The Life and Times of the Scarf

When we think of scarves we may conjure up images of Hollywood celebrities riding around in convertibles. Scarves have an elegancy about them… a style. So where did the first scarf come from, who invented it and how did it evolve through history? According to research, the scarf dates back at least as far as ancient Rome. At that time, a linen kerchief known as a sudarium (Latin term for “sweat cloth”) was used by the Romans to wipe sweat from their faces. Something that started out for pragmatic use quickly became a fashion statement and the ancient Romans quickly developed the scarf into an accessory. Women weren’t to be left out, seeing the men in their scarves, they too began wearing them. The Chinese of course aren’t to be left out of scarf history. Warriors of the Chinese Emperor Cheng (Shih Huang Ti) wore scarves made of wool, which indicated their rank. Scarves seemed to be a hit around the world over time. The French loved the idea of wearing pieces of fabric around their heads or body, especially if they had color. They called their scarves cravats, from the Croatian word kravata. Ones political inclinations were often demonstrated by the color of their scarf. Scarves have and may always have a practical use. In drier, dustier climates, or in environments where there are many airborne contaminants, a thin headscarf, kerchief, or bandanna is often worn over the head to keep the hair clean. Religions have integrated the use of the scarf to show modesty. Many Muslim women wear a headscarf often known as a hijab, and in Quranic Arabic as the khimar. The Keffiyeh is commonly used by Muslim men. Women in the Haredi Judaism community often wear a tichel to cover their hair. Several Christian denominations include a scarf known as a stole as part of their liturgical vestments. During the First World War, silk scarves were used by pilots in order to keep oily smoke and exhaust out of their mouths while flying. These pilots often preferred silk as it helped prevent neck chafing, especially fighter pilots, who were constantly turning their heads from side to side watching for enemy aircraft. Scarves are also popular with British sports enthusiasts. Since at least the early 1900s, fans of football teams have worn colored scarves. These scarves come in a wide variety of sizes and are made in a club's particular colors. They may also have the club crest, pictures of renowned players, and various slogans relating to the history of the club and its rivalry with others. In the United Kingdom, the most popular and traditional type is a simple design with alternating bars of color in the individual team's traditional colors. As part of pre-match build-ups, or during matches, fans will create a 'scarf wall' in which all supporters in a section of the stadium will stretch out their scarves above their heads with both hands, creating an impressive 'wall' of color, usually accompanied by the singing of a club anthem such as "You'll Never Walk Alone". This was initially solely a British phenomenon, but has since spread to Europe and South America. Scarf wearing is also a noted feature of support for Australian rules football clubs in the Australian Football League, and are always in the form of alternating bars of color, usually with the team name or mascot written on each second bar. Scarves have had fashion ebbs and flows throughout time. Having flexibility in how they are worn, they always make a comeback in color, design and style without seeming to have to strong of tie to the past. Whether you are wearing your scarf for your favorite team or to add some elegance to your wardrobe, your scarf can represent your unique personality and preferences.

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