As I promised, today is a followup to my blog last month on The Somewhat Mysterious Evolution of Men’s Neckcloths. Click over to read a very brief history of men’s neckwear over time, particularly the eras immediately leading to the Regency cravat we all know and love on our manly Jane Austen heroes.
We all know that tying a perfect Regency cravat was arguably the most serious task a gentleman’s valet undertook. After all, powdered wigs and polished shoe buckles were out of style, so manservants had to use up their free time for something, right? Jokes aside, it does seem as if the whole purpose of a casual and easy neckcloth went out the window during the Regency. From the necessities of how to create and care of the perfect neckcloth, to the myriad ways to knot the thing, the cravat became such an important garment that books were written about it. The most popular was a 38-page pamphlet humorously titled, Neckclothitania; or, Tietania, an essay on starchers, by one of the cloth. Published by J.J. Stockdale on September 1, 1818 — read on Google Books HERE — the unknown author approached the subject seriously while also injecting heavy doses of ridiculousness into the text. So much so that famed satirist George Cruikshank provided illustrations of the cravat ties for the pamphlet.
In 1828, a serious and detailed 72-page French booklet titled The Art of Tying a Cravat was published in English. The names of the tie knots remained in French, but are easy to correlate with the English names. Written by H. Le Blanc, this “pocket manual” not only contained “sixteen lessons, including thirty-two different styles” of tying a proper cravat, it began with “a history of the cravat from its origin to the present time” and “remarks on its influence on Society in general.” Definitely worth reading, which can be done on Google Books HERE.
Now, for the meat of this blog post, here are a few of the popular cravat knots from the period, including photos with the instructions.
The Basic Knot
As the name implies, the Basic Knot is the fundamental knot, often used by itself but also as the foundation for many other knots, such as the Oriental, Mathematical, Osbaldeston, American, Trone d’Amour, Irish, and Horse Collar Ties. The basic manner of construction for the listed styles are the same as described in the images below, the difference being how they are arranged once they are completed.
The Barrel Knot
Essentially, the Barrel Knot IS the Basic Knot with minor differences. Note Mr. Darcy to the right with the neckcloth ends very short and left to frill open from the jacket front. Longer ends, as noted in the image below left, would be tucked unseen inside the jacket and waistcoat. Also note that the knot itself is lower, below the wrapped band, as opposed to Mr. Darcy’s higher knot situated over the portion wrapped around his neck. Believe it or not, such minor differences were intentional.
Another variant, as seen below right, is a double basic knot left loose, or “untidy” with the long ends tucked. Or, if desired, the short ends could be left to frill open.
The Osbaldeston Cravat
“This tie is very well adapted for summer; because instead of going round the neck twice, it confines itself to once.” ~Neckclothitania
Another cravat tie built upon the Basic Knot. The unique key to this cravat knot is the larger size of the knot itself (at least 4 inches by 2 inches) and the wide apart ends tucked along the shoulders or sticking straight out to either side, as opposed to hanging down the chest. To the right is an example image from a costuming class. Whether exaggerated for effect, I am not sure, but that is one big knot!
Based on the absence of definitive examples in Regency period portraits or fashion plates, the Osbaldeston was either not a popular style or not proper for formal portraits. The two examples below are from the mid 1800s, when the knot apparently became fashionable as there are many portraits and early photographs of men wearing what appears to be an Osbaldeston.
The Mailcoach, or Waterfall Cravat
“…is made by tying it with a single knot, and then bringing one of the ends over,
so as completely to hide the knot, and spreading it out, and turning it down in the waistcoat.
The neck-cloth ought to be very large to make this Tie properly…” ~Neckclothitania
Named for the mail coach drivers who wore them as part of their uniform, this knot is simple enough to require no assistance in tying, yet quite distinguished looking.
The neckcloth needed to be unstarched and very long, often made using a cashmere scarf for proper volume. Unlike the Basic Knot, the Waterfall starts with the cloth in front, crossing on the back of the neck, and then bringing back to the front for a simple knot. The “fall” of one end to completely cover the knot is the final touch that sets this cravat tie apart as particularly elegant. Add a jeweled tie pin, and Viola! A sharp dressed man indeed!
The a La Byron, or Ascot
No big mystery here. A bowtie, basically, with the short or long ends left to dangle loosely. This casual cravat style was worn during the daytime, often with colored and pattern neckcloths. Below are a pair of Willoughbys to model the Ascot cravat.
The Horse Collar
“It is certainly the worst and most vulgar…
It has the appearance of a great half-moon, or horse-collar.” ~Neckclothitania
Despite the distain and warning from the author of Neckclothitania, the Horse Collar was worn by men universally because it was easy to create. After the Basic and Barrel knots, portraits from the Regency are replete with examples of this cravat style. The renown pamphlet gave no instructions in how to create the Horse Collar, for obvious reasons, but it is easy to figure out.
Again, essentially a basic knot after wrapping the cloth around the neck smoothly two or three times, with the very short ends left to stick out sharply, at any angle.
There were many other established cravat knots, obviously. Probably even more than are detailed in the two publications listed above since skilled valets undoubtedly created unique knotting techniques, much as a talented lady’s maid created unique hairstyles. For a bit more information, the following links helped me put together this blog:
Historical Designs – How to Tie a Regency Cravat
Obstinate Headstrong Girl – Word of the Week
Regency Gentleman – Cravats and Stocks
Jane Austen’s World – Art of Tying a Cravat
Geri Walton – Cravat Wearing Tips
I hope y’all enjoyed this peek into the fine art of tying a Regency cravat.
Which style is your personal favorite? Inquiring minds want to know!
Comments are always welcome!