The History of the Scarf

Scarf ad from 1934 - New York

The scarf certainly has some religious connotations but has also enjoyed use for warmth, cleanliness and of course fashion. While many credit its history to use by the Terracotta soldiers in China, the scarf dates all the way back to ancient Rome where it was originally called a Sudarium, literally translated to mean “sweat cloth”. It was used in Rome for cleanliness, and the cloth scarf was often worn tied to the waist of the man, or loosely wrapped around the neck on warmer days. In the event of a formal affair, the scarf was almost always worn, and various grades of cloth could easily separate the affluent and wealthy members of society from the rest. The scarf was now seen on a daily basis as men would continually wear them out, both for cleanliness, but now, due to the separation of class, as a way to showcase their status or elitism in society.

By the third century BC, the appeal and popularity of the Roman introduced scarf had made its way to China and was now being worn by the Terracotta soldiers of the Qin Shi Huang dynasty as a form of military garb in used as a way to discern the soldiers rank, based on the style or fashion of the scarf.

By the end of the nineteenth century, scarves had gone from a regular accessory worn by men and women to one of the most essential forms of neckwear worn on a daily basis by men of all classes. Since then, scarves have been a globally popular fashion accessory for men and today still provide the warmth, religious and protective qualities of a bygone era.

Popularized by Hollywood celebrities in movies and premieres, the scarf was seen on a regular basis draped loosely around the neck of both stars and starlets. As a contributing factor causing increased popularity, brands have popped up internationally dedicating themselves to the manufacturing of scarves either exclusively or in addition to other fashion lines. We only have to look at some of the most well-known brands in America such as Brooks Brothers, Ralph Lauren, and J. Press to see that even the largest haberdashers have introduced lines of scarves. Intertwine that with online retailers and makers such as scarf.com and Fort Belvedere.

Today, men wear scarves in various climate conditions, as both an accessory and protective layer during the cold winter months, and strictly as a fashionable accessory in warmer climates. In fact, it’s not unusual to see men strolling Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills on a warm summer day, decked out in a linen or cotton scarf accompanying their scarf. In addition, it’s perfectly normal to see a man wearing a white or colored formal scarf draped over the nape of his neck at the opera or another black tie affair. For most men, a single scarf is no longer the norm. Many men own multiple scarves in various colors, patterns and made from many different fabrics.


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