Swellboy on… cravats

Our man seeks to revive the warm-weather classic despite distinctly unseasonal temperatures

Image: Brijesh Patel

The rather characteristic UK summer weather is putting a bit of a brake on my campaign to reintroduce the cravat. I like cravats, I always have, but then I come from a generation for whom sportswear meant things like plimsolls and white flannel trousers rather than training shoes that required a small mortgage and tracksuit trousers purchased in the throbbing penumbral gloom of Abercrombie & Fitch. I still recall the shopping list of sportswear that my parents received when I was dispatched to school. Among the list of essentials was a blue silk square that I was supposed to fold and wear around my neck when sauntering out of the cricket pavilion to score a century before tea.

As I may have mentioned before, the only time I made it out to the cricket pavilion was on a Saturday night, when I went there with an old chrome cocktail shaker to get sloshed on gin fizz out of sight of masters who quite rightly took a dim view of such things. Even so, I still remember thinking that I had to be properly dressed to use a cocktail shaker and would change into a cravat. Had I smoked, I would probably have taken a cigarette holder too, and the only reason I left my 1930s gramophone in my study was because it might have looked a bit conspicuous lugging a combined record player and wireless set the size of a small wardrobe to a deserted cricket pitch after lights out.

In the way that the child has a habit of being father to the man, my love of cravats has stayed with me. They have an air of Terry-Thomas caddishness about them. Traditionally they work best with a double-breasted blazer, cavalry twills and a Panama hat, but I have not been able to secure planning permission for the sort of moustache that is the necessary accompaniment to this look. Besides, I think that ever since Basil Fawlty adopted them, something of his henpecked haplessness has rubbed off on to this versatile piece of neckwear.

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So I have been casting about for other cravat-wearing models to pursue. Of course, I could be so past it that for all I know the bearded young blades of Harlesden and the flâneurs of Hoxton Square have already begun to rehabilitate the concept of a scrap of silk wound around the neck and tucked inside the shirt collar. My old friend and fellow toiler in the salt mines of luxury Yann Debelle de Montby used to perfect a very regency look by wrapping several metres of dark silk round his throat, generally doing a good impression of a 21st-century Comte d’Orsay, and when it is chilly I swathe my neck in Hermès silk before boarding my bicycle. Indeed, the excuse to wear Hermès is one of the few good things about cycling en hiver.

But the cravat is au fond a summer thing, and given the tendency for the modern UK summer to look and feel much like autumn and early winter, I have been taking inspiration from the example of Terence Stamp. The septuagenarian heartthrob’s latest role is that of house model for Anda and Audie’s Anderson & Sheppard MkII, the shop of covetable cashmere and cravats. Stamp looks as sexy as ever in a shawl-collared cashmere pullover worn with a pin-dot cravat at the throat.

However, in the hope that I will find a little better weather in Europe, I am trying to model myself more on Edward Fox in The Day of the Jackal, which features some fine motoring and tailoring scenes. I can manage the cravat wearing – it is just that, as the rider of a bicycle who finds peripatetic employment in the business of stringing bits of the English language together (sometimes in the right order), I am having difficulty with the drawling, the sports-car driving, the lady killing, the carrying of collapsible sniper rifles and the assassination of Gallic heads of state… although I am sure there are one or two French taxpayers who might like me to brush up on the last skill.

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