Putting On (and Pulling Off) a Scarf for Men

Whether you want to fend off the cold or add a little flair for a night on the town, scarves are a simple, time-tested accessory that fit the bill.

Scarves have been a staple of men’s fashion for 2000 years, from battlefields to ballrooms, and it’s no wonder why. They can be tucked into an overcoat to enhance your ensemble and keep you warm. They can be draped over the shoulders and under the lapels for a refined, classic look. They can even be tossed loosely around your neck to make a sweater look even better.

Part of the beauty of scarves is their simplicity. Choosing the right one to compliment an outfit doesn’t require too much work, but there are a few things to consider to make sure you pull it off.

So as the cool fall air begins to creep through our collars, here’s a quick guide for choosing, and wearing, scarves. 

Color and Material:
A man’s scarf should be simple. The scarf should be a compliment to your ensemble, not a major component of it. Think of your scarf as the cherry on top. 

Select a color that doesn’t compete with the overall scheme of your outfit. An earth tone or charcoal ensemble will go well with a scarf bright enough to stand out, like taupe or burgundy. A dark scarf with a dark suit confuses the look.

Like color, your scarves material should lend themselves to the look you want. A casual, sweater-based outfit affords you the choice of thicker materials like wool, angora or cotton with a heavy weave. A suit demands something basic with sharp, clean lines, more easily found with a thin weave of silk, linen, synthetics or even cashmere.

When selecting your scarf, consider how you’ll be wearing it. The thinner the weave, the more versatile the scarf will be. Bulky materials with large yarn require simple knots and give you fewer options. A thick scarf can set off a casual outfit, but the same scarf won’t work with a more formal look.

Men of average height will want a scarf that’s at least 60 inches long. This will give you enough wiggle room to wear it in a few different ways. If you’re taller than most guys, look for one between 70 and 90 inches. 

Width can range from 6 to about 14 inches. Again, think about how you’ll be wearing it. If it’s going to go with a suit and lie flat against the chest, avoid getting anything wider than 7 or 8 inches to avoid bunching and folding over.

Tying the Scarf:
There isn’t enough room here to explain all of the different ways to tie a scarf, but luckily there are plenty of videos* and step-by-step tutorials* to show you when to tuck and when to twist. Nonetheless, there are some basic principles to follow before you know your knots.

Confidence is essential to rocking a scarf. Regardless of the look you want, you’ll only look as good as you feel, so don’t go with a knot out of your comfort zone. It’s better to go without a scarf at all than to be constantly fiddling with a pretzel knot under your chin.

Keep it loose. Unless you’re wearing a muffler to stave off pneumonia, you’ll want to avoid wrapping, tying or tucking your scarf too tightly. Even if you’re wearing it to stay warm, loosen your knot just a bit after it’s tied to keep your overall look from appearing forced.

The right scarf can instantly take your outfit from cool to classic, as long as you know what you’re looking for. Pay close attention to color, material and size and select a combination that makes you look, and feel, sharp. Even if you’re goal is to keep the cold out, remember: with scarves, fashion is every bit as important as function.

If all you want to do is stay warm, put on some long johns under your suit.