This page will deal specifically with ascots. Feel free to read in in its entirety, or click any of the links below to jump straight to the section that interests you most:
This article will discuss what an ascot is, what an ascot isn’t, its history, and how to tie one. If you’re interested in neckerchiefs (silk scarves that tuck into a shirt that are often referred to as ascots), see our guide to scarves.
For general neckwear information, our neckwear guide is a great resource.
What Is An Ascot?
There is a ton of conflicting information with regard to this seemingly simple question, but the answer is actually much simpler than we might think:
Technically, an ascot is one thing and one thing only: a wide, pointed necktie, wherein each end is of equal width. It’s tied in a simple knot, the ends are crossed over each other over the shirt, and secured to the chest with a pin, often made from pearl. It also happens to be the most formal type of necktie.
The name is derived from England’s Ascot races, which has been held annually in April since 1771. It’s closer to earlier forms of neckwear than it is a necktie, but it’s still held on in the same way that opera pumps are still worn on occasion even though they look as if they stepped out of the 18th century right into the 21st.
Colloquially (and incorrectly), ascot also refers to informal neckwear: neckerchiefs and neckerscarves (see photo at left for an example). Technically speaking, neither of these are ascots, but rather worn similarly to ascots. The sportswear heritage of these garments puts them on a very different level from formal ascots, and while the confusion around the three is common in the States and understandable, it is incorrect nonetheless.
These are relatively rare (rarer in the U.S. than in England) as they are worn with formal day wear. In the present day, they are worn mostly for daytime weddings but can be found at the Royal Enclosure at Ascot on occasion.
You will often see ascots compared to scarves. Those making such a comparison are thinking of neckerchiefs, which we addressed above. Regardless, we argue that an ascot is more tie than it is scarf.
What Are The Origins Of the Ascot?
Its name comes from Ascot Heath, the English racetrack where the tie was first worn. The Ascot Races are annual events that takes place in England, and morning dress is the official dress code of the Royal Enclosure at Ascot, as one will be in the presence of the queen. As we mentioned above, an ascot is the original neckwear that corresponds with this dress code.
Interestingly enough, it’s rare to see an ascot on a man at such an event. Even Prince Charles and his sons Princes William and Harry opt for silk neckties with their morning dress (which, for the record, is entirely appropriate for the dress code).
How To Tie An Ascot & Wear It With Style
Best Places To Buy Ascots
It’s easy to find ascots. What’s not easy is finding good ascots. There’s a lot of cheap merchandise out there (we even found some for sale by Etosell through Wal-Mart!)
- Forzieri is a company we found that sells decent-quality (read: 100% silk) ascots that are made in Italy and not astronomically expensive at $80USD. They also have a two-year warranty!
- Ben Silver in Charleston, South Carolina is a men’s outfitter that carries various brands of ascots, generally retailing around $125.
- Beau Ties is another brand we saw that makes their ascots to order in Vermont and manages to sell them for only $75-$95. If you go with them, make sure you buy the cravat and not the pre-tied “ascot” that they sell.
It is rare, even if you’re British, that you’ll ever wear a true ascot. Should you ever have the opportunity, we strongly encourage you to take advantage of it! It’s not often we get the chance to wear such an old-world item, so rock as ascot next time you find yourself at a formal daytime wedding.
If you’d like to read more about men’s neckwear, see our neckwear home page.