A Brief History
Despite being elevated to fashion status, scarves actually have a long, utilitarian history that spans nearly two millennia. Highly decorated generals, military strategists, archers, samurai, and aviators have all worn scarves, whether for tactical purposes or otherwise. Sure, there are scarves that feature delicate materials, or intricate patterns and colors, but as it has evolved through time, it has become as much of a style piece as it has an accessory for keeping warm. But, it can be both, ultimately it boils down to the attitude of the person wearing it.
Fabrics and Styles
The average scarf is about 10 inches wide and 60-or-so inches long. This leaves a lot of room to try out different styles and materials until you land on a combination that works for you. Typically, scarves are made from fabrics like wool, cashmere, and cotton; with some mixing in fabrics like silk and linen for extra softness. In the colder months, the type of weave is also important. Bulkier, thicker yarns require simpler knots and aren’t the most practical when moving about. Ultimately you want to find something that has light to midweight weave, depending on your level of winter severity. Also, like your sweater, the finer gauge knit, the more dressy the scarf will be; something to consider if you’re pairing your scarf with a suit or tux.
To Pattern or Not To Pattern
A choice that has plagued mankind for centuries. The short answer is: do you. That is, look at your general style goals and go from there. In relative terms, look at the scarf as your “winter necktie”, and use your general strategy there as a guideline. If you like to keep things simple, great. Stick with a simple color and go with a basic plaid or stripe. Looking for a step up? That’s dope too. Embrace the scarf as an opportunity to add a bright pop of color or pattern to an otherwise standard dressy or casual look.
Tying The Knot
From conservative to downright crazy, there are plenty of different ways to tie a scarf around your neck. Here are a few standards, and a modern twist, that you should should learn how to cinch the next time you head out the door:
Ok, fine, it’s not exactly a knot per se, but it is useful. A proper drape is achieved by placing the scarf over your neck and letting it drape across your chest, and under the outermost layer of your clothing. This means if you’re wearing a topcoat, it goes under that. A suit jacket? Drape it underneath. It’s a great way to add color and depth to a suit-and-tie ensemble without feeling too bundled up.
As simple as the Drape, but will a layer of utility added. Just drape the scarf over your shoulders, and then wrap one end loosely around your neck, letting both ends dangle in front of you. Depending on the length of the scarf, you can wrap around multiple times for more warmth.
The French Knot
Requiring a slightly longer scarf, the French knot has a slipknot look, making it easy to adjust for quick removal. For this knot, fold the scarf in half, with the ends touching, and hold the folded side in one hand. Then pass the loose end around the back of your neck, tucking it into the folded end. You can then adjust to the desired tightness.
The Ascot Knot
A simple overhand knot that lets you adjust the height of the knot in proximity to your neck. The ascot knot starts over the shoulder, then take the ends of the scarf and tie them over-under style, like you would your shoelaces. From there, you can adjust the tightness of the knot to your preference.
No matter how you plan to rock your scarf this season, just know that form should always follow function. Scarves were designed to to balance style while still preserving a strong sense of utility. Make sure you keep that squarely in mind before you wrap it up.