One physiological side-effect of being a) fairly hirsute and b) of Irish descent is that I very rarely feel the cold. Come mid-winter I’m still walking around in shorts and maybe a long sleeve shirt or, at worst, a jumper to give my Celtic pelt an extra boost.
But on days that are particularly brusque I’ve found that throwing on a scarf lends a little extra warmth without the frustrating overheating that can often come with winter coats, particularly when it comes to fickle Australian weather patterns (Melbourne, I’m looking at you).
For most men, scarfs have traditionally tended to come in two guises – as an acrylic and mostly-garish statement of support for a beloved sporting team, or the annual Christmas foisting of a scratchy cable-knit piece by your least favourite nanna.
Either way, these dodgy excuses for neckwear do much to discredit the humble scarf’s proper place in a man’s arsenal of winter style. It’s time they returned to their rightful place as a sophisticated gentleman’s accessory, rather than as a beer-and sauce-stained testament to club allegiance.
Aside from the obvious warmth factor, wearing a scarf can add a much-needed dash of colour to your winter wardrobe, breaking up the monochromatic monotony that often comes with winter outerwear. However, just as a novelty tie can ruin a perfectly smart suit, there are certain things to keep in mind in making a stylish yet sensible scarf selection.
Silk, cashmere, and wool in either alpaca or merino are your best friends. Natural fibres are great because they breathe and, while keeping you warm, won’t make you overheat. They’re also hypoallergenic so you won’t spend your day itching. For those with a soft spot for heritage brands, try British labels Gieves and Hawkes or John Smedley which offer a range of lightweight cashmere scarfs to keep your neck stylishly toasty.
Bigger Isn’t better
A scarf should be an accessory to your outfit, not the outfit itself. Your scarf’s length shouldn’t drop further than your waist, and even then that’s a tad long. A scarf should wrap comfortablly around your neck in one loop, so as to still sit nicely under your coat or over your jumper without making you look like the body double for The Curse of the Mummy’s Tomb. As a rule of thumb, a good width ranges from 15 to 35cm, and no longer than 230cm in length.
Keep it simple
Even though it’s the perfect opportunity to bust a ‘creative’ juxtaposition, it’s prudent to keep things simple when picking the colour and print of your scarf. Alexander McQueen’s iconic skull-print and Burberry’s check are great if you can pull them off, but solid colours such as camel, green and navy are far more versatile and can carry you from the office to the weekend with minimal fuss.
For those who have the cash, French label Hermès offers a range of simple, yet handsome options that are the perfect compliment to any outfit. Or, you could get something very similar in 100 per cent merino wool from Country Road for a tenth of the price but all the same warmth and style.
Lastly, to keep your scarf in good condition (i.e. not smelling like an old sock after wearing it for a prolonged amount of time), remember to give it an airing at the end of each day. When it comes to washing, a quick and simple handwash in a mild soap will suffice.
What do you think of the man-scarf? Essential winter accessory or pretentious affectation?