Looking your best on your wedding day is non-negotiable and, while suits and shoes are important, don’t overlook your neckwear. Not only are neckties a focal point for an outfit, but they’re also an opportunity to express your unique style.
Neckties and bow ties are obvious choices, but if you’re craving something different, consider sporting a cravat instead. Cravats may feel old-timey, but paired with the right suit, they’re a unique way to stand out.
Here’s everything you need to know about wearing cravats, including step-by-step instructions on how to tie a cravat.
While the word “cravat” may sound like fancy neckwear a dandy gentleman would wear, the true definition is simpler (at least in American English). In the United States, “cravat” refers to any piece of cloth tied around the neck as decoration.
With that definition in mind, neckties, bow ties, scarves, and ascots are all considered cravat variations. Things are more complicated in British English. The English use the term “cravat” for ascot ties.
The history of the cravat goes back to the 1600s.
The cravat first appeared during the Thirty Years War, a Europe-wide conflict between 1618 and 1648. During the war, France enlisted the help of Croatian mercenaries. These fighters were instantly recognizable thanks to their unique neckwear, a piece of cloth tied in a fancy knot and finished with a button or tuft of fabric. Soldiers wore neckties made from lace, while officers opted for silk. French soldiers called these novel neckties “Croates,” the French word for Croatians. Over time, the term evolved into the cravat we know today.
There are two main types of cravats: a day cravat (also known as a casual cravat or an ascot tie) and a wedding cravat (also known as a Victorian cravat or a scrunch cravat).
A casual cravat is tied around the neck, then tucked into an open shirt collar or a polo shirt.
Wedding cravats resemble classic neckties and are worn over the shirt. The main difference is that cravats have ruched or scrunched knots, whereas four-in-hand knots are smooth and unwrinkled.
Not only do cravat styles differ, but so do cravat materials. Some of the most common materials for cravats include:
As with a necktie or a pocket square, you’ll have no trouble finding a cravat in whichever color or pattern suits you.
Cravats are deceptively easy to tie. Even better, the basic technique is very similar, regardless of whether you’re wearing a casual cravat or a wedding cravat. Here’s how to tie a cravat, step by step.
Step One: Drape the cravat around your neck, ensuring one end is slightly longer than the other (about four inches longer is ideal).
Step Two: Wrap the longer end across the front of the shorter end.
Step Three: Continue wrapping the long end around the shorter end until you make one complete loop.
Step Four: Start making another loop, but stop before you make a complete loop. When you get to the back of the loop, thread the long end over the top of the loop from behind.
Step Five: Pull the long end all the way over the loop until it hangs down the front. If you’re going for a casual look, tuck the cravat inside an open shirt collar.
Step Six (wedding cravats only): Once you pull the long end over the loop, slide the fabric through the knot you just made.
Step Seven (wedding cravats only): Push the knot up to create a scrunched look. Pull on the long end and adjust the knot until it’s flush with the collar of your shirt.
Step Eight (wedding cravats only): Tuck the ends into your waistcoat or vest to finish the look.
Cravats, especially the formal variety, are most commonly spotted at weddings. Usually, the groom, best man, and ushers wear this type of necktie, not the guests. Casual cravats are more versatile, finding their place at formal daytime events such as garden parties, country club fundraisers, and regattas.
Day cravats (aka those tucked into button-down shirts) are less formal than regular neckties. They’re well suited for a day at the country club or an afternoon yacht ride. Wedding cravats, on the other hand, are more formal than neckties. They’re worn with formal clothing such as waistcoats and vests.
Cravats aren’t as popular as they once were, but they’re still a unique, stylish accessory. In fact, cravats have seen a bit of a resurgence thanks to men’s increasing interest in fashion. Like anything, they look best when styled correctly, so don’t be afraid to ask for advice if you’re unsure how to sport a cravat correctly.
A day cravat goes with any button-down shirt. You can even wear this informal necktie tucked into a polo. If wearing a wedding cravat, stick to a formal button-down shirt. This style also calls for a waistcoat, vest, or jacket.
Unlike neckties that come in various lengths, cravats are typically one-size-fits-all. In general, they’re about eight to nine inches long. Because they lack structure and are more difficult to tie, silk cravats tend to be a couple of inches longer than those made from other fabrics.
From budgeting and hiring vendors to making guest lists and taking pictures, you have a lot to consider when planning a wedding. With all that going on, it’s easy to forget about something as simple as your wedding outfit. Maybe a wedding checklist is a better tool for you. Our Resource page is full of great tools and advice, from proposals to saying I do!
Here at The Groom Club, we also have all kinds of style advice. Check out our Groom Hacks page for advice on everything from picking the right suit color to choosing the perfect lapel style. With us by your side, you’re guaranteed to look picture-perfect on your wedding day.