The MasterChef judge wants other men to stick their neck out for sartorial creativity, writes Louise Schwartzkoff.
Matt Preston is searching his MasterChef dressing room for Sonia. Not short, slutty Sonia. It is long, cream Sonia he wants.
The two Sonias, full-time members of the MasterChef wardrobe department, have never complained about their nicknames. They can't. Workplace harassment rules do not apply to cravats.
YOUR SAY: Would you give the cravat a go?
Preston, the most sartorially flamboyant of the show's judges, has not always named his cravats, it is a matter of necessity on set, where he has at least 90 of them hanging in a rainbow muddle.
"If I tell [MasterChef stylist] Clare Bridgeman I want to wear the red one, she'll say: 'Well, we have four burgundy ones and three reds.' But if I say let's wear long Michelle, she knows exactly what I mean."
Long Michelle is a red ascot and short Michelle is, well, short. Long, cream Sonia (named after Sonia Kruger) is a demure cream with a fringe, while short, slutty Sonia "likes to pop out of the collar and get a bit wayward".
Then there is Mia – after the Fairfax columnist Mia Freedman – which is "long, glossy silk with a stylish yellow and green paisley". Myf, for the television and radio presenter Myf Warhurst, is "short and slightly wide". Green Leona and Lilac Leona are gifts from his friend, fashion designer Leona Edmiston.
Preston's love affair with cravats began when he was a teenage op-shopper. He bought his first on a whim and decided it gave him a certain rakish appeal. "You always want to be a bit mysterious, don't you? That's what girls like, everyone knows that. See, you're giggling, it must be working."
There is a chapter about cravats in his new book, Cravat-A-Licious (which he has dedicated to his wife, Emma), a collection of mostly food-related columns and interviews. Historically, he writes, cravat wearers are not to be trusted. In knotting a coloured strip of silk about his neck, Preston joins a roll-call of famous cads, dandies and trouble makers: Louis XIV of France, Edward VIII, Lord Byron and most of Ned Kelly's gang.
He notes, with some ambivalence, that cravats seem to be making a comeback in celebrity circles. Ashton Kutcher, David Beckham and George Clooney have all sported them.
"It's like when you're the first one to discover a band and then everyone else starts listening to them," he says. "You don't really want to share."
He doubts the trend will catch on with Australian blokes but hopes his audacity will encourage others to dress more creatively.
"The message is that you wear what you want to wear," he says. "But we don't want everyone to be wearing cravats. Certainly not."