In the summer of 2019, I found an ascot at a Goodwill for $2.99. An ascot at a Goodwill sounds like a ludicrous idea, and, in a a way, we must be honest, it really is. Who was the man who dropped off this ascot at Goodwill? What was he thinking exactly? Did he think many of the Goodwill shoppers would even know what it was? I am certainly not complaining, I am thankful he did drop it off, I bought it, after-all. There is also, of course, something funny about myself buying it at Goodwill. There is a good dose of humor in all of it. The dropping off, the finding, the knowing what it is, and the buying of an ascot at Goodwill. It's a funny scenario, I think. It is certainly a nice ascot. The pattern is classic, the material is nice, and it's color goes well with a fair amount of different shirt & coat combinations. It may be one of my favorite Goodwill finds.
In 2020, the ascot is a preposterous accessory. I find no joy in saying it, but it is the hard truth. I think the ascot is fantastic. I am stridently pro-ascot. In a certain way, it's reputation of being preposterous or snobby, doesn't even make sense. The ascot is less formal than any necktie. You wear your shirt open with an ascot. It is actually a casual accessory, and generally, the more casual something is, the more accessible it feels to most people. Yet, with the ascot it is the opposite. To most people, when they see an ascot, what comes to mind is some bizarre Frankenstein-ian combination of a prince / king / heir to a fortune sitting a yacht or private island while using servants as their furniture. I don't think any of that is fair, or even makes sense, but I think that's the image reputation of the ascot. As mentioned above, it is actually much more casual than a necktie. If we could bring the ascot back into common usage in our society, I think it would be fantastic. I would love it. Yet, nevertheless, this strange reputation is hard to break.
Before I bought this ascot, I had obviously wanted one for years, but, I hadn't bought one for a few reasons:
1) Despite being a basic item, they are not so cheap.
2) I wondered; When will it actually feel appropriate to wear this?
3) I thought; How often will I actually wear this?
4) Due to the ascot being less popular than neckties, there is not a great selection, today.
5) Again, thinking often; When am I actually going to wear this and not feel absolutely preposterous?
Due to all of these reasons, I never bought an ascot over all those years. I would see it in movies, and think about how fantastic it is for casual summer neckwear, but the reasons above always stopped me in my tracks. So, when I found this ascot at Goodwill, it was absolutely a no-brainer. Not only was it $2.99, but also a great ascot. I didn't feel like I was wasting money on something I would never wear, and I actually got something that was high quality with a great understated pattern which matches well with lots of possibilities in the event that the occasion arose in which I could wear the ascot without feeling ludicrous.
Now that we have accepted the reality that the ascot has an unfortunate, difficult to change, reputation, I will present my case for the return of the ascot. My case for the return of the ascot is simple:
It is casual, nonchalant neckwear for the summer that fills a role nothing else fills, and occupies a space nothing else occupies.
Wearing a necktie or a bowtie on a hot summer day can feel strangling. Sometimes, we wear breezy linen, seersucker, madras neckties or bowties in the summer as a nod to the seasonal fabrics and temperature. Yrt the fabrics of our neckties and bowties don't actually make us more comfortable, it is merely an aesthetic nod/ acknowledgement. The ascot is different in that it actually fulfills a purpose regarding our comfort, like the seersucker or madras shirt fulfills a purpose regarding our comfort in the summer. Wearing the ascot allows you to unbutton your shirt in the hot summer, allowing more airflow to your chest while also keeping a sense of dressed decorum. An unbuttoned shirt is decidedly casual. An unbuttoned shirt with an ascot occupies a space which no other combination inhabits. It is somewhere between dress and casual, possessing a sense of elegance and dignity while dressing appropriately for summer. The space that the ascot inhabits is one which doesn't exist without the ascot's existence. As the ascot disappeared, so did this aesthetic space.
Our whole lives are filled with different occasions and spaces which are suited most appropriately by different clothes. There are different colors, fabrics, shoes and coats all for different seasons. You would never wear a flannel shirt in July, just as you would never wear a seersucker shirt in January. There is a time for everything. [Loose reference to Kohelet / Ecclesiastes] Sadly, the time for the ascot disappeared. If only we could find a way to bring the time back into being.
Sadly, for right now, I think the association of the ascot with pomposity and snobbery is almost impossible to overcome on an individual level. Of course, some people think a necktie is a sign of a snob. Some think a blazer is. Some, in the year 2020, probably think ironing your pants with a crease is uptight, conceited, or something like this. All sorts of people think many elements of Trad/Ivy/Prep are snobbish or elitist, or something like this, and obviously I don't really care what someone like that has to say about these clothes. Dressing with dignity and intentionality has a deep purpose, and of course, those who are opposed to the purpose, or are unaware of it, will mock it, or feel threatened by it. I certainly do not advocate lowering ourselves to the lowest common denominator, so that we are no different than beasts. I refuse to do that. We are man, created in God's image. That being said, the reputation associated with the ascot is unfortunately so strong, that the attempt to wear it naturally, almost is, sadly a bridge too far. It is almost like wearing a top hat to the grocery store. It almost drifts into the strange territory of dressing up like a mannequin in a museum, and while that may be of interest to some, it isn't what I am interested in, it isn't what I think the point is.
I have worn this ascot once. It was at an appropriate occasion in an appropriate place. That I have only worn it once says something about how rare the appropriate occasion is today, in 2020. I will wear the ascot again, when the appropriate space arrives again. Hopefully, the future will be filled with a greater frequency of the times in which the ascot is appropriate. I don't think it is possible to force the time by wearing the ascot at inappropriate times, but it may be possible to help usher it in, and nudge it along, by wearing the ascot at the appropriate, if rare, time.
May we one day see the return of the ascot!