The late Derek Nimmo introduced me to cravats and I’ve been a fan ever since. We often had him on the old Richard & Judy sofa, up there in Liverpool, and we’d would always take him to lunch afterwards, where he proved himself to be one of the most interesting and intelligent men around.
An expert on fashions that have now fallen sadly out of style, Derek changed the way I thought about bow ties, gaiters, and the simple straw boater. Even now, I try my best to live up to Derek’s ideals and I often wear cravats when I’m out and about. Yet I never wear them on the show and the reasons for this are straightforward: Judy won’t let me and you have to have the right audience to carry off a cravat.
Cravats challenge people on an intellectual level. Neither a scarf nor a tie, a cravat sits in an ambiguous area of neckwear. Are they casual or formal? Do they suggest affability or haughtiness? Derek carried them off because people never had him figured out and I think Derek liked that that way. Cravats are like hats, which offer similar challenges to the wearer. Hats attract the wrong sort of attention. People think you’re arrogant, egoistic, or eccentric, which of course I am, but there’s something more than that. A hat denotes difference. By wearing a hat or a cravat, or the two together, a man snubs the prevalent belief that we shouldn’t stand out from the crowd. Cravats are about non-conformity and they're about as politically incorrect as you can get these day. For that reason, I’m proud to admit that I bought myself a new cravat today. And if I can persuade Judy to let me, I’ll be wearing it on tomorrow’s show.
In anticipation of that, I have three cravat facts for you. Did you know that the traditional cravat is tied with the knot that shepherds used to tie the umbilical cords on newborn sheep? Cravats are usually made from silk but the earliest examples are made from wool, were four feet long, and worn with a loop around testicles. The cravat is still popular in Poland where it forms part of the ceremonial dress worn by the police at state funerals. The most famous cravat wearer was, of course, Terry Thomas but he only wore them to hide a terrible scar he had on his throat where he was mauled by one of Will Hay’s greyhounds.