How many scarves does a man need? I have bought scarf upon scarf, never counting the total, never even caring how much I frittered away. Digging through piles of forgotten cotton in my many draws, I have discovered old reserves of scarves, and of varying shapes and sizes. Variety, I have often been taught, is the spice of life, and I have always believed style can take any number of forms. The bonding aspect of all the scarves in my collection has been their incalculable efficacy in keeping my neck warm. And yet that, for many of my scarves, is where the familiarity ends.
I think a gentleman needs to consider what he needs the scarf for, why he is purchasing it and what effect he would like the scarf to have. Though the initial point seems as plain as a pikestaff, there is more to consider in the purpose of a scarf than as an accessory to maintain bodily warmth. When will he wear it? With what will he wear it? At what time of day will he wear it? Only the individual gentleman concerned can answer these questions. However, we can certainly speculate on what the hypothetical gentleman would consider desirable.
The classic cashmere
The cashmere scarf has become a commonplace and everyday item in the gentleman’s winter wardrobe. The age of ‘exclusive’ cashmere is over; affordable luxury is here, and cashmere of fantastic quality is available to all. For a classic cashmere scarf, a gentleman should be looking for a subtle and sober colour that will complement his winter wardrobe. Unlike ‘fashion’ scarves the gentleman may purchase, the classic cashmere should have traditional proportions. Pictured above is a conventional example. The braided fringe is essential for the traditional scarf. ‘Chopped’ scarves, even in fine materials (unless they are striped college scarves) look unfinished.
The college professor
The quintessential college professor has no use for the dainty consumerist luxury of cashmere. A more practical equation, in his mind, is to maximise material length, thus increasing the possibility of insulation from the wretched elements. Though ‘college professor’ is rather a stereotypical name for the garment, the long scarf has unerring connections with academia. I remember my days at university, surrounded by naïve Marxist venerators, their necks encircled with constrictor-like woollen conceptions, carrying off a revolutionary look with astounding self-possession.
Ideally worn with more casual clothing; long coats, cardigans, loose jumpers and substantial or practical footwear, the college professor scarf should be knitted and the braided fringe should be messy and uncommitted.
The flying ace
Silk is a material not often favoured by modern gentlemen; it is effeminate and lacks the rough-hewn appeal of fishermen’s wool. However, brave pilots of the air, in the early days of aviation, often wore silk scarves to keep the oily smoke out of their mouths whilst flying. The versatility of the fabric, means it can be used practically or merely for decorative panache. I use the many silk scarves I own practically in the winter months, tying them securely around my neck for warmth; they are an extremely pleasant alternative, in terms of the sensation on the skin, to almost any material. And they are also very warm.
The desert scarf
The man’s pashmina, the classic desert scarf has become an urban classic. Worn around the neck in a disorderly fashion, it is worthy of mention because of its contemporary style appeal. It’s rather Lawrence of Arabia; explorer and dandy rolled into one, and it will undoubtedly last. It’s best to wear this with more casual, weekend outfits.