By Andy Gilchrist

Including the most popular knots, the origins of the scarf and Ascot, the in-between neckwear, plus history of the necktie.

A decorative or utilitarian fabric worn draped around the neck and shoulders. The word is from Old North French "escarpe" meaning a sash, or sling, and is a variant of Old French "escherpe", meaning a pilgrim's bag hung from the neck.

These are the most popular scarf knots for men:

Hacking or Parisian Scarf Knot

Fold your scarf in half widthwise.

Drape the scarf over your neck, then bring the loose ends through the hole formed by the folded end to tie the knot. Tighten the scarf around your neck and there you have it.

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The scarf is not tied, so it’s more a fashion statement than something to keep you warm.

The scarf should be worn under the overcoat for maximum warmth, but it can be worn around the neck with no knot over the Tuxedo for Formal dress.

Like all neckwear, it’s a great way to add a dash of color to your ensemble and draw attention to your face.

Drape the scarf over your neck, equal lengths on each side.

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Once Around

Take the long end of the scarf and bring it around your neck and you’re done – no need to tie a knot. The ends of the scarf can either be equal length or uneven – it's really up to the wearer’s preference.

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Over Hand

Drape the scarf around your neck, making one end longer than the other. Take the long end of the scarf, cross it over the short end, then bring it under and through the opening near your neck to tie.

After you tie the knot, pull on both ends of the scarf to tighten it until you are satisfied with the look. This scarf knot looks best when one end is slightly longer than the other.

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Reverse Scarf Drape

Drape the scarf over your neck, making sure both ends are of equal length.

Take one end of the scarf and bring it across your neck and over the opposite shoulder, then do the same with the other side. No need to tie it – adjust the scarf around your neck if necessary and you’re done.

Twice Around

Drape the scarf over your neck, making one end much longer than the other. Take the long end of the scarf and wrap it around your neck, then repeat again, bringing it around your neck a second time. This is another knot where you don't really tie the scarf.

Adjust the scarf if needed to completely cover your neck, and you are all set for whatever the winter weather has in store for you.

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Scarf History

Neckwear may be an extension of tribal beads used as protection against viruses.

The first known record of the scarf was worn by Queen Nefertiti of Egypt, reportedly a “tightly woven scarf topped with a conical extravagant jeweled headdress.”

In 1350 BC, Chinese Emperor Cheng used cloth scarves to mark military rank.

Scarves with numerous designs, worn in various ways were found in the tomb of China’s first emperor on the over 7,000 terra cotta statues and were buried in 221 BC.

In 200 AD, the Roman Legions tied ribbons (“focalium” derived from “fauces”, the throat) around their necks for identification during battles, while the Roman statesmen used strips of wool (“sudarium”) to warm their vocal cords. The early occurrences of scarves were most likely to pad and support armor, or to keep warm during winter campaigns. Ornamental neckwear came later.

On his return from Egypt, Napoleon Bonaparte gave his wife, Josephine be Beauharnais, a cashmere scarf. She was first cynical about this exotic gift, but she came to like it and collected over 400 scarfs over the next three years.

The French fashion empire Hermes designed the first ready-to-wear graphic silk scarf in 1837. That same year, the fashion industry in Europe and America embraced scarves after Queen Victoria popularized gorgeous silk cravats with stunning graphic prints. The designs and fabrics used denoted class ranking, and served to signify fashion sense.

In the days of early aircraft, silk scarves were used as barriers to prevent oily smoke from the exhaust out of pilot’s faces while flying in the open cockpit. Once closed cockpits were introduced, pilots continued to wear these scarfs to prevent their necks from chafing, especially fighter pilots who had to turn their necks quickly and repeatedly during battle.

During the First World War, it became commonplace for pilots to wear off-white, silk scarves. Both the color and the fabric served a specific purpose. Silk was used because of the smoothness in which it caressed the neck of the pilot. It was important that pilots were fully comfortable and had no distractions that would inhibit their flight. The scarves were off-white so that the pilots could tell where they wiped leaked oil from the plane and avoid wiping their face or goggles with the same oil stain.

The Pilots’ scarf has continued to be a staple of the uniforms of pilots and flight attendants.

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Later on in Croatia, the scarf continued to play a role in military ranking, with higher ups wearing silk scarves and lower ranking soldiers wearing cotton.


I’m including the Ascot here since it’s a neck covering that’s in between scarves and neckties.

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: From the late 1800s, the ascot is a broad neck scarf that’s looped under the chin, often kept closed with stickpin on wing-collar shirts. It’s traditionally part of Formal Morning Dress in combination with a tailcoat jacket (also known as morning coat) and is proper dress for the time of day and the occasion.

Named after the Royal Ascot, the famous English horse race at the Ascot Heath racetrack, in the village of Ascot, Berkshire, southwest of London. The Royal Ascot was initiated by Queen Anne in 1711 and is held annually in June.

The knot is typically secured with a decorative pin.

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Croatian mercenaries, who helped Austria defeat Turkey, were invited to Paris in 1636 to be honored by Louis XIV. The Croats paraded around Paris in colorful scarves, and the admiring French, especially King Louis, took to the style of wearing neck scarves “a la croate”. By 1650 “la cravate” from the French word meaning “Croat”, was accepted wear in France.

There is some evidence that the word cravat was in use before this event, coming from the word “rabat” or “hanging collar”, but the Croatian story is the most romantic.

For the gallant French officers in the 30-year war, the advantage of the Croatian neck scarf was its enviable practicality. In contrast to the lace collar that had to be kept white and carefully starched, the scarf was simply and loosely tied around the neck without need for any additional care. Just as elegant as the stiff, high collars, the new scarves were less awkward, easier to wear and remained visible beneath the soldiers’ thick, long hair.

On his return to England from exile in 1660, Charles II (1630-85) brought this “new word” in fashion. Charles' army was routed by Cromwell at Worcester on September 3, 1651, and he fled to France. In 1658, following the death of Cromwell and the succession of his son, Richard, as Lord Protector, the demand for the restoration of royalty increased. In April, in the Declaration of Breda, Charles announced his intention to accept a parliamentary government and to grant amnesty to his political opponents. A new Parliament requested Charles to return and proclaimed him king on May 8, 1660, and he served as king of England, Scotland, and Ireland (1660-85).

“A cravatte is another kind of adornment for the neck being nothing else but a long towel put about the Collar,
and so tyed before with a Bow Knott; this is the original of all such Wearings; but now by the Art and Inventions of the seamsters,
there is so many new ways of making them, that it would be a task to name, much more to describe them.”

—Randle Holme, Academy of Armory and Blazon, 1688.

During the wars of Louis XIV of 1689 - 1697, the flowing cravat was replaced, except for court occasions, by the Steinkirk, named for the battle in Flanders of 1692. The Steinkirk was a long narrow, plain or lightly trimmed neck cloth worn with military dress, wrapped just once about the neck in a loose knot, with a lace of fringed ends that were twisted together and tucked out of the way into the button-hole (of either a coat or a waistcoat) The steinkirk proved to be popular with both men and women until the 1720s.

English dandies known as “Macaronis” reintroduced the flowing cravat in the 1770s and the manner of tying one became a matter of personal taste and style, to the extent that after Waterloo, the neckwear itself was increasingly referred to as a "tie".

They got their name from the pasta they ate on grand tours of Italy, where they discovered the fashion innovations they brought back to England. The song “Yankee Doodle” makes reference to Americans thinking that putting feathers in their caps would get them onto best dressed lists. The Macaronis also started the tradition of wearing flowers in the late 1700’s. Boutonniere is a flower for the buttonhole of the left lapel.

As the 18th century unfolded, so did the cravat, becoming longer and lacier at the ends. France’s Republican “incroyables” (“unbelievables”) were known for their 15-foot cravats wrapped around the neck and tied in a bow. They were worn so high a man could not move his head. But they did show their colors, usually red, and allegiance to the French Revolution.

The first half of the 19th century in England was the golden age of cravat. The neck cloth was so elaborate and voluminous that George Bryan "Beau" Brummell (1778-1840) and his valet sometimes spent a whole morning getting it to sit properly.

Brummell was born in London, and educated at Eton College and Oriel College, University of Oxford. At the age of 17, Brummell became an intimate companion of the Prince of Wales, later George IV, (1762-1830), king of Great Britain and Ireland (1820-30), and was for many years regarded by court society as a wit and an authority on all matters of dress and etiquette.

While his fortune lasted, Brummell kept an elegant establishment in London, but he finally lost his royal friends, gambled recklessly, and in 1816, fled from his creditors to France. He obtained an appointment as British consul at Caen from 1830 to 1832, but eventually was forced into debtor's prison and died in a mental institution.

Brummell popularized a new English style of menswear in the early 1800s. He wore suits made of dark wool rather than of silk, and he promoted the idea that simplicity in dress could be elegant. He also stressed the importance of personal cleanliness as a fashionable virtue, insisting that a plain but clean white shirt was preferable to a fancy one that was dirty. Brummell set the mode in 1806 for the ruffled shirt for both day and eveningwear. Brummell was also responsible for introducing the fashion of wearing only black and white for eveningwear.

There was greater emphasis on the bow tie in the 1840s and ‘50s, and some smaller versions of the cravat were becoming known as “neckties”. One of these, the “Byron”, as worn by the famous poet, evolved to be the bow tie.

Jackets buttoned up to the neck leaving no room for the display of neckties from the 1860s through the 1880s.

In the 1890s the four-in-hand and bow ties were prevalent usually in two color stripes. Four-in-hand originally referred to a coach drawn by four horses in two teams driven in tandem by a single person. It was considered great sport by the young men of the day and they organized into clubs, and adopted the way professional coachmen knotted their ties like a bow on a gift with two long trailing ends like horse’s reins.

There is a good argument to be made that men’s ties reflect the social and economic environment of the age. There seems to be a direct correlation to tie widths, women’s skirt length and the stock market. Ties were widest this century around 1935, and 1965, and narrowest before 1955 and 1985.

The 1920s brought a booming economy, more color, better fabrics like silk, knit and wool/silk blends, and improved technology with the introduction of the bias cut.

American tie manufacturer, Jesse Langsdorf, in 1920 patented the “all-weather wrinkle-free” tie. The secret was cutting the fabric on the bias and adding a slipstitch running down the inside back of the tie. It’s known a “resilient construction” today.

The necktie was the survivor with the Ascot worn with morning coat attire. Neckties were woven or knitted silk with red, white, and blue popular colors.