Thursday, June 21, 2007

The almighty Ascot

From today's Wall Street Journal. A reader asks Teri Agins if he should keep his ascots in the event of a fashion renaissance. I had a boyfriend who wore them from time to time. But he was English...

Style: Ask Teri
By Teri Agins
21 June 2007
The Wall Street Journal

[Fashion reporter Teri Agins answers readers' questions]
Q: For a non-fashion-conscious retiree with an abundant supply of ascots, what do you forecast? A resurgence? A terminal demise? Or should I use them to polish my car?
-- T.B., San Mateo, Calif.
A: Dapper actors Cary Grant and Fred Astaire wore their ascots with panache. But often, an ascot will elicit snickers, as did Thurston Howell III, the pretentious tycoon stuck on "Gilligan's Island." In 19th-century England, the thick-knotted wide silk tie secured with a pin and worn as formal day wear got its name from the hat-and-glove set at the Royal Ascot horse races. In America, ascots became the badge of old Hollywood and the yacht-club crowd as folded neckerchiefs worn inside an open shirt collar, usually with a blazer. Ascots never went out of style, but they never really caught on either, because men derided them as foppish -- or feared they couldn't pull the look off.
Indeed, ascots, like berets, belong on confident men who dress with individual style, such as designer Tom Ford, who wears a sliver of untied polka-dotted silk inside a white shirt collar. The ascot looks dashing when it just peeks out, as in the 1955 classic, "To Catch a Thief," when Cary Grant flashes an inch of printed silk from his crew-neck sweater. Ascots work best when an occasion -- such as country-club cocktails -- calls for dressy sportswear.
Ascots still sell at specialty retailer Paul Stuart, which says that at least three men a week come to its Manhattan store in search of ascots (but far fewer in its Chicago branch). About a third of the shoppers are in their early 30s -- often first-time wearers who are eager to practice "the art of how to fold and to fluff an ascot," says A. Sandy Neiman, director of merchandising at Paul Stuart. The ascots come in silk, cotton or linen blends. Navy with cream polka dots is the top seller.
Today's casual times beg for original flourishes. To the reader who obviously cherishes his stash of ascots, I say: Why not tie one on again?
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