A Regency Primer on 3 Ways to Tie a Cravat

The last entry in the Regency Primer Series wrapped up our look at Twelfth Night and Wassailing which signaled the end of Christmastide during the Regency Era. This week, we’re going to take a closer look at some ways to tie a cravat. Three knots in which a gentlemen (or his gentleman’s gentleman or valet) could tie his cravat were The Mail Coach, The Napoleon, and The Barrel Knot.

The art of tying a cravat is certainly a lost one. Just look at how many men need help tying a regular necktie in a half-Windsor knot, which is the modern, simplified version of the fancy cravat worn by the dandies as they sought to out peacock each other in all matters sartorial. I must say, in looking for images to use with this post, guys, you can’t go wrong with a cravat if you want to look dashing and elegant while sweeping a girl off her feet. Don’t scoff when you’re forced to wear one for a wedding. Learn to tie a cravat, then wear it with style and panache! But be advised, you may end up in the parson’s mousetrap next!

Ways to Tie a Cravat: A very nice example of a Mail Coach Knot in a Regency Cravat.

A very nice example of a Mail Coach Knot.

How to Tie A Cravat with the Mail Coach Knot

Named for the mail coach drivers who wore them as part of their uniform, this knot is simple enough to require no assistance in type, yet quite distinguished looking. No one would want to hold up the dashing fellow sporting one of these!

1. Hold one end of the cloth in your right hand and the other in your left so the cloth is stretched out.

2. Find the midpoint of the cloth. Place the midpoint of the cloth at the front of your neck. Wrap the right side of the cloth behind your neck so the right end of the cloth comes out on the left side of your neck, draping over your collarbone.

3. Wrap the left side of the cloth around the back side of your neck so that the end comes out on the front right side. Continue crisscrossing your cloth, layering the cravat so that it covers your entire neck. Leave at least a foot of slack on the ends of the cloth for tying.

4. Bring the ends of the cloth to the front. Place the left piece of cloth over the right piece of cloth to create an “X”. Pull the end of the top layer of cloth through the hole made at the top of the “X”.

5. Tighten the knot at the top of your neck. Arrange the top layer of cloth so that it covers the bottom layer and hides the knot. Spread the top layer of cloth so that it lies flat against your chest.

How to Tie A Cravat with the Napoleon “Knot”

This knot is not well documented except in Neckclothitania, published in 1818. It is very casual in demeanor, as it is little more than a simple crossing of the ends of the cravat. A cavalier hero would certainly be able to pull this one off. His heroine would require little assistance in pulling it off as well.

1. Stretch your cloth in front of you with one end in each hand to find the midpoint.

2. Put the midpoint of the cloth on the back of your neck. Bring the ends of the cloth to the front.

3. Cross the ends of the cloth around your neck so that they drape over your shoulder or chest in an “X”.

4. Add a safety pin or brooch to the top of the ends to keep them in place or drape the top layer of cloth over the opposite shoulder.

Ways to Tie a Cravat: A Regency Cravat tied with a Barrel Knot.

The Barrel Knot.

How to Tie A Cravat with a Barrel Knot

One of the more “old fashioned” styles you see cravats worn in at weddings. Neat and tidy, yet not overblown or ostentatious.

1. Place the length of cravat cloth around your collar so the right side is a bit longer than the left.

2. Create a loose loop with the cloth, right side over the left, and pinch the ends of the loop together in an “X” , leaving two loose ends free.

3. Wrap the right side over once more, creating a loop around the “X”.

4. Pull the loose left side end through the loop you have just made and pull as tightly as desired.

5. Use your fingers to straighten the knot and cravat and position it against your shirt.


You can find more information on the Necklothitania with descriptions of how to tie these styles at this site and links to more information about Regency fashion and life on my Regency Resources page. If you’d like more information on a specific place or topic, please let me know in the comments section below.

7 responses to “A Regency Primer on 3 Ways to Tie a Cravat

  1. Oh, you included one of my favorite images. He’s lovely in a Belcher or nothing at all. Thanks for the informative post!

  2. Thanks! I’ve got a biography of Brummell with illustraions of various cravat styles at the end of each chapter, and to be honest they all look the same to me!

  3. You know I’m going to be trying these in my mirror tonight! This was such a great thing to post.

  4. Would it be possible for me to reprint your post above in my sites newsletter? I am the site director of a 1820 house museum (www.stephensonhouse.org) and our interpreters would find this information useful. The gents need a visual on how to tie their neckcloths. I’d credit you and your site. Great post, btw!

    • Thanks, RoxAnn! Glad you found the post useful. You might want to check out “The Art of the Cravat” which talks about the pamphlet, Neckclothitania for some other styles as well. I’ve sent you an email as well, but The Stephenson House looks like an awesome place to visit and I’d be tickled to be included in your newsletter!

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