The ascot was a wide scarf-like necktie popular with well-dressed British gentlemen in the second half of the nineteenth century. It was originally named after a racetrack, Ascot Heath in England, where the style was popularized by fashionable spectators attending the Royal Ascot, an annual four-day horse race initiated by Queen Anne (1665–1714) in 1711. An ascot is sometimes called a cravat, though this word originated as a general term for any style of neckwear. In the United States the word ascot is synonymous with cravat.
Commonly worn for business in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the ascot was considered more formal than the "four-in-hand" knotted tie, which resembles the modern necktie and became popular among men in the late nineteenth century. The ascot was generally made of black satin and fastened in the center with a jeweled stickpin. It was usually self-tied and might be puffed out in the center front and called a puffed ascot. It was typically worn with a winged collar tuxedo shirt. The ascot was similar in style to two other cravats of the period: the cross-over neckcloth of the 1840s, which was a simple scarf loosely tied around the neck, and the octagon of the 1860s, which featured four tabs arranged above a pin positioned at the center front of the neck.
The ascot reached the height of popularity during the 1890s, when fashionable men began to adopt more colorful styles in neck-wear. It fell out of favor at the start of the 1900s when the bow tie came into fashion. In the twenty-first century the ascot is rarely worn except with very formal morning wear, to weddings, or at the Royal Ascot races. However, yachtsmen, jetsetters, or those trying to convey an aristocratic attitude continue to wear ascots for other occasions.
Byrde, Penelope. Nineteenth Century Fashion. London, England: B. T. Batsford, 1992.
Ulseth, Hazel, and Helen Shannon. Victorian Fashions. Cumberland, MD: Hobby House Press, 1989.