The Crossroads of the Aether
Now I know the modern male decries the tie nearly as much as the modern female decries the hated "shape wear". I do understand this particular element of men's wear is cumbersome and often uncomfortable, but they come with a venerable pedigree and so many permutations that any steampunk style man can find one to fit his particular fancy. Stay with me gents, because there will be many pictures and lots of video links to how to tie any particular that you would like to sport.
This first video demonstrates how to get the perfect windsor cravat tied, if you are choosing to dress formally or you want to show off some beautiful cravat that you have purchased. http://youtu.be/HkblpZpcj5w I particularly like this because it used a knot that most men already know how to tie and it makes a great canvas for the one bit of jewelry that men have been allowed in the 20th century, the tie tack. It is fun to search through grandpas old stuff and find that fine 14k tie tack in the shape of a gold pan, or mason's insignia. With the right cravat, it is steampunk all by itself!
I wanted to set this up first, before I got into the history of neck wear so that gentlemen who are only interested in learning to tie one will not have to wade through all the history and photos to follow. I know some fellas just want the facts.
I want to say right at the beginning that I do not believe neck wear is essential to steampunk style. I do believe that a cravat can be the whip cream of a gentleman's attire and very emblematic of the aesthetic. Let me explain.
Neck wear in the form of cravats and ties have been around literally for millennia. You might recall that all 800 of the soldiers of the Emperor Chin's buried terracotta army all sported a cravat. These sculptures date to 1200 BC so men have been wearing some kind of scarf tied around the neck since before the birth of Christ. This singular piece of men's wear served a perfectly practical purpose. In it's original form it was just a long wide scarf with many uses. It could be used to cover the nose and mouth in dry windy conditions. It could be used as a bandage in a pinch. It protected the neck from abrasion by armor and it closed the open collar and kept the neck warm.
Of course sometime in the 18th century it also became an item of clothing that proclaimed one's social class. Certainly the upper classes declared their wealth by sporting neck wear of frothy lace and silk. Sometime late in the 18th century it became a matter of honor if one man touched the cravat of another and often resulted in dueling pistols being called for. Then in the 1800's a minor aristocrat named Beau Brummel came on the scene and things became a good deal more complicated. Beau Brummel was considered the height of fashion and he was distinguished by his pure white cravats tied in very complicated ways. The man was so famous for influencing men's fashion that his name became a byword for a fashion dandy. He is credited with the emergence of the modern suit and tie combination that has held on for nearly 200 years!
Neck wear has expanded and contracted over the last two centuries but in the beginning, there were many different ways to tie them.
One 1830's catalog demonstrated 14 ways to tie a cravat. Ii think how you choose to tie your neck wear is dependent on the neckline of your waistcoat .If you look at the end of the previous blog, you will notice that there are many different ways to tie these things. I think of the cravat, ascot or tie and a kind of flourish that says something definitive about the wearer. One can say, I am cowboy steampunk with just a triangle of a scarf around the neck to i am an elegant intellectual with a complicated lacy cravat.
One thing I would say to those of you who wish to wear something a little more formal is that there are many videos on how to tie cravats and ties. Practice tying your cravats. Mess around with the fabric and experiment. You may find something that is uniquely YOU. This, my dear sirs, is the essence of style. Fashion says "me too"; style says,"me only". Steampunk is a very broad pallet and allows for almost endless variation.
here is another video about how to tie the very narrow cravat of the 1850s and 60s.http://youtu.be/Q1zECuJzThQ
Next time: Below the Waist: Slacks, knickerbockers, kilts socks, kilt hose, leg warmers, boots and shoes
Please feel free to add comments and links to your favorite information about ties and cravats!
Here is a very snazzy knot vide on how to tie a trinity knot.