It seems as though there is a lot of focus on detailing within menswear at the moment. All the prevalent trends of autumn/winter 2011 include a wide variety of textures and materials, which is encouraging us to take a more three dimensional approach to dressing, in order to give our outfits depth and individuality.
The primary focus has shifted slightly; we now don’t just consider the dominant pieces that form the basis of our outfits, but instead look to the intricate details of how it is constructed as well. Of course, this should have always been the case; being classed as a well dressed male means you need to be able to pull together looks that have your own stamp on them – whether this be through choice of colours, materials or accessories.
I have been doing a lot of research recently into ways we can take our outfits to the next level. It always comes back to the small detailing touches and flair pieces that the rest of the male population would probably never consider. I already showcased the shawl neck collar last week, and even though some of you may not like them, it was there to get you thinking about a new cuts, styles and pieces that you may have never considered before. In this case it was a subtle and graceful change to your current tailoring and knitwear – but a difference all the same.
However, today we will be focussing on a particular accessory. In fact, it happens to one of my all time favourites. It is of course, the lightweight scarf.
The lightweight scarf is definitely what you would call a true ‘fashion accessory’ – unlike its brother the knitted or wool scarf, this is not a piece that will keep you warm. Scarves are traditionally designed as practical items that protect your neck from the elements, but lightweight versions are usually made from thin cotton or silk – neither of which are going to keep the chill away. The only real reason to opt for one of these would be to make a statement or add something extra to your look.
Of course, this is what a lot of males would shy away from. If you purchase and then utilise a scarf like this in your outfit, then everyone knows it is purely for fashion purposes and to ‘look good’. If you are not confident in wearing one and dealing with the usual negativity that comes along with being an individual, then these will never suit you. You will probably get some stick from your mates, and you may even get snide remarks from people you don’t know – but this is the case with any item that is not considered the ‘norm’.
You could wear a thick scarf or even a snood these days without anyone batting an eyelid, but the lightweight scarf is one of those items that can set you apart – so let’s utilise it to our advantage because when you pull it off, it looks superb.
NOTE: For today we will be focussing mainly on the high quality silk or cashmere type lightweight scarves. These almost always have a more formal appearance, but they fit in perfectly with the direction menswear is going – an increased focus on tailoring, slim cuts and an overall more refined look.
Of course, the silk versions by the premium designers often come with a high price tag. We accept that not everyone can afford to spend so lavishly on a scarf, but a silk version will give you that differential and feel of quality each time you utilise it. With that in mind; why not try vintage shops, markets and eBay in order to pick up a bargain? Here are a few available right now at under £30:
FashionBeans Tip: The brand Tootal Scarves are specialists in this style and are a great find…
As you will see in the how to wear section below, the lightweight scarf has made a lot of appearances in major autumn/winter look books and editorials recently. However, they are also very much suited to the spring/summer seasons due to their lightweight construction – again reinforcing the fact that these are purely for decoration. They were seen on many of the major catwalks at the recent Milan Spring/Summer 2012 Fashion Week – from Canali to DSQUARED and Hermes:
This entire article was inspired by Paul’s recent one on adding subtle touches of elegance to an outfit. He actually noted the silk scarf and neckerchief as specific accessories that work well when it comes to individualising your outfits in a refined and sophisticated way. In my opinion, this is when they really come into their own.
They compliment smart-casual looks beautifully and provide a great alternative to the tie when dressing down a suit. This is due to the overall delicate nature of the scarf. It should be considered a graceful and gentlemanly finishing touch – one that doesn’t demand attention in showy or garish ‘look at me’ sort of way. Consider it in the same bracket as a pocket square and you will be adopting the correct mindset.
First things first, we have broken down the body types this type of scarf works best on before, so I would read up on whether this is going to suit your frame here: Dressing For Your Body Type A/W – The Skinny Scarf. As a quick summary; they work well with structured items (hence looking great with a suit or blazer) and are not particularly suited to extremely large muscular men – as they can become a bit ‘lost’ against your dominating frame.
As previously mentioned, this is my favourite way of utilising the lightweight scarf. Paired with a shirt and blazer is the ‘go-to’ look that most males can pull off. Take a look at the examples above for a variety of ways to tie the scarf; you can wrap it round a couple of times [top left], create a loop and pull it through on itself like many will do with their current scarves [top right], drape it casually over your neck without tying [bottom right], or use the over, up and under loose tie [top centre & bottom left].
Each way looks great and it really is dependant on what looks best on YOU. You can tuck the ends underneath your blazer for a clean look, or show the scarf off fully by layering it over the top. You can even use it more like a neckerchief or cravat and push the ends into your shirt, creating a flash of colour around your neck only. It is the perfect alternative to using a tie; it still gives off a refined aesthetic but is less stuffy and offers some of that effortless Mediterranean flair.
As you will be pairing with blazers and tailoring, your jacket will often be a neutral colour, allowing you to be more bolder with your scarf choice. Sticking to a neutral coloured shirt and then injecting a shot of life through a striking complimentary colour or pattern is a way to showcase some personality, so go as wild as your style dictates. Just be sure to note the basic rules when it comes to colour matching (complimentary or contrasting colour schemes) and you shouldn’t go far wrong – the other pieces will anchor your choice.
However, you can also go the opposite way and simply utilise your scarf like you would a subtle pocket square. In this scenario, you would pick a scarf that coordinates with or matches your current colour scheme – sticking to the 3 coloured outfit principle of a modern gentleman, or fans of the minimalist approach. This could be as simple as matching your scarf to your blazer or suit, or simply varying the hue slightly so that it still contrasts against your dominant pieces. Don’t be afraid to integrate patterns such as polka dot or stripes, or even muted prints such as paisley or floral – these are perfect for standing out subtly in more formal occasions [top left].
Here are some simple outfit combinations for inspiration:
Of course, the lightweight scarf can also be a great finishing touch to your casual looks. As we are focussing on the more formal versions in premium materials such as silk or cashmere, it means that you will you will want to retain that natural essence of smart that it naturally promotes. As we have already seen, pairing with a shirt is an easy way to wear this look – so simply sub out your more formal shirts for brushed cotton, denim or chambray versions.
Neutral basics also work very well when paired against these scarves. Plain t-shirts are the backbone of any successful wardrobe, and the lightweight scarf is an easy and effortless way to add some personality to your everyday outfits. In the look book above you can see that even a plain white t-shirt and leather jacket combination can be taken up a notch by a burgundy silk scarf [left]. The clashing of styles between hard/edgy biker leather and the delicate/elegant nature of the scarf works really well in an ironic context.
Again, just be careful of colour and pattern matching. Your casual attire is far more likely to include stripes, checks, gingham and the like – so you have to be far more aware when layering your scarf on top. Keep in mind the rules you would abide by when matching a tie to a shirt; pick out a colour that is present in your shirt/t-shirt and utilise a scarf in a darker hue. Solid block coloured scarves work well against patterned under layers, whilst patterned scarves can add a shot of life to neutral pieces. If you are going to pattern match, keep the patterns different sizes, so you don’t become a walking illusion.
Some example combinations:
The lightweight silk scarf is an accessory that can definitely set you apart from the crowd and offer both your formal and casual outfits something different. Of course, it doesn’t suit every style or body type, but with an increase focus on detailing and accessoring within menswear on the whole, it is important to be open to trying new ways of giving your outfits that individuality and personality we all crave.
Enough of me – what do you think?
As this article is over a year old, the comments are now closed.
If you have a specific question about one of the points raised in the article, why not join our free fashion & style forum and start a thread? The FashionBeans community will always do their best to help you out, and our writers also frequent the forums regularly.
Alternatively, you can get in touch with us on our contact us page.