Scarves: twist them, tie them, knot them, do what you like with them; they serve one essential function, and that is to keep your neck warm. But alas, in the aesthetic world of fashion, style always comes before function, and I’m sure several of you will be donning a scarf this winter just to look good, despite the beads of sweat dripping down your neck pleading for you to take it off. Yes, for many in the fashion world appearance often comes before comfort, and the scarf has become one of aesthetics rather than function. But with all the different types of scarves available, and all the different ways to wear them, how do we know which style suits us best? Well this 5-part series aims to take a look at the main styles of scarf available to the modern man and solve this furry little dilemma!
Firstly, I would just like to make it clear that the tips I give in these articles merely act as a base structure for you to build upon and use to work with your own individual style. Although I will try and give as many tips as possible based on my tastes and what I think looks good, only you can know what truly looks good on yourself, so it is all about experimenting! Don’t be afraid to delve into your wardrobe and pluck out those old scarves, or go into the shop dressing room and try on the whole store’s scarf collection; it is just important that you try out anything and everything, keeping my tips in mind, and work out what works best for you! But with that out of the way, and with me trying to keep my usual cheesy puns to a minimum (I think it is best for both of us that I pretend I didn’t just type ‘scarf puns’ into google), I believe it is time to move on to the first part of this series of posts: The Skinny Scarf!
Top Tip #1: When choosing the colour of your scarf you can go one of two ways: either wear monochrome and neutral colours to subtly tie your outfit together and concentrate on the texture of the scarf, or don a bold, bright and colourful scarf to act as the focal point of your ensemble. Just remember to keep the rest of the outfit relatively monochrome – you don’t want to overdo it! You can see more about integrating colour into your wardrobe and wearing the right colours for your skin tone here and here!
Tall and structured body types (not lanky)
Muscular body types
The skinny scarf has only recently entered the mainstream men’s fashion world in the past couple of years. Wear it right and you can pull off a sophisticated, opulent look that will work well with your body type. Wear it wrong, and it can easily become too effeminate, whilst additionally working against your natural structure. However, next to the traditional scarf, it’s younger, skinnier brother is probably one of the most popular choices on the high-street, and can work really well providing you pair it with the right items. The skinny scarf provides little warmth but allows for an indoor piece that many other styles do not. This explicit lack of functional warmth makes the item purely aesthetic, and it makes those around you aware of the fact that you have the intention to look good – which makes it even more important to pull it off right (there is nothing worse than a guy trying to look good and failing). However, the aesthetics of this scarf also brings with it some positives; you can use the fine, silk-like material of the scarf to integrate different patterns and colours into your outfit, without it being too in-your-face or out there.
I think the main thing to bare in mind with this type of scarf is that it should sit nicely on your collarbone and chest, rather than hanging loosely from your neck and flapping about as you walk like an excited puppy’s tail. This said, there is one type of guy that I see all too often trying to pull the skinny scarf off, and in my opinion…. no. Just, no. This is the muscular body type and the dreaded look I like to call ‘my girlfriend clearly picked out this outfit for me’. The look consists of a buttoned up cardigan or a plain long sleeved top that perhaps boasts a flashy label on one of the nipples, with the skinny scarf sat gingerly between the two intimidating man-pecs either side of it. Although the guys donning this type of attire might claim to the ladies that it is them “getting in touch with their feminine side”, or suggest to their male friends that “it is the latest fashion”, I beg of you to avoid this look!
There is one more body type that I think should avoid this style scarf, and that is my own – which, to those who don’t know me is the tall and lanky body structure, also known as flailing arms and legs syndrome. The extreme sufferers of “the flail” often have slightly arched backs, which means that the scarf will hang from the neck rather than sit nicely on the chest as discussed before. And, as if this wasn’t enough, the skinniness of the scarf will just emphasise your spaghetti arms even more, so if you are a lanky (or even feminine) male, I would advise against this look!
However, despite my blatant muscle jealousy and spaghetti-arm bitterness, there are certain body types that can pull off this look really well. This style of scarf can go in two directions, depending on the type you buy and what you pair it with: either mature and sophisticated, or young, colourful and fresh. Firstly, for the slightly maturer gent, a skinny scarf can look great wrapped loosely around the neck and paired with a pea coat – great for adding a bit of a casual feel to the suit underneath. For this purpose, both your scarf and coat should be kept neutral or monochrome, opting mainly for blacks and greys. If you are the daring office male don’t be afraid to add a bit of colour or pattern to the scarf, but don’t overdo it! This looks great on taller, structured males with a sturdy frame, and should be paired with structured items such as the sharp collar of the previously mentioned pea coat.
The other main body type that this scarf suits is on a larger guy. By keeping your scarf thin, you are adding an extra element to your outfit without adding extra bulk or swallowing up your head and neck with material in the process. Don’t be afraid to go bold with colours and patterns – the crinkled, silk skinny scarf is perfect for this. Pair with a low cut top to bring focus to the scarf and perhaps a blazer to bring a structural element into the outfit (they also look great on larger guys). The knot used in fig.1 below is perfect for this style – by creating the knot lower down than usual you are creating an extra space between the neck and the knot, and are therefore elongating your neck area, rather than smothering it. A v-neck top will help to accentuate this even further, and the same techniques of elongating the neck apply to the shorter male who wants to extend his body vertically.
This long, thin, structural shape is much preferred for these body types, opposed to the curves in fig.2 that aim to draw out the shoulders of the structured male. The sharp, structural elements such as the blazer or the coat that I have suggested for both of these looks aim to tie in both smart and relaxed aspects – avoid wearing with just a cardigan for example, as this may seem too casual and less interesting.
Of course the two illustrations above (excuse my rather scruffy sketches) are not the only ways to wear this type of scarf, but are just what I believe to be the most popular two. The great thing about the skinny scarf is that it probably has the most options with how to wear it, opposed to chunkier scarves that can be hard to tie. There are plenty examples of different scarf tying techniques across the web, but I recommend experimenting yourself to see what you can come up with! For the slightly lankier gent who perhaps may not suit the skinny scarf but would still like a lighter alternative to its traditional brother, perhaps the brave amongst you could try donning a neck tie. Neck tie’s are great for taller guys to break up the linear structure of their bodies, but will certainly grab the attention of those around you, so make sure you have the confidence to pull it off before donning one of these bad boys!
One thing to note with the LookBook guys is that a lot of them play against their natural body types and structures to make their look stand out even further. What may look good for their individual, in-your-face style, may not suit your own style. This is why it is so important to experiment – what may look good on others that look similar to you may not necessarily look good on you or fit in with your wardrobe!
Top Tip #2: Mix with a pair of smart, leather gloves to complete the smart/casual effect. Avoid chunky knitted gloves and keep the look consistent with sleek, thin detailing.
Russell Brand is a big fan of the skinny scarf, using it often as his weapon of choice. Not only this, but he is a great example of how it fits nicely into the indie/rock trend, tying the outfit together and adding an extra dimension to the loose, ‘I don’t care’ fabrics.
As you can see, the skinny scarf comes in many different styles and fabrics. The silk-like materials and cravat-styled skinny scarf is perfect for the larger male when mixed with sharp tailoring as mentioned earlier; these often come in some really interesting colours and patterns that can really act as the focal point of your outfit and bring it alive. The more relaxed, cotton-style skinny scarf can be used to add a casual element to a sophisticated look, or can be used in the indie/rock trend to tie the outfit together. Of course these aren’t the only ways to make the skinny scarf work, experiment with your own style and see what you can come up with!
What are your thoughts?
Look out for the next part of this series where I will be taking a look at the chunky knit scarf and how to make it work with your body type!
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