There are certain men’s garments and accessories that walk a very fine, very narrow line between sophisticated and contrived. Braces spring to mind, as do bow ties, and that most Marmite of hats: the fedora. But perhaps the most dangerous is the silk scarf. As slippery to get right as its name suggests, the classic silk dress scarf has a natural home with formalwear, adding an extra element of interest to white tie or cocktail dress.
But let it snake its way into everyday dress and it’s another matter. Wrap a silk scarf into your work wardrobe, or go-to smart casual look, and you risk making it look like an affectation, a try-hard grab for attention. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Follow these three simple rules and you can be sure that your scarfing always looks raffish – rather than rubbish.
Don’t tie too tightly
The cardinal sin with silk scarves is tying them too tightly. Tempting it may be, to mimic how you wear a woollen scarf, but these silken cousins are a different beast entirely. Rather than wrapping it around your neck several times over, and engaging in convoluted – if warm – knots, with a silk scarf you should always drape.
This, of course, threatens to look like affectation – as if you’re not wearing it for function, then why are you wearing it at all? But, by displaying your drape for all to see, owning the accessory unapologetically and letting it flow rakishly as you walk along, you’ll show that this is a new type of scarf – and one you’ve mastered with ease.
Go for colour and patterns
Again, forget the dark winter colours of your chunky knitted scarves. The lighter silk scarf can be worn year-round, so it deserves a little more pomp and pizzazz. Go for brighter colours, bolder patterns and bigger prints. Why? If you look uncertain about your new accessory, and try to camouflage it against your blazer or coat, you’ll seem non-committal, and it’ll soon lose its cool appeal.
We won’t preach what patterns you should be going for – that’s mostly down to personal taste. If you’re a stripe man, go stripy. If you harbour an until-now buried passion for purple, then unleash that with your scarf choice. But, if you’ve not been hiding any particularly patterned desires, then defer to one of the masters. We especially like this Paul Smith offering: a simple sunburst pattern guaranteed to light up any outfit.
Never mistake it for a necktie
Oh, the number of times we’ve seen this. Men who loosen their ties when summer rolls around, and try to replace the humble necktie with a florid silk scarf. No more. The silk scarf is an additional accessory, never intended to upstage or replace your existing tie. So, rather than choosing one or the other, try out both.
The key to this succeeding is to not go too bold with either. Opt for a block colour, inoffensive tie, and then let your personality shine through your scarf – whilst still keeping it duotone at most. The scarf and tie were made to compliment each other, in styles from casual European-influenced daywear to stiff upper-lipped white tie. Work them harmoniously, and your outfit will sing with style.
Looking to pitch another much-maligned garment correctly? Then we need to talk about cardigans…