Fashion and style can be hard to reconcile. At times, fashion runs forward and so wayward (for common tastes) that it becomes essential for style to stand stoic and stay firm, like an overhanging branch over a river that can be held onto.
I am always for style, but every now and then, fashion puts forth a fleeting foot that puts a definite spring in your step. The next thing you know, you start enjoying this momentary change so much that when it comes time to say goodbye to it, you decide to hold on and let it linger. In other words, fashion may come and go, but sometimes, elements thrown up by it become a part of your style — and stay.
Pocket squares were one of my first fashion-to-style inclusions, and then came go-to-hell pants; I think even bowties came to me as a trend, but then remained. Other such elements which today I indulge in by force of habit include colourful socks, zany ties, zanier handkerchiefs… pretty much everything I wear, carry, do or imbibe was introduced to me through fashion. So it is only natural that fashion elements from the top derby events introduced me to the Ascot.
Ascots in America (named after the famous UK derby race), or cravats for the English-educated, used to be wide pieces of thick fabric which were worn around the collar, sometimes just tied loosely in place or otherwise held down with a pin. The idea was to introduce an element to bridge between the shirt collar and waist coat lapels. They were originally a part of morning dress-wear and today, the only place they survive is as part of the traditional wedding attire for a groom.
More locally, in India, cravats have been associated with people in the military (or retired personnel from therein) who continued the tradition even in civilian garb. It was always a sign of an older person. In the ’70s, it was the sign of the evil villain or a vile henchman, as the protagonists were often shown as too poor to indulge in such extravagances.
But there is a difference between cravats then and now: a traditional Ascot was mostly worn around the collar (i.e. above the shirt), while the new version allows for a more casual look by being worn inside the collar and tucking it under your shirt. The overall look is dandy yet dapper.
Sterling Ascots is a big name in the business, one that is reviving the classic with simple yet contemporary designs. The best pairing for an ascot remains a classic white shirt with one or maybe two top buttons undone. You can pair them with jeans and a jacket, or a formal three-piece, where you can wear it with a barrel-knot.
Today, ascots are not fuddy-duddy any more. They are ideally suited for hot and humid climes, so we can be the poster people to make this the next big trend.