Proper scarf etiquette

Proper scarf etiquette

Q. I was thinking of giving a small neck scarf to my father-in-law for his birthday. In the past I remember seeing dapper-looking older men wearing silk or cotton scarves around their necks. Is this an outdated look? Where might I find such a scarf?

A. Many years ago men did wear small scarves tied around their necks. These were movie stars or wannabes and rather dapper men. The scarves were small squares tied in a simple square knot close to the neck.
I do not know where you might find such a scarf today, but I do not recommend even trying to hunt for one, because it is definitely an outdated look.

On the other hand, a long rectangular scarf is a handsome and useful accessory, one that a man would certainly welcome as a gift. It is worn for many reasons:

  • In wool or cashmere, a scarf can keep a man warm.
  • A distinctive style, often in wool or silk, makes a singular fashion statement.
  • A dressy reversible scarf (solid-color cashmere on one side and patterned silk on the other) offers versatility.
  • When colorful, it can supply an attractive spot of light or bright color to a man’s otherwise dark, or neutral, or too-drab color combination.
  • A long, loosely-draped white silk scarf adds elegance and distinction to black-tie attire (draped over the tuxedo itself or worn with a topcoat).
  • Likewise, any long scarf can be worn with a coat or merely stylishly draped over a suit or sport coat.

It is one of the few timeless accessories that a man can add to his wardrobe without fear of appearing foppish or overly concerned with his appearance. Just as with a necktie, a scarf can project a man’s individuality and personality. It can be as quietly conservative or as stylishly flamboyant as the wearer wishes. When making a choice, color, pattern, fabric, and price are among the primary options. Another is whether it has, or does not have, fringed ends. Because you don’t have to know a man’s correct size, a scarf is a great gift idea. And, though it is an element of clothing, it is not one that is considered “too personal”; so, in the most traditional etiquette sense, a woman need not be concerned as to whether it is appropriate for her to give to a man.

To make your selection process simple, here are a few elements to consider:

  • Width & Length – Width should be from 8 to 12 inches; length from 60 to 80 inches
  • Material – Men’s scarves are usually made from wool (the most versatile and affordable), cashmere (pricey, but warm and luxurious), silk (the most formal), or a combination
  • Weave is important because bulky scarves made from thick yarns are more difficult to knot.

In terms of how to wear them, if you check online, you will find an array of different ways to knot a scarf. My suggestion is that you ignore most of them and wear your scarf only one of three ways: loosely draped around the back of your neck and hanging down in front; tied simply with just one crossover loop; or in what is known as the loop knot or the Parisian knot (fold the scarf in half, drape it around your neck while holding the loop in one hand and the two ends in the other, push the two ends through the loop in front, pull the ends to tighten). In my opinion, these easy knots look handsome and masculine; other methods come across as contrived and too feminine looking.

Please send your men’s dress and grooming questions to MALE CALL:

Categories: Male Call