Thursday, 10 February 2011
The evolution of The Scarf
Get all wrapped up in it
Words: Lindsay Anne Bower
AS OF US EACH TREK OUT INTO THE UNPREDICTABLE WINTER CLIMATE, THE CREATIVE ASPECT OF DONNING LAYER AFTER LAYER CAN BEGIN TO LOSE ITS APPEAL. WHAT BETTER WAY TO RENEW YOUR VIGOR AND VITALITY THAN CELEBRATING THE MUCH-LOVED ACCESSORY THAT IS THE SCARF? HERE’S ONE FASHION THAT TRAVERSES THE VARIOUS SEASONS - FROM WOOLEN WINTER WARMERS TO CHIC CHIFFON SUMMER NUMBERS - A SCARF CAN MAKE ANY OUTFIT EXTRAORDINARY.
Like many fashion accessories, the scarf dates back at least as far as ancient Rome. A handkerchief, most probably made of linen, was often used by the Romans to wipe their necks and faces, and was known as a sudarium - Latin for “sweat cloth”. This naturally developed into a fashion accessory, as both men and women began to wear the pieces of cloth around their neck or knotted to a belt.
Around the 17th century, scarves traveled to western Europe via Croatian mercenaries, who wore cotton or silk scarves according to their corresponding military rank. The scarves were quickly adopted by the French, who were so bedazzled by the unusual accessory that it soon became a fashion staple, and was dubbed a cravat, which comes from the Croation word ‘kravata’. Often times it was possible to distinguish a man’s political stance by the colour of his scarf, as cravats became more common.
It stands to reason that from the cravat, which was often made from delicate materials, the scarf evolved into the beautiful and varied wool creations people use today to keep warm. Wool is the warmest of all fabrics, but for most current designers, it’s clear the goal is to not only fulfill a practical need, but a fashionable one as well. The two purposes combined launch what would normally be a rather blasé outward appearance - and an inevitable descent into the winter doldrums - into a veritable fashion stratosphere, even in the most inclement weather.
So, here’s to the scarf - next time you feel like shutting yourself inside from the rain with a cup of tea, wrap yourself up in a little slice of mandarin wool and head outside instead. You’ll not only keep warm, but you’ll turn a few heads as well, and the prospect of colder months to come won't seem so bad afterall.
Kelly Rae Smith is a freelance writer and editor based in charming ol' Charleston, SC. She owns Runaround Sue Vintage on Etsy and loves thrifting, the Beach Boys, sweet tea, and Don, the dog.