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Holiday Q&A, Volume 4: What happened to the Ascot?

Today's question comes to us from someone I will call, Dr. G:

Why isn't the Ascot more popular? Will it return?

-Dr. G

***

Excellent question. I could launch into a big, long history of the Ascot, etc. but you can find that information anywhere. I'd rather give you my personal take on the decline and near-disappearance of this once-widespread article of men's clothing.

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Jeremy Piven wearing an Ascot badly
The Ascot seems to have descended from the cravat, another item of menswear that is now almost completely gone from the closet of the typical Western Gentleman, the only exception being those of the upper classes in England who still wear "morning dress," and Jeremy Piven. Today, wearing an Ascot is considered an affectation. But why is that, and should it be so?

The cravat, the Ascot, and the modern-day necktie are all close cousins. The cravat and the Ascot enjoyed a long period of popularity among well-dressed gentlemen from about the 17th century up until the 1920s or so. From there on, it seems, the modern-day necktie took over and has not released its grip since. I'm guessing the necktie started to win-out because as the world got faster in the 20th century, the upper classes stopped setting trends and instead fashion shifted its attention toward what worked for the middle classes. The necktie is simpler, less fluttery, more durable, and frankly just easier to understand than the cravat or the Ascot, and I'm guessing that might have something to do with its increased proliferation among businessmen in the 1920s and 1930s. 

Let's face it, a lot of style conventions get pushed aside because they go out of style or no longer serve a purpose. That graveyard is littered with such things as: the cape, the cane, the monocle, hats in general, the smoking jacket, the dickie, etc. all of which I am sure were beloved by finely-dressed men for generations, but in today's world just don't have a place. Hey, horse and buggies were pretty cool too, but eventually you have to move on. Ain't nobody got time for that.

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Jean-Paul Belmondo: Badass
Why doesn't the Ascot come back? As anyone can see, the trend in everything sartorial these days is toward less formal, not more formal. The days when people dressed up just in order to leave the house is, for the most part, over. Perhaps never to return. There will always be high fashion and there will always be those who have to dress up, love to dress up, and aspire to dress better. That said, it's about who sets the trends. 

Nowadays, as I mentioned, trends are not set by the upper class but by the performing class, i.e. movie stars, rock stars, athletes, etc. and by fashion companies themselves. Since the Ascot is very closely tied to the English upper class, I am guessing any revival of the Ascot will be extremely limited to the fringes of fashion, and carried out by a select few -- such as Jeremy Piven -- who, for whatever reason, feel it necessary to wear one either to prove themselves different from the crowd or because maybe they just like the way it looks. 

Whatever the reason, I put very, very low odds on the revival of the Ascot. For better or for worse. But don't let that stop you from wearing one. By all means...give it a try.

(Feel free to laugh in my face next season, when everyone including myself is wearing an Ascot due to the fact that, over the Winter of 2017, it became the must-have item in Men's Fashion. Just because you have opinions does not mean you have good instincts, sadly...)

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