Sometimes I wish that I had never discovered the wizardry that is the men’s scarf, just so that I could re-experience that first scarved winter day, during which the cold could no longer continue its unrelenting assault of my neck and upper torso. If you do not wear a scarf in the winter, I cannot stress how much better your life will be once you begin wearing one. Scarves trace back thousands of years, evidence by their appearance on the terra-cotta soldiers at the burial site of Qin Shi Huang, as well as in other forms of ancient Chinese art. Scarves remained an element of men’s fashion through the Roman empire, a sign of military rank by Croatian mercenaries, and was further popularized by the French noble court [1, 2].

Scarves trace back thousands of years

Scarves are a broad category, and as such, have a long and diverse history. I decided to explore an interesting parallel between the origin of my favorite scarf knot, and a story that led to the similar discovery of another style.

The first time I wore a scarf, it was bitterly cold outside (hence, my begrudging acquiescence to wearing such a goofy article of clothing). Not appreciating how painful below zero temperatures would feel, I hastily tied the scarf in the first manner that jumped to mind – the one I knew would work, and would protect my unexposed skin the fastest. Across the internet it is known by many names: the “Parisian”, the “French knot”, the “City Slicker”, the “Slip”, and more [2, 3]. Little did I know at the time, the speed with which a beautiful long, linear piece of fabric could contort into a well-secured knot that protects from the cold is absolutely unparalleled by other styles.

The Parisian

Interestingly, according to a few sources, knot-tying-speed has earned fame for another reputable knot as well. In the 1692, at the Battle of Steenkerque, the French army was surprised by enemy forces, giving them little time to prepare for battle. Wearing one’s scarf was an important component of entering a battle for an army primarily composed of upperclass frenchmen; however, with such little time, the soldiers simply donned their scarves with one end twisted and tied over the other, a major departure from the elegantly tied bows that they had previously employed [1]. This style was hence known as the “Steinkirk”, and was made popular across Europe in the 18th century.

The Steinkirk

Scarves continued their march into the modern day, importantly bolstered by the founding of Burberry in 1856 [2], and their famous plaid pattern which was first introduced in the 1920s [1]. My one Burberry scarf is the captain of my meager scarf collection, but it serves its purpose well, always ready to quickly be tied and defend my skin from the cold.