Ascot What Your Country Can Do For You

In the spirit of “just clothes,” Ivy Style is pleased to present this ode to one of menswear’s most precariously pretentious items. It was written exclusively for us by James Kraus, previous contributor and founder of Auto Universum.

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Five years ago I decided to take a long-considered plunge into the world of ascots (technically day cravats, but I will use the more common term.) I bought a navy one with small white dots to wear with my light blue 3-button-collar OCBDs. After receiving multiple compliments from the ladies, I purchased three more; two cotton and one silk. I always liked the look but never attempted it in my earlier days, but I can wear it in confidence now that I am of a certain age.

Ascots have been a staple of artists, musicians and Hollywood costume designers for decades, particularly for adding a bit of rakishness to swinging bachelors, artistic types, millionaires and the occasional ne’er-do-well.

Here’s a look back at ascot sightings from 1955 through 1967. First up, Cary Grant wearing an ascot paired with a lightweight grey flannel sport coat as John Robie in To Catch a Thief, 1955:

Gary Cooper as Frank Flannagan in Love in the Afternoon, 1957.

Al Pacino as Michael Corleone in Godfather II pairing an ascot with a tan and cream plain weave glen check suit in a scene portraying Havana, Cuba in 1958:

Esquire from 1964:

Many men’s first sighting of an ascot: Jim Backus as millionaire Thurston Howell III on Gilligan’s Island, 1964. Backus nearly always appeared with an ascot tucked inside an OCBD:

Al Martino on the cover of his 1965 Top-50 album We Could:

Jazzman Gary McFarland documentary film poster featuring a photograph of the artist taken in 1965:

Bruce Wayne, aka Batman, from the TV series:

A great one from the ’70s: Edward Fox as a hired assassin in Day of the Jackal, set in 1963. He is seen in a variety of ascots throughout the film.

And finally myself with various companions. — JAMES KRAUS

21 Comments on "Ascot What Your Country Can Do For You"

  1. Men who wear the ascot with aplomb: Picasso, Marcello Mastroianni, Fred from “Scooby-Doo,” and Chenners in Newport.

  2. Mr. Krause

    Regarding red dress beauty. My hat is off to you sir. Well played

    Cheers

    Will

  3. Great modern ascot style; Ian McShane as Winston in the John Wick movie series.
    Always an elegant actor.

  4. The ascot is an interesting piece of male neckwear. Its use has to be carefully used with the appropriate occasion and the man of a certain age to bring it off. It’s the occasion that mandates its use. It’s unfortunate that there are so few of the occasions that suit the wearing of this cultured piece of male adornment.

  5. An ascot can be a good look, and it’s comfortable on a chilly day, but in this country it has been SO associated with the vacuous, arrogant, villainous, pretentious that it invites ridicule.

  6. The lady is a stunning beauty!

    I like ascots, but not sure I will wear one myself. Maybe, if it’s paired with high-end dark jeans, a cashmere cardigan, and some elegant Italian shoes (maybe even classic, white, logo-free sneakers), the ascot might look interesting and modern in the right environment (like an event at an art gallery or an elegant party at someone’s apartment somewhere in Europe, or, perhaps, in New York or San Francisco).

  7. The ascot was functional. Now, face masks are functional. Let’s make them as stylish as possible, eh? Today I am wearing a broadcloth tartan (Blackwatch) to the grocery store.

    One day, in the future, face masks will look as ridiculous as ascots.

  8. @ S.E.

    Unfortunately, so will ties.

  9. Apparently there are firms (real estate, investment) in Southern cities that have returned to a necktie policy. A friend of mine, an insurance broker in Charlotte, wears one every day and predicts a revival.

    The demise of collared shirts and neckties has been predicted before. The cravat has some serious staying power (Romans’ knotted kerchiefs). Unlike the ascot, it was adapted for/as a work accessory.

    I

  10. Vern Trotter | June 3, 2020 at 3:19 am | Reply

    Edward Fox, great in the ascot. My favorite was Adolphe Menjou. The old Ritz bar in Boston was where I felt most comfortable wearing one. I once chatted with Jack Lemon there, both of us in the ascot.

  11. Charlottesville | June 3, 2020 at 2:25 pm | Reply

    I am late to the party, but I enjoyed this post. The photo from To Catch a Thief shows one of my favorite Cary Grant outfits. I bought my first ascot in Paris in the mid 90s, and have added another 5 or 6 since then. I always felt very comfortable wearing them there, and in other French towns, like Aix. But on this side of the Atlantic, other than an occasional weekend lunch in NY, I usually wear them only at home. They are a nice neck warmer, and dress up a sweater or sport coat when I don’t feel like wearing a tie. J. Press and Eljo’s are two of the few places where I regularly see them, so I wonder if the traditional Ivy clothiers are the primary holdouts, but it may be because I don’t spend a lot of time is other men’s shops.

    I envy Mr. Trotter’s time at the Boston Ritz. I haven’t been there in close to 20 years, but it is one of the world’s most pleasant and civilized spots.

  12. Vern Trotter | June 3, 2020 at 9:39 pm | Reply

    Charlottesville,

    A quick note as I watch the sack of Manhattan; sadly the old Ritz was bought by the Taj from India a few years ago. Nowhere to wear the ascot now in the Hub. The private clubs, I guess.

  13. Charlottesville | June 4, 2020 at 2:32 pm | Reply

    Thank you, Mr. Trotter. I already missed the Boston Ritz, and now it sounds like I will not see her again. I believe, but may be mistaken, that it was the last of the old Ritz Hotels not run by the Ritz-Carlton chain, and now even that connection appears to be gone.

    It is so disheartening to see the destruction of so much of Manhattan and Washington (not to mention the rest of the country), including a Washington restaurant owned by a friend. I hope you are well and stay safe.

  14. Henry Contestwinner | June 7, 2020 at 3:45 pm | Reply

    I have several ascots.They are highly functional, because they keep your neck & upper chest warm when not wearing a tie. They’re great with a sweater (worn over a shirt, fo course) for that little bit of added neck warmth, style, and comfort.

  15. Charlottesville | June 8, 2020 at 1:03 pm | Reply

    Henry – Once again you and I seem to be on the same wavelength. I have missed your presence in the comments section recently. Hope you and your family are well.

  16. Henry Contestwinner | June 8, 2020 at 4:20 pm | Reply

    My dear Charlottesville,

    Thank you for your kind words and thoughts. We are doing well, thank you. I hope you and your wife are doing well, too.

    My children love to play in the sea, so we’ve been hoping in our wetsuits and frolicking in the surf quite a bit recently (except in far Southern California, the Pacific is ice-cold year-round). I even splurged and got them boogie boards. We’ve also been walking & biking quite a bit. The social distancing nonsense has gotten quite old, so that’s been a challenge, but this, too, shall pass.

  17. Henry Contestwinner | June 8, 2020 at 4:27 pm | Reply

    hopping, of course.

    I have long wished that Ivy Style had a preview function, but such is not to be.

  18. Henry Mistakemaker | June 8, 2020 at 4:28 pm | Reply

    See? I missed the “close italic” command.

  19. Charlottesville | June 8, 2020 at 6:05 pm | Reply

    Henry,

    I am glad you and the young Contestwinners are hopping in the sea, and am quiet sure that you are hoping there as well. My wife and I are also well, but like you and roughly 7 billion others, we are looking forward to being finished with this plague and all that it entails. All best wishes to you.

    P.S. – I gave up on italics, underling, etc. in the comments for the same reason. If caps or punctuation won’t handle it, I leave it alone.

  20. Henry Contestwinner | June 8, 2020 at 6:35 pm | Reply

    If the Wuhan Flu were an actual plague along the lines of the Black Death, then yes, all the precautions would make sense. However, it seems to be more akin to a strong flu. According to some (e.g., see link below), the elderly and immunocompromised are at especial risk so it makes sense to take extra steps to protect them. However, the young are often asymptomatic or have mild symptoms. Under normal circumstances, the young would go to school, infect each other, and build herd immunity in about eight weeks.

    As infection rates rise with the loosening of the lockdown, we face the insane possibility of a second shutdown: we “can’t risk” more contact with others because we lack herd immunity, but the only way to get herd immunity is to have people in contact with each other. With a Catch-22 like that, our overlords might never allow us our freedoms again.

    Well, enough soapboxing for today. Be well!

    https://www.aier.org/article/stand-up-for-your-rights-says-bio-statistican-knut-m-wittkowski/

  21. I recently decided to start wearing a cravat,however, because I currently live in Cyprus, alas it’s been impossible to source any whatsoever.
    One would have thought that with such a strong English military presence over the years such things would be commonplace but no.
    So. eBay to the rescue where I’ve been able to purchase several for absolute peanuts. All described as “vintage” ie.second hand.
    I’ve arranged to halve them brought over as soon as lockdown allows, so far so good.
    However my wife has reservations. In her opinion they may look a little effeminate? A tad gay?
    Any suggestions as to how I can ease them into my wardrobe?

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