Scarfs: Meaning & Significance

The scarf is the ultimate fashionable fashion accessory that exudes sophistication and elegance and serves as a symbol of femininity. A scarf is a functional item of clothing that can keep a person warm or cool, depending on the occasion. In recent years, the scarf has taken on a variety of shapes and sizes, proving its versatility and ability to fit into any woman’s outfit. It’s unlikely that scarves will ever stop being a favourite accessory. People are mesmerised by their wide variety of forms, and the possibilities for pattern and print appear limitless. The relationship with these scarves changes with each season as they change from a burgeoning floral pattern to a luxuriously woven pashmina. This is because, in addition to being a much-loved fashion accessory, they also offer comfort, protection, and modesty. Every woman’s wardrobe will always contain a fashionable headscarf, whether it is worn as a fashion statement or as a belt, wrist tie, or purse accessory.

Historical Background

The scarf's origins can be traced back to ancient Egypt, specifically to Queen Nefertiti, who is believed to have worn an elaborate jewelled headdress beneath a woven coiled scarf. Although scarves are typically associated with women’s clothing these days, both men and women have used them for many years. Men used them as “sweat towels” in ancient Rome to dry sweat and stay cool. Military soldiers in the Far East wore scarves to signify rank. The soldiers from the terracotta army, who were buried more than 200 years ago, were seen wearing scarves with varying patterns and worn in different ways. It’s even been claimed that Napoleon Bonaparte gave his wife, Josephine de Beauharnais, a pashmina scarf upon his return from Egypt. She first had doubts about this unusual present, but over the course of the next three years, she amassed over 400 scarves, costing her a total of nearly £80,000. It is simple to think that the scarf became popular over night, but the transition from a simple, useful accessory to a must-have fashion accessory most definitely took time.

The Emergence of Scarves as Accessories

During the First World War, there was still another change in how people perceived scarves. During this time, knitting was seen as a “patriotic responsibility” rather than just a pastime, and a huge quantity of scarves, gloves, and socks were created and distributed to servicemen. Scarves were frequently lifesaving items for soldiers in the war since they frequently had to contend with abrasive, chilly, and rainy weather. Even pilots wore white silk scarves because of the delicate fabric’s ability to prevent neck chafing. In this period, the west started to make silk, which was used for a variety of things, including bags for gunpowder charges since silk burns cleanly.

As silk became more popular in the west, production techniques improved, and numerous garment companies began making silk accessories. In the years following World War II, Liberty of London began manufacturing thin silk scarves, which quickly gained enormous popularity. Their vibrant prints offered a much-needed pick-me-up to the depressing circumstances of life on the home front in the immediate postwar period. Similar to this, the French fashion firm Hermès began importing Chinese silk in 1937 for the purpose of weaving it into pricey square scarves. Imported Chinese raw silk was robust and long-lasting. Designs emphasised the equestrian heritage that was strongly ingrained in Hermès’ past, and they continue to be the most well-liked ones today. At this early period, the iconic Hermès characteristics like hand-rolled edges, hand-painted accents, and its 90 cm x 90 cm size were all established.


Many silk substitutes gained popularity as the 1990s got closer, along with the growth of manufacturing and low-cost labor. These fabrics could be printed on just as readily and with less expensive dyes, using vibrant, colourful graphics. Farmers lost faith in the product when demand dropped since producing silk requires a lot of labour. In the 1990s, inventive and eye-catching accessories became more popular than silk scarves, which fell out of fashion. This chic, fashionable accessory eventually vanished from view because it was no longer an essential piece for a woman’s wardrobe.


The decade saw a surge in both technology and transportation, making travel for the vast majority of people much simpler and more accessible. The fashion industry expanded along with the rest of the world. Designers uncovered historical treasures and drew inspiration from all across the world. Pashmina shawls, previously reserved for the wealthiest and most well-connected women, have been reimagined and made into essential items for the modern woman’s daily existence. These scarves were admired more for their comfort and usefulness than their design, as a result of people rediscovering the sensual characteristics of cashmere wool.

Modern trends

There are many references to the classic style of the silk scarf in current catwalk trends, along with some energising new looks. Models wearing headscarves reminiscent of the queen's attire while vacationing in the Scottish countryside were sent down Stella McCartney's AW17 runway. Prada chose to juxtapose its elegant, fitted clothing with thick knit scarves that were tightly wrapped like a choker. Silk bandanas and headbands that ooze glitz and substance yet are still accessible to both older and younger generations are becoming more common on runways. For many years, turbans have only been worn as part of religious attire by men as a sign of respect and social standing. To many women, though, wrapping a silk scarf aroundtheir hair and then wrapping it into a turban has been second nature ever since Prada strutted rainbow-hued glossy turbans down the catwalk in 2007.


Today, several fashion houses also imprinted their distinctive looks onto scarves to capture the essence of the brand. The famous Burberry tartan check could be worn by women all over the world on a scarf that costs less than one-sixth the price of a typical Burberry brown trench coat. More significantly, it allowed women to flaunt their designer purchases and gave high-end fashion businesses a commanding global presence. One of the most adaptable pieces of accessories out there, a scarf may be anything from a work of art to a statement piece of your style to a tiny warm blanket for your neck, extending the amount of time you can spend having fun outside. This piece of jewellery is unquestionably necessary for a fall and winter ensemble. Scarves in a variety of fabrics and designs are now worn by both men and women all over the world for both fashion and practical reasons.

Updated on: 07-Dec-2022


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