The long soft scarf, worn loosely looped around the neck, is not a hot new look – but it’s not a tragic démodé one either. In fact it’s right in the middle of making a rare transition from key trend to wardrobe staple.
It all started a few years ago when the black and white keffiyah scarf, came back as a youth fashion. These traditional Arab scarves – as worn most famously by one Yasser Arafat – first became trendy among the young and radical in the 1970s, when they were taken up as a sign of solidarity with the Palestinian uprising.
This political message quickly became submerged as the scarves were taken up as generic youth cool signifier and I’m embarrassed to admit I got about in one for months in my late teens with no idea what it was broadcasting. Until a man in Paris took issue with me and explained.
I’d just thought it was a nice scarf which looked great worn tied loosely round the neck with the point in the front. I was mortified when I found out the rest – not because I had committed views on either side of the Middle East situation, but because I hadn’t known my scarf did.
But there were clearly plenty of other people who had no idea about the semiotic message of these comfortable pieces of loosely woven cotton – or didn’t care – and keffiyahs were still very much the go into the early 1980s (Bananarama were big fans).
They disappeared mid-decade and weren’t seen again – outside news bulletins from the Gaza Strip – until their recent re-emergence around the necks of young people clearly as ignorant of their implications as I had been.
This time, though, the message seemed to get round more quickly (the internet?), but while you rarely see that very particular black and white weave now, the softly draped big scarf has remained a key look.
The Alexander McQueen skull print scarf was the next stage, an instant cult hit, worn in the point-front keffiyah manner.
These lightweight stole-length scarves were snapped looped loosely around all the key one-name celebrity necks – Kate, Sienna, Kylie, Nicole, Liv, Coleen, Ashley, Kiera and so on (and not forgetting SJP, who is one set of initials…) and suddenly no outfit felt right without something similar.
Anyone who adopted the look soon discovered this trend had a lot more going for it than your average celebrity style steal. It’s astonishingly flattering. Softening necklines and the harder lines of tailoring. Skirting over inconvenient body issues like muffin tops and PMS bloating. Generally softening down and loosening up any outfit, adding instant confidence. Looking equally good with jeans, tailored pant suits and summer dresses.
What’s more they’re incredibly practical, providing the perfect trans-seasonal layer for the days when there is just that uncomfortable nip in the air – but instantly removable when it heats up. Take it off, stuff it in your tote.
For warmer weather, they’re great in loose cotton and linen weaves, but come the colder winter days, bring out the wool and cashmere and you won’t need a coat.
And here’s a wizard wheeze. Worn looped around the neck in this way, you’ll find a whole new lease of life for those 90s pashminas you never thought you’d wear again.