How to Wear a Scarf Like the Best Dressed Men
What do James Bond and U.S. air pilots have in common? They wear scarves. Although most people think of womenswear when it comes to scarves, scarves actually have a long history in menswear. As more and more men are embracing and experimenting with style, scarves are making a comeback.
When it comes to accessories, the scarf can be one of the most versatile pieces in a man’s wardrobe. Due to its various sizes, fabrics, patterns, and uses, the scarf is a complimentary item to any look, all year round (yes, even summer)! A scarf can be polished, cozy, professional, or casual, all depending on how one styles it.
So, how should a man wear a scarf? Read through this handy guide for some tips, tricks, and inspiration to incorporate men’s scarves into your daily look.
What is categorized as a scarf?
Source: Rampley And Co
First things first, it’s necessary to know what a scarf is. While made out of fabrics such as wool, linen, or cotton, a scarf isn’t just any kind of cloth wrapped around your neck or head. Usually of a predetermined length and width, a scarf is a type of neckwear or headwear that is traditionally worn for warmth or protection against weather conditions.
Men’s scarves are typically thinner than women’s scarves, with a width of about six inches, and usually, clock in on the shorter side of 55 inches to fall the same length of a blazer. Men’s scarves can be rectangular, triangular, or square in shape, which helps determine how to wrap or tie the scarf. Oh, and if you were wondering how to wear a pocket square, maybe your scarf can double as one!
Different Types of Scarves
Different uses of men’s scarves
Source: Manoli Fashion
While we think of men’s scarves as modern-day accessories, the truth is that men’s scarves have been around for centuries, with an ever-evolving history, just like men’s shoes. Since ancient times, men’s scarves have been worn as signifiers, whether religious or political, that indicated what group a man belonged to. In China, for example, during Emperor Cheng’s rule, the ranks of soldiers in the military were usually identified by the types of scarves they wore with their uniforms – officers wore white silk scarves, while ordinary soldiers wore cotton ones.
Men’s scarves were predominantly used to keep clean before becoming a fashion statement. Ancient Romans had scarves called a focale or sudarium tied around their neck or waist to wipe off the sweat. The flight scarf, most notably recognized on early aircraft pilots from World War I and World War II, was useful to help keep oily smoke from the exhaust away from the pilot’s mouth. Silk scarves were also favored because they prevented neck chafing as the pilot turned his head.
Then there’s cravats, the predecessor to the necktie. Also originally of military origins, the cravat became popular as an accessory for artist and architect types in the 17th and 18th centuries and is still a popular way to tie and wear scarves today in semi formal settings.
Picking Out a Men’s Scarf
Source: Debbie Millington Designs
The first thing to consider when choosing a scarf is the length, or size of the scarf, as this will determine how you can style it. As mentioned earlier, scarves are usually a combination of the following lengths and shapes:
While most men’s scarves are of a medium to a longer length, some scarves do run short. Shorter, more triangular scarves are not the type of scarves you can wrap around your neck a few times for warmth. Short scarves are more for fashion aesthetics and playing around with personal style. Scarves on the shorter end are usually tied around the neck. The ends are either tucked into the shirt like a cravat or left out, like an ascot. If a short scarf is fashioned in likeness to a bandana, it can be tied around the head like a headband for more protective purposes.
Larger scarves, like wide knitted scarves or blanket scarves (à la Lenny Kravitz), are usually reserved for winter outerwear and can be wrapped multiple times either over a jacket or under a jacket for maximum warmth.
Aside from the length of the scarf, the color, pattern, and fabric are factors to consider. Warmer fabrics like cashmere, wool, or blends tend to run on the thicker side and should be worn during the colder seasons. Linen, cotton, and other lighter fabrics blends should be worn during the spring and summer seasons, especially if you’re wearing a men’s scarf as a protectant from the sun or the elements – you wouldn’t want to get sweatier on a hot day. So, to break it down, some of the most popular fabrics are:
- Various blends
While most men’s scarves tend to come in dark, solid colors, don’t be afraid of patterns! The French designer Hermes is famous for its graphic silk scarves, which it launched in 1873, and Burberry’s plaid scarf patterned is well-known throughout the globe.
How to Wear a Scarf with a Suit
One way to instantly add polish to your business style is by adding a scarf to a suit. It doesn’t have to be too extravagant; even the simplest scarf can pack a sartorial punch. Do you want the scarf to accentuate the suit or the shirt or sweater that’s underneath?
For starters, think of the color of your suit. If wearing a black, navy, or grey suit, it’s considered a neutral and would pair well with many solid colored scarves in darker shades of green, red, purple, or orange. If your personal style is more conservative, merely draping a solid colored scarf over your suit jacket in a nice, complementary color is a good start. Additionally, picking out a patterned scarf that shares a similar color to your suit is also a great way to introduce patterns into your business outfits without being overwhelming. Burberry’s iconic plaid scarf, for example, is complementary to a tan suit jacket.
If you want to experiment with patterned scarves on a smaller scale, silk scarves are an excellent place to start. You don’t need to break the bank for a silk scarf either – a decent silk-blend or imitation type fabric would hold up just as well. As previously mentioned, the silk scarf can be tied similar to a cravat or ascot, and the ends tucked into the v-neck of a sweater or a button-down shirt for a really polished, professional look.
A patterned silk scarf is excellent for experimentation because it can introduce multiple colors into an outfit without being too distracting or loud. Visually, a silk scarf takes up such a small space that it won’t draw attention away from the whole outfit, but will center the complete look. If pairing a patterned or solid silk scarf with a suit or sweater, it is best to stick within a color family between your clothing items, which will produce a cohesive effect.
Outfit Coordination: What Socks to Wear with a Men’s Scarf
So, you want to try wearing a scarf with your everyday look. The general rule of thumb is to keep it simple at first: pairing a solid scarf with a solid top or jacket is a great start, or choosing a scarf with similar color tones in your sweater is also helpful. But like all accessories, knowing what style rules to break or bend can help inform personal style and taste.
If you have a penchant for silk scarves, incorporating solid silk or patterned silk scarves is a great way to add a touch of elegance to a business suit or semi formal look that leans towards a dandy-style aesthetic. But if you’re struggling to determine what colors or patterns look best together, one thing to consider is taking some cues from your socks.
Think of it like this: socks are one of the more understated, but still essential components of an outfit. They can be either vibrant or low-key and a great and simple way to express one’s personality. Matching your scarf to your socks, or vice versa is a great way to add a personal flair to an outfit. While extremely formal events like a funeral or a black-tie event call for darker socks, you can experiment with your socks and scarves at other functions, like business meetings, parties, and sporting events.
We’ve chosen some of our favorite dress socks from Soxy to illustrate our point:
- For the creative man
- For the businessman
- For the world traveler
For the creative man
Musicians and artists tend to have a lot of free-range when it comes to their personal style, as they’re not usually in a formal nine-to-five setting. Creative types have also been known to experiment with scarves in fashion and can mix and match like the best of them. These musician novelty socks are perfect for representing your career and have perfect muted colors so you can throw in a coordinating scarf.
For the businessman
When it comes to dressing for work, adding a pop of color to your business suit or business attire is always appreciated. Since office settings are meant to be more conservative, it’s a good idea to stick to tried and true color combinations, like red and navy, or forest green and brown. These red polka dot men's socks are perfect to pair up with a deeper red scarf against a navy suit for some excellent color coordination.
For the world traveler
Love to travel? As someone who’s gone out of state or out of the country, whether for work or to just do some exploring, you know that traveling with a scarf comes in handy, especially when unexpected weather changes pop up. Investing in a medium weight, a multi-colored scarf is your best bet for all circumstances, and these fun socks depicting your favorite city or country will accentuate this globetrotting hobby of yours.
Now that you’ve got some of the basics down check out the chart below for suggestions on what to wear.
Cream/oatmeal v-neck sweater
Maroon, forest green
Red polka dot socks
Pastel button-up shirt
Light grey suit
Dark grey scarf
Purple zig-zag striped socks
A linen top
Beige or light linen pants
A light blue or pink scarf
How to Knot a Men’s Scarf
Source: Cornell University AEP
There are about six or so different ways to tie a men’s scarf, although sometimes they may look similar. It’s important to note that each knot may only work with a particular fabric thickness, meaning bulky scarves might be too thick or silk scarves might be too thin to achieve the desired look. Men’s scarf knots are as follows:
- The drape
- The overhand knot
- The once around
- The twice around
- The fake knot
- The European knot
This is the simplest way to wear a scarf, as you just place it on your shoulders or neck and let the ends hang loose. The drape works best for medium weight scarves so as not to slip off your neck.
Similar to the ascot, an overhand knot is like tying a knot in your shoelaces, just on your scarf. Taking one end of the scarf, bring it over and then under the other side, and pull it through the loop. Then you flatten and adjust the knot as needed.
The Once Around
This is pretty self-explanatory and is the most common way men wear scarves. Simply wrap the scarf around your neck once, and let both ends hang in front.
The Twice Around
The next step up from the once-around knot, this is one more level of warmth as you’re wrapping your scarf around your neck twice. This knotting method works best with longer scarves
The Fake Knot
This knot is one of the more complicated ones on the list, but it’s easy to pull-off with practice. With both ends of the scarf draped over your body, tie a loose knot on one side of the scarf. Then you slip the other end through the knot and tighten and adjust as needed. A patterned scarf is recommended to achieve the desired look.
The European Knot
The European knot is another common way that men wear scarves, as it creates a knot right in the center for warmth, and it stays in place pretty well. First, you fold the ends of the scarf in half to create a loop and then pull those ends through the loop to create the knot at your neck. This knot works best with medium-weight scarves.
This list pertains to straight, rectangular scarves, and does not include men’s headscarves, which have their own ways of securing the scarves, or infinity scarves, which need no knots.
Lastly, Sport Scarves
For soccer, rugby, and football fans, scarves are a vital part of showing off team pride and are perfect for sports seasons that run through fall and winter. Usually knitted or printed, these wide rectangular scarves tend to feature the colors, logos, or even messages of a favorite sports team. Aside from being an accessory, the scarves tend to be used as banners to show off team pride during a game, and fans can be found holding them up during games while wearing a second, similar scarf.
Sport scarves are great to wear to a game, to a bar showing a game, or any typical sports-related events. However, it would be frowned upon to wear a sports scarf to a formal event, unless there was team camaraderie at a wedding, or with express permission from a host.
Sport scarves are also a great inspiration when it comes to color combinations and can help dress down a suit if catching a game after work.
How to wear a scarf with other accessories
Aside from a scarf, men have a handful of other accessories they can wear when putting together an outfit. This includes, but is not limited to:
Wearing multiple accessories at a time might be a little bit of an overload for fashion beginners, so your best bet is to stick to three or four max. If choosing a hat and scarf combination, the possibilities are endless but should be seasonally appropriate. For example, a straw-like hat and linen scarf would not hold up in colder weather, while a beanie and wool scarf would be extra hot during summer, although it’s a fashionable look in spring and fall. Think about the fabric and colors of the hat so that the two accessories suit the outfit. A patterned fedora, for example, would not look so good with a patterned scarf; it would be better to stick to solid colors and neutrals for headgear.
Glasses or sunglasses are harder to pick out because they usually need to fit your face shape. But the standard aviator shape looks great on everyone’s face, regardless of bone structure. Paired with a scarf, this scarf and glasses combination is timeless and classic and exudes cool.
How to wear a scarf: inspiration
If you still need some ideas on how to style a scarf with the rest of your wardrobe, check out the below Instagram accounts! Each one is full of various images that will get the inspiration flowing:
- Rampley and Co
- Monsieur Charli
- JW Barger
- Bobby Raffin
Rampley and Co
This accessories brand focuses on pocket squares, ties, and scarves and focuses on high-quality, beautiful products. Their pocket squares are beautifully printed replicas of famous artworks that they pair with suits in understated ways. Their scarves run on the muted side when it comes to colors, but the patterns are classic, and the styling shows how effortlessly a scarf can be part of an ensemble.
If you’re looking for some European or French styling, look no further than Monsieur Charli. Layering a scarf seems pretty easy after browsing through their feed. Many of the scarves are patterned, but tied into each outfit through a shared or complementary color. Monsieur Charli’s series of photos shows that men shouldn’t be afraid to experiment with color or patterns and that they can still pull off a sophisticated look by deviating towards brighter or more creative look.
A men’s fashion blogger account, JW Barger loves prints. The louder and brighter, the better, but they never look garish or gaudy. This love of prints carries over to the scarves he wears too – the latest being big, comfy, oversized designs. Barger’s account, in general, is an excellent source of inspiration if looking to incorporate more color or design into your everyday look, from casualwear to something more formal.
Source: Bobby Raffin/Instagram
The photographer’s style definitely leans more towards the editorial and avant-garde side, and he switches up his look every so often. But his styling is something to be envied, as it’s still wearable in public. When it comes to winter wear, his looks are more understated, and we can appreciate how he adds scarves into the ensemble to give a classic, cozy feel to his outfits.