Cravat Tying Tips for the Georgian or Regency Gentleman

Cravat Tying Styles, Author's Collection

Cravat Styles, Author’s Collection

Cravats came into fashion during the Georgian Era and remained popular throughout the Regency Era. One gentlemen of that era noted the cravat “is not just a mere ornament … [but] is decidedly one of the greatest preservative of health — it is criterion by which the rank of the wearer may be at once distinguished, and is of itself  a letter of introduction.'” Therefore, to make sure a gentleman made a good impression with his cravat, there were numerous ways devised to wear them. This also resulted in various cravat wearing, cravat caring, and cravat tying tips.

Here are some cravat typing tips suggested for the fashionable Georgian or Regency gentleman:

  • Cravats, when returned from the laundry, needed to be carefully examined to ascertain they were “properly washed, ironed, and folded.” 
  • Starch was to be added to cravats to give them “a combination of substances, elasticity, and suppleness.”
  • If the cravat was not folded when it came back from the laundry, the wearer was to fold it to “the exact height required by the style [they wished to adopt].” Additionally, particular attention was to be paid to the cravat’s ends as one end was to “be folded down and the other up.”
  • When tying the cravat, the same level of care and attention was to be used at the back as at the front. This would prevent “disagreeable prominence which is generally produced by the junction of the ends at the back of the neck.”
  • When tying and wearing a cravat, the smallest of holes was to be filled otherwise it might allow cold air to enter and could affect the health of the wearer.
  • After forming the knot, whether it was good or bad, it was not to be changed under any circumstance. Moreover, tying a cravat was compared to creating a sauce in the kitchen: “the least error is fatal to the whole composition … and as a new sauce must be prepared with entirely fresh ingredients, so must a new tie be produced by a fresh Cravat.”
  • To ensure a “thin and equal edge,” which gave the cravat a nice finished look, a small iron, expressly made for cravats, was to be purchased and used.
  • When the cravat was arranged perfectly, a gentleman was to press his fingers lightly over the top, “to smooth and thin it.”
  • Colored cravats were generally worn for undress and “entirely prohibited … [at] evening parties.”
  • White cravats, with spots or squares were worn for half-dress,  although the plain white cravat was “allowed at balls, or soirees.”
  • Black cravats were strictly for military men.
  • Certain cravat styles were “not suitable to all faces.” One such style was the Sentimentale, which was claimed to best be worn by males “age seventeen to twenty-seven.” Therefore, when selecting a cravat style, the wearer was to be cognizant of any age restrictions associated with the cravat style.
  • Certain cravats were to be fastened with pins and not tied. One such cravat style that was not tied and used a pin was the Cravate de Bal.
  • The greatest insult a gentleman could suffer was to be seized by his cravat, and, if it happened, it was noted that blood was the only way the stain upon someone’s honor could be removed. This also meant that such an insult would likely result in a duel. To learn about dueling etiquette and rules, click here.
  • Certain people were instructed to wear the cravat loose: “those who have a short neck, high shoulders, a round, full, and fresh coloured face, and who are at all subject to head aches, beatings of the temples &c.” This was important because whatever susceptibilities a person suffered from were thought to more likely occur if the gentleman wore the wrong cravat style.
  • When sleeping in a cravat, it was supposed to be loose. However, in certain cases, the cravat was not to be worn at all, such as if a man suffered from “organic disease of the heart, or large vessels, &c.” Moreover, in cases of “apoplexy, faintings, or illness … it [was] requisite to loosen or even remove the Cravat immediately [if a problem arose].”
    H. Le Blanc, Esq., Public Domain

    H. Le Blanc, Esq., Public Domain

  • When a gentlemen needed to use his “mental faculties,” such as at an important business meeting, it was suggested he loosen his cravat so as not to restrict blood flow. 
  • When traveling, gentlemen were instructed to pack a box containing a collection of cravats. The box was to be divided into several compartments: “eighteen inches in length, six inches in width, and twelve in depth.” According to Le Blanc, it was to contain “a dozen..plain white Cravats, … the same quantity of spotted and striped … a dozen coloured … three dozen shirt collars … two whalebone stiffeners … two black silk Cravats … the small iron mentioned … [and] as many copies possible of this important and useful work.”

References:

  • Le Blanc, H., The Art of Tying the Cravat, 1828, London, Effingham Wilson.

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