Staple #19: The Scarf

Although we’re on the tail end of winter, a scarf is a three-season article of clothing – fall, winter, and spring. In fact, dressing well in the spring is really determined by the ability to dress in layers. So a scarf can help keep you adequately warm when you’re outside in your blazer instead of a full winter coat.

Depending on how you wear it, a scarf can be ornamental, warm your chest, or warm your neck – and all three have equal merit. Scarves have been worn by men for thousands of years and have served functions in the upper echelons of society, the military, the poor man trying to feed his family, and everyone else in between.

The key to wearing a scarf in a masculine way is to do so with an appropriate fabric. For example, a silk scarf with your casual clothing is going to look extremely effeminate and foppish. However, that same scarf paired with a three-piece suit and a business-appropriate top coat is going to provide some great contrast between sheen and flatness helping you look wealthy and sophisticated.

Take that same outfit and add a heavier wool scarf and things will start to be a little bland. However, that same wool scarf thrown on with a pair of jeans, chukkas, and a bomber jacket will look like you’re ready to brave the elements as a one-man army.

While there are many different types of scarves out there, for our intents and purposes we’re going to keep it simple. Your scarves should be a rectangular piece of fabric anywhere from six to 14 inches wide and 50 to 90 inches long. Both the length and weave will determine which knots you can tie as longer scarves allow for more elaborate knots and those that of a heavier material and wider knit will require something more simple.

Depending on the need, there are myriad ways to tie a scarf. We’ll go over some of the basics so you have a full arsenal of options at your disposal.

The Drape

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This is as easy as it gets. You put the scarf around your neck and let both ends drape in front of you. You can choose to place the ends inside or out of your jacket or coat as you please. Obviously this “knot” is going to be more ornamental than functional.

Over the Shoulder

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This is the second of the more ornamental knots. Because you have one tail in front and another in the back it provides the most opportunity for others to see the scarf itself. This is a knot you’ll see a lot in magazines and photos as a result, but it’s actually kind of a pain to keep in place.

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You start with a Drape over the center of your neck with one tail longer then the other. From there, take the longer tail across your neck in the front, and throw it over the opposite shoulder. It’s simple to do and, because there’s no actual not, you need a long and heavy enough scarf to keep the back tail behind you.

Ascot

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Also one of the more classic and simple knot options – the ascot is made by tying your scarf around your neck just like you do when you start to tie your shoes. You have the freedom to choose how high or low you want the knot with a higher placement being more functional for warmth and also looking a bit more dressed up. A lower knot is more ornamental and casual.

European Knot

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This is my personal go-to. It does require a scarf that’s a bit longer as you’re effectively cutting the length in half with this particular fold. The benefit is that this is still a stylish option that shows off a lot of the body of the scarf, but the knot itself hugs closely around the neck keeping it nice and warm.

This is tied by folding the scarf in half and then laying it around your neck. This will leave the two tails on one shoulder and an open loop on the other.

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From there you simply place the two tails into the open loop in the center of your chest and pull them through. Like the Ascot, you can leave it as loose or tight as you want.

Once Around

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This knot provides the same amount of function as the European Knot but keeps everything up around your neck. It’s also possible with a shorter scarf than what the European knot needs.

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You start with a Drape but have one tail significantly longer than the other. Take the longer tail, cross it around the front of your neck like you’re making an Over-the-Shoulder knot. However, rather than letting the longer tail drape across your back, you continue bringing it around up and over the original shoulder.

Like other actual knots, this can be done as loosely or as tightly as you like.

Twice Around

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This requires a seriously long scarf. It gives a lot of extra bulk around the neck for some serious warmth. Depending on the scarf material you use, an in-your-face knot like this can appear either extremely casual or extremely luxurious.

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It is made by following the same steps as the Once Around. However, after completing the first full loop around your neck, you loop the long tail again, meaning you have a full two and a half loops of scarf around your neck.

Having a few different knot options up your sleeve gives you some visual variety for when you only have one or two scarves in your rotation.

When buying a scarf, it’s important to remember that the majority of these are made for women. You want to avoid any colors that are too glamorous or effeminate, excessive fringing, anything that requires a scarf pin, and prints that are too girly. You can still wear louder colors, but you’ll want to stick with patterns like university stripes and thicker materials to keep a masculine appearance.

Brooks Brothers

  • Samseau

    Extremely helpful and useful guide. Alternative title for this post:

    11 Ways For Men To Wear A Scarf