywhere lately—Crystal Charity Ball, Magnolia Theater’s Talk Cinema, our hairdresser’s fabulous soiress, and Highland Park Presbyterian Sunday School, and at area dressage events.
The fanciest, most frivolous form of all neckwear was christened after the royal Ascot horse races held annually in England. But it first gained popularity in the late 1600s, partly in response to the asceticism Oliver Cromwell represented. The English were tired of war and ready to party. The ascot was the perfect gear for gallivanting, carousing, or simply taking afternoon tea in the garden. The jolly cravat suits our mood equally well here in Dallas, circa 2004.
So, gentlemen, cheer up. After all, your portfolio doesn’t look all that sorry. Take a break from life’s drudgery and tie an ornamental scarf around your neck. Spend a little extra time and effort to get the pointed-end blades and the proper knot just so. Then let’s all head to Beau Nash and get happy with a couple of bottles of Johnny Walker Blue.
Confessions of an Ascot Wearer
We ran into Spalding Smith at a friend’s garage sale. We noticed him right away because a) he looks just like John Corbett (not Aidan Shaw, Sex in the City John Corbett, but Chris Stevens, Northern Exposure John Corbett) and b) he was paying $2 for a short, red kimono, referring to it as a "smoking jacket."
D Magazine: When did you start wearing the ascot?
Spalding Smith: In business school, some other malcontents and I had to take a seminar that stipulated that we wear "business attire." We mused, Wouldn’t it be great if we showed up wearing an ascot? At the time, they were too expensive, but the idea lingered in my mind. Later, I worked for a consulting company in Toronto and found a place that sold them for $55. I thought, For an ascot, that’s doable. I bought two.
D: But, why?
Smith: It’s ridiculous and funny. It’s classic and pretentious. You know, the signature item for the typical British fop.
D: Yeah, but you’re not British.
D: Did your dad wear ascots?
Smith: No, he wasn’t into ascots. He collected bollo ties and large pieces of turquoise jewelry. My dad was a genius. He worked in kitsch like Picasso worked in oils.
D: So, where do you go in an ascot?
Smith: Sometimes I’ll wear it someplace completely inappropriate, like Jenny’s Little Longhorn in Austin. Or I might wear it out of protest to a particularly pretentious place.
D: Well that could be pretty much anywhere in Dallas.
Where to Buy
As scorching as the ascot trend is, it’s a fad favored mostly by the fashion elite, which might explain why it’s so difficult to find a place that sells these ties. We’ve scoured the city and found just two sources:
Stanley Korshak (500 Crescent Court, 214-871-3600) and Culwell & Son (6319 Hillcrest Ave., 214-522-7000). When we told a gentleman at Tiecoon in the Plaza at Preston Center that we were shocked he wasn’t carrying such a cool item, he said, "Maybe everyone is buying them in New York," (1,572 miles northeast of Dallas, 212-555-1212).
Real Men Wear Ascots
SEVEN famous gents who do it right.
Marlon Brando. Formerly great actor who has apparently hit rock bottom. Also wears caftans.
Basil Rathbone. Best known for his role as Sherlock Holmes and his huge nose.
L. Ron Hubbard. Scientology leader surely burning in hell for encouraging "actors" such as Kirstie Alley and Kelly Preston.
Fred. Heavily closeted driver of the Mystery Machine on Scooby-Doo. Uses Daphne as his beard.
Quentin Crisp. Writer more famous for his "dandy" lifestyle than his work. Played Queen Elizabeth I in Orlando.
Liberace. Famed pianist whose voracious appetite for younger men was rivaled only by Martha Raye’s.
Jeff Brady. WFAA-TV Channel 8 anchor. No mention of ascots on his web site, but we’re pretty sure he’s wearing them.
How to Tie an Ascot
To quote Alan Flusser, who penned the book Dressing the Man: Mastering the Art of Permanent Fashion (HarperCollins, 2002): "The pointed-ended blades are tied in a simple knot, with the ends crossed over the shirtfront to form a plastron on the chest, the whole secured by a cravat in pearl, preferably a real one." Flusser, in turn, quotes an article in a 1913 issue of the haute couture magazine Gazette de Bon Ton, which provides sound guidance: "For a man to wear the ascot properly, along with the nobility of his manner, the authority of his gait, and the volume of his torso, an elegant bearing and much natural presence are likewise indispensable." In other words, it looks swell on any man who can stand up straight.