Ever since the first time someone decided to throw a length of fabric around their neck to keep warm, the scarf has become an essential accessory in the arsenal of every outgoing man. From the pioneering pilots of the 1920s to the Hollywood elite of the 2020s to just about every person who has ever faced a snowstorm and shivered at the thought of going outside, the scarf has become a staunch symbol of warmth, protection, and sartorial style.
“But wait,” I hear you cry. “Just how am I supposed to wear one of these things?” Well, the answer is simple. Though a scarf might be considered a specialist accessory, in actual fact, it’s subject to the same rules as any other item of clothing. That means you can take a few key steps to make it work as part of an outfit, including matching accent colours, fabrics, and tying styles to make the whole thing work. You’ll find out how to do all of this and more in the handy guide below.
When to Wear a Scarf
First things first, you might be wondering just when it’s appropriate to wear a scarf. It’s easy to imagine that scarves are only a winter-wear item to be paired with long coats and thick jackets, but this isn’t entirely true, as lighter scarves can be worn in the warmer months too. When wearing a scarf in the winter, the benefits are, of course, more obvious. If you know how to wear a winter scarf properly, with the right knot and outfit combination, it can form a tight seal that prevents any wind, rain, or snow from getting beneath your outer layers. If you know how to wear a summer scarf well, meanwhile, you can add a bit of jaunty flair or streamlined style to all manner of warm-weather outfits.
In terms of materials, linen and silk scarves, along with lightweight cotton scarves, can all be worn in the summer months without causing you to overheat. Meanwhile, cashmere, wool, and thick cotton scarves are perfect for keeping out the cold in winter. Medium-weight cotton scarves also serve as great accessories in the transitional seasons of autumn and spring. Whatever season you find yourself wearing a scarf in, the key thing to remember is that you should pair scarves with outfits according to the thickness of the materials you’re wearing. That means mid-weight cotton with sweaters and light jackets, heavy wool scarves with thick coats, and thin linen or silk scarves if you’re wearing a t-shirt or dress shirt.
How to Tie a Man’s Scarf
There are all sorts of ways to wear a scarf, depending on the outfit you’re wearing and your desired overall aesthetic. Most of these can be achieved by tying your scarf in different ways. Here, you’ll find eight great ways to tie a scarf, including some trendy visual knots for when you’re looking to turn some heads, plus some super-practical methods for when you need your scarf to stay nice and tight all day long.
Method 1 – Overhand
The overhand method is the most traditional way to tie a scarf. This method will give you a nice ‘ascot’ style knot that looks good without being too preppy or casual. It’s easy to tie and stays nice and tight all day long. To tie your scarf overhand, drape it over your neck, then loop it around your neck once. Bring the end of the scarf up through the loop you’ve made and over the top, straightening it out once over until the ends are even. You can leave the ends loose if you’re wearing your jacket open or tuck them into your pockets to keep them out of the way when zipped up.
Method 2 – Once Around
The ‘Once Around’ is by far the easiest and simplest way to tie a scarf, and it’s exactly what it says on the tin. All you have to do is drape the scarf on the back of your neck and wrap it around yourself once. You can keep the loop loose for a casual look, or if it’s cold, you can tie it tighter and tuck the ends inside your jacket, as with the Overhand. To double up this style for shorter ends and a chunkier look, wind one end around your neck again, and even up the two ends to finish – this is called the Twice Around.
Method 3 – Half Around
This confident style is exactly the same as the ‘Once Around,’ only with one end of the scarf hanging down the front of your torso and the other end down the back. This style looks great with scarves with tassels and lends a classic airman’s look to any outfit. Simply drape the scarf over your neck and throw one end over the opposite shoulder to achieve it. This will keep your neck nice and warm, too, while distributing the scarf fabric to prevent bunching under jackets and coats. In the summer months, it’s also a great way to wear a scarf with a lightweight linen suit.
Method 4 – Reverse Toss
For those who want to stay streamlined at all times, the Reverse Toss is a great look. This method works the same way as the Half Around, but this time you want to throw both ends of the scarf over the opposite shoulder so that they’re left hanging down your back. This intellectual style looks great over a woollen sweater or cardigan, but it doesn’t look so great with an outer layer on top. This makes it an ideal style for spring and autumn and mixed interior/exterior wear during the winter.
Method 5 – Parisian
The Parisian is an absolute classic for scarf knots, as it’s both easy to tie and looks great with any open coat or jacket. To get this look:
- Fold your scarf in half before draping it over the back of your neck.
- Take the loose ends and thread them through the loop you’ve made with the fold on the opposite side.
- Adjust this knot until it’s comfortable, and either tuck the new ends into your pockets or leave them loose for a luxuriously cozy look.
Method 6 – Lapel Drape
If you’re wearing an overcoat or blazer, then the Lapel Drape is an important scarf style to remember. This style is perfect for wearing over a buttoned-up piece of clothing, and the key to getting it right is to keep the top of the scarf over your lapels but have the bottom of it finish beneath them, inside your coat or jacket. To achieve this, put on your coat first, with the buttons undone, then drape the scarf over the lapels. Bring the ends of the scarf under your coat, cross them over, and do the buttons on top. This should leave you with the scarf running over the top of the lapel, down the sides, and disappearing into the V of your jacket, providing a smooth and unbroken line for the eye to follow.
Method 7 – Flair Knot
This dramatic style provides you with a twisting knot that looks great with any streamlined outfit, and it’s actually surprisingly easy to pull off. To tie this knot, drape the scarf over the back of your neck, then take one end and tie it into a very loose basic knot. Next, don’t tighten it; you want to take the untied end and thread it through this knot. Once it’s through, slowly tighten the knot up to your neck, keeping the ends even, and finish by spreading your scarf ends out for a bit of extra flair.
Method 8 – Classic Drape
Now here’s a scarf knot that just about anyone can manage. The Classic Drape isn’t a knot at all; all you have to do here is hang the scarf over your neck. That’s it! As you can imagine, this style is no good for keeping the cold out, so it’s perfect for when it’s chilly but not freezing out. It looks especially good with overcoats and trench coats, especially if you use a longer scarf, as it streamlines your whole outfit with eye-catching flowing lines.
How to Wear a Man’s Scarf
Now that you know how to tie a scarf and when to wear one, it’s time to find out how to apply this to a wide variety of outfits. From three-piece suits to V-neck shirts to the humble hoodie, scarves can be paired with just about anything, so long as you take care to match your colours and fabrics appropriately. So, read on to find out how!
Learning how to wear a scarf with a blazer is easy enough. First off, in terms of knotting, you’ll want to go for a short, neat style, like the Parisian, should you be wearing your blazer open. You can also use the Half-Around or the Reverse Toss for a more whimsical look, and the Half-Around works especially well if you decide to do your buttons up. Meanwhile, in terms of fabric and colour, it’s a good choice to match or almost match your blazer in both respects. That means picking a gently contrasting combination, like a brown cotton scarf for a dark green tweed blazer or a burgundy wool scarf for a blue woollen blazer. Some simple blazers will work with patterned scarves but do avoid confusing the eye too much.
It’s always a treat wearing a scarf with an overcoat, as it’s a very easy style to pull off, and it looks great on just about anyone. When wearing this, you’ll want to opt for the Lapel Drape if you’re wearing your overcoat with the buttons done or the Classic Drape if you’re wearing it open. You can also use the regular Overhand knot if you’re buttoning up to the neck for supreme cold-weather protection. In terms of colour and fabric, black overcoats look great with burgundy, and navy blue scarves in nice thick cotton or wool weave, while open coats and thinner coats like macs and raincoats look great with just a lightweight cotton scarf—beige macs pair well with blue scarves, and vice versa.
If you find yourself heading out in a suit often enough, it’s only a matter of time until you need to wear a scarf with one too. There’s always the option of wearing an overcoat over your suit in the winter months, but when you’re between seasons, you need to be able to wear a scarf with a suit by itself too. Wearing a silk scarf with a suit is also an option all year round and can lend you a healthy dose of European style.
When picking a knot for a suit scarf, it’s a good idea to go for something short or tuckable that won’t overpower your outfit’s lapels and the overall lines. The Parisian and Overhand knots are both good picks in this regard, as they can stay out of the way or sit nicely between lapels, according to your preference.
When it comes to colours, in general, you’ll want to pick something that complements your suit’s accents. For example, if you’re wearing burgundy brogues and a burgundy belt with a grey suit, you should opt for a burgundy or maroon-shade brown scarf to complete the colour profile. Similarly, a navy blue woollen suit looks great with a forest woollen scarf and a deep green pocket square, while for summer suits, you can always opt for a patterned silk scarf to add a splash of continental flair.
A sweater and scarf are the perfect combination for those cool autumn days that herald the changing of the seasons. As sweaters are generally a lighter piece of clothing, they look great with lightweight scarves like light cotton or cashmere options. In terms of tying style, the Half-Around is perfect for a sweater scarf combo, as it gives off a relaxed yet refined feel, perfect for smart-casual outfits and city wear. Overhand also looks fine, and the Once Around goes great with turtlenecks.
In terms of fabric and colour, it’s a good idea to go for low-level, mellow contrasts when pairing a scarf with a sweater. Think of a charcoal scarf on a pale grey sweater or a muted blue/brown plaid on burgundy. Try and mix a soft colour palette here, as this allows you to change things up with your outer layers while keeping the base layers fairly neutral – above all, avoid high-contrast combos like bright orange on white. When picking a fabric, meanwhile, try matching your textures by pairing cotton scarves with cotton sweaters and woollen scarves with Aran and cabled sweaters.
If you’re wearing a hoodie and want to be even cozier, or make a fashion statement, then there are a couple of ways to bring a scarf into the mix. You can start with the hood down and tie a Parisian or Overhand knot if you’re using a lightweight scarf before tucking the ends under the neckline. You’ll need to tie around the hood itself for thicker scarves, so put the hood up and tie a Half-Around or Once Around, depending on how thick you want the loop to be.
In terms of colour and fabric, treat the hoodie as you would a sweater, matching muted tones to build up a gentle colour profile. Alternatively, if you’re wearing your scarf tucked under the neckline as you might with a lightweight cotton scarf, you can add a splash of contrasting colour instead. This also works with zip scarves, depending on whether you wear them open or closed.
Sport jackets are another great item of clothing for pairing with scarves. In general, you can follow similar rules for these as you would with a blazer, opting for the Overhand knot for an ascot-style look over a buttoned-up jacket. As sports jackets are generally worn with contrasting pants, it’s a good idea to work the fabric and colour of the scarf into the overall outfit profile. That means matching it with accents or with the jacket itself, choosing a muted contrast or a pattern that fits the overall theme. Think a cream silk scarf with a dark green jacket and grey pants or a navy blue linen scarf with a black jacket. If Jay Gatsby could be seen wearing it, then it’s a likely choice of combination, old sport!
Parka or Puffer Coat
When it comes down to parkas and puffer coats, scarves are most often used as a practical accompaniment. Therefore, you don’t have to think too hard about colorways and fabric combinations. The important thing is to go for a scarf that will fit under or over your parka, depending on the thickness of the coat, whether you’ll be wearing it zipped up, and whether it has a full collar or not. Pick something warm-toned, like burgundy for blue parkas, or a deep blue for black puffer coats, to build up a cozy overall profile, and tie it all together with a simple Parisian or Twice-Around knot for the sake of keeping bulk to a minimum.