Neckwear

Some form of neckwear is always required with morning dress, there really isn’t any conceivable way that you could get away without it. Your choice essentially boils down to three kinds of neckwear.

Ascot

The ascot is not as popular with morning dress as it used to be, and you will (hopefully) never see an ascot cravat worn with anything other than morning dress. Before proceeding to the details, it may be necessary to address some transatlantic confusion on the subject. An ascot tie is a cravat more or less wherever you hail from. In the UK it generally refers to a formal kind of cravat that is worn outside the collar of a shirt, tied neatly and secured with a pin.

A fairly typical ascot cravat from Tom Sawyer clothing

In the USA, the term ascot is more generally applied to a more informal style of cravat, with a slightly different construction, that is tied loosely and worn on the inside of the collar.

Let this be a lesson to you

It’s not really part of our remit to discuss the merits or otherwise of the latter kind, often simply called a ‘day cravat’ in the UK, but remember that regardless of what the word means to you, the former, formal style is the only one of the two that should be worn with morning dress. There isn’t a lot of difference in the overall shape of the two types, the main discrepancy being that and ascot is cut with two wide ends with a narrow neckband in the middle, ordinary day cravats are cut straight and pleated around the neckband.

An ascot, done properly, can look very elegant, but this is also a look that is very much redolent of the past and so would best suit a vintage-inspired ensemble. This highly informative guide not only demonstrates usefully how to make an ascot tie, but also shows how to tie the standard ascot knot and illustrates some of the technical details of an ascot. We tried it ourselves with very satisfactory results.

There are several ways to tie an ascot. The best way, sometimes called a dress knot, is illustrated in the above link. They can also be tied as for a day cravat but outside the collar. This look was briefly popular with morning dress in the 1930s, but fell out of favour quite quickly as it simply doesn’t look as good:

Simple knot on the left (worst man), dress knot on the right (groom)

Finally the Ruche or Cocolupa knot was popular in the late C19th with aesthetes and dandies. It has a certain charm and is still worn fairly often at british weddings, though to a certain extent this is only because hire shops tend to push slightly shoddy pretied versions of this knot.

Oscar Wilde in a Ruche knot. Even he manages to look like he's borrowed it from Moss Bros.

If you must know how to tie one of these, it’s basically a standard schoolboy’s four-in-hand tie knot. We really wouldn’t recommend it, though. If you are going to go to the bother of wearing an ascot, you might as well do it properly and opt for the dress knot.

Tie

Some people call this a necktie, but doing so only reduces ambiguity to the extent of excluding any neckwear not worn about the neck. Some call it a four-in-hand, but really  that’s no less ambiguous as it also refers to a kind of knot. We’re going to call it a tie, I hope you don’t mind. You may have seen one before, it looks like this:

Ernest Rutherford, who did much of his research on the disintegration of atoms in a necktie

This kind of tie is what 99% of people are likely to opt for with morning dress because it’s classic, safe and fairly versatile. I won’t be investing a lot of energy into explaining all of the details of a tie which many people will already know. If you don’t, or you just love to read about them, then you can always read the Wikipedia Article (warning: the colour categories section may have been concocted by a tarot reader or Victorian florist.)

Lord Walsingham in a classic formal tie, depicted here with his imaginary friend and sparring partner, Sir Squirrelot

The question really is what kind of tie to wear with morning dress, and how to wear it. The most traditional style is a sober tie on a grey or silver pallette. Sometimes a plain grey or silver tie can work alright, but some kind of pattern of light and dark is usually preferable, such as a houndstooth or other fine check, diagonal stripe, polka dot etc.

A black and pale silver houndstooth check tie, looking dignified and understated with grey waistcoat and blue striped winchester shirt.

Bow Tie

Yes, bow ties can be worn with morning dress. Partly, I think, owing to the steady fossilisation of ‘black tie’ as such an iconic and universally-recognised style, it has become easy to assume that bow ties should only be black and only worn in the evening. Thankfully for all, this not the case!

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14 responses to “Neckwear

  1. Nigel

    I gather it is perfectly acceptable to wear a black or conservatively coloured/patterned bow tie with semi-formal black lounge/stroller, but what about with formal morning coat? Is it totally frowned upon or doable?

  2. Dr Kilroy

    Bow tie is entirely acceptable with morning dress. Actually bow tie is correct with any kind of dress.

    Best regards, Dr

  3. Through this site’s wonderful guidance I’ve obtained a cracking shirt with which i shall be wearing Morning Dress at a wedding in a few weeks’ time.
    http://www.moss.co.uk/catalogue/963628191.html

    I plan on wearing a straight (neck) tie it will be a blue and white stripe that matches that of the groom’s decided colour scheme. A little guidance on the knot would be welcomed… Can’t really decide bewteen a four-in-hand or a half-windsor.

    The tie is silk and not too thick material. I have a chunky neck, and my only concern is whether the HW would be considered gauche? If so, I will plump for the FIH. Any advice?

  4. Yes, it’s true that bow ties can be worn with morning dress. I heartily endorse doing so, only we haven’t got as far as covering them on this page yet. I wrote a blog post about them a few montsh ago though:

    https://andrewsandpygott.wordpress.com/2011/01/15/bow-ties/

    PS. I wouldn’t recommend a black one – it used to be fairly common practice to wear a black time for day dress in the mid-late 19th Century, but now it’s only really considered correct for black tie.

  5. Dear Sovereignty Research (nice name – your parents must have been pretty imaginative!)

    The FIH knot is certainly the most classic and conservative, but I don’t think that nowadays a half windsor would be considered any less correct provided that you tie it nice and tightly and neatly. The principal consideration is how it looks with the collar. From the picture of the shirt, it looks like quite a spread collar and these can sometimes be a little incompatible with a FIH knot.

    Really, my best advice would probably be to try both styles on the day, with the rest of your outfit on, and go with the one that you feel looks the best.

    Good luck! Let us know how it goes.

  6. Dear Andrews & Pygott, (yes my parents were indeed an imaginative pair… but not nearly bold enough to put an ampersand in my name)

    Your guidance chimed with my own suspicions on the matter. But I am grateful to have these confirmed nonetheless by the author(s) of such a cracking site.

  7. John T

    I’ve been wondering: Is it still acceptable to wear a bow tie with a wing collar for morning dress? Or is that now only reserved for the ascot now?

  8. Dr Kilroy

    All kinds of neckwear are equally appropriate for both kinds of collars. It is often said that formal cravat is for wing collar and a long tie is for turndown collar, however, as it looks the best in majority’s opinion. Bow tie looks equally good with both collars, in my opinion, so you can wear it with a wing collar.

    Best regards, Dr

  9. John T

    Thank you very much.

  10. Fixed, I think…

    I could have sworn I’d done bow ties here. ~sigh~

  11. Farragut Jones

    Dear Andrews & Pygott,

    As an American who will be doing the very un-American thing of wearing morning dress at his wedding in a few months’ time, I’m curious about the tie pins I’ve seen in photos of some guests at a rather prominent British wedding held earlier this year. Where can I get one (they look nice, but surely aren’t just commonplace tie tacks) and . . . well, where can I get one?

  12. I do accept as true with all the ideas you’ve presented to your post. They are really convincing and will definitely work. Nonetheless, the posts are too short for newbies. May you please lengthen them a little from subsequent time? Thank you for the post.

  13. Kirk

    Dear Andrews & Pygott,

    I recently acquired a Brooks Bros. morning suit vintage 1939. Have you a suggestion for shirt collar & tie that would have been most appropriate for wear when the suit was new?

  14. Excuse me, but as far as I am concerned, ascot cravats may be used in formal frock coats, and they achieve, according to my humble opinion, standards of formality and elegance able to compete with those of a morning dress.

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