Rule: some trends become new classsics

In Accessories, Celebrities, Famous people, Scarves on May 25, 2011 at 8:55 pm

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.

But it was the Stephen Sprouse-archive leopard spot number by Louis Vuitton (as modelled at the top by la Moss), which heralded the arrival of the long looped scarf as a new fashion staple.

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.

  1. Love ’em! Also great for breastfeeding in public and for wrapping up bubs when its cold and you’ve forgotten to pack a blankie in the nappy bag. Perfect for Sydney this time of year, when you don’t quite need a coat (never do really, lucky us). Any tips for providing a bit of balance? Being top heavy with skinny legs, I do find they can add unwanted volume up top sometimes, giving me a toffee apple silhouette.

    • I am a toffee apple too, but i think – I may be delusional – that it gives the look that the bulk is the SCARF not ‘one’. So agree they are the key to trans seasonal weather – and also that thing of cool mornings and evenings, warm midday.

  2. The semiotics of scarves. I love it, Maggie.

  3. Dead on trend for the first time in my life! Don’t tell me it’s now so terribly last season to say ‘on trend’….

  4. I’ve got a serious addiction to scarves going. I’ve had to install a tea towel rail in my cupboard to hang them over, however there are now so many hanging there that the door won’t shut properly.

    I’m currently favouring pattern over plain block colour, I’m sure that will change, but I agree, they are perfect in any season. Right now they are saving me from minus degrees on Canberra mornings but in summer I love a silk scarf with a tank top.

    This is one trend I think I will keep at my whole life.

    • so so same… I have a shelf with them folded and they are all crammmmmed in x

      • I love my scarves so much and find them beautiful to look at so I have taken them out of hiding and have them on display in my bedroom so I can enjoy them even when not wearing them. (My bedroom is not minimalist; more of a boudoir)

  5. I am so happy scarves are back. Love, love, love a scarf! Have brought out old faves from years ago and I’m adding to the collection, so many beautiful colours textures and patterns.

    I used to be very traditional about scarves: decorative and warm in cooler weather. The lovely thing about the new way to wear scarves is that they are a staple all year round. Really loved wearing linen and cotton scarves last summer. Bonus is sun protection for décolletage!

  6. I invested this year in a paul and joe sister wrappy/scarf thingy in a sort of alpine-arts-and-crafts weave. It’s in a mix of navy / grey / blue / white and cheers me no end wearing it – so soft and warm and infinitely more chic than my scruffy hand knitted scarves. I am also a huge fan of the pashmina especially for travel. I have a beautiful camel coloured one that I took it on a three month trip last year – perfect for the plane as a make-shift blanket and on cold Toronto / London / San Fransisco “summer” (pffff) days.

  7. I have a drawful and I love them with a passion. Even when I lost my black scarf, come shawl last year (left it in a pub, damn) I went out that very same week and bought one exactly the same even though my credit card trembled. Cant live without them, even in Sydney.

  8. scarves are essential in any wardrobe – my love has been passed on to my girls, one of whom spent the day in my skull scarf – they also love to sleep with them when I travel for work as they smell of me – cute!!

  9. My family call me Imelda Scarfos such is my addiction to scarves. I believe it is genetic as I wear scarves my grandmother collected in the 50′ & 60’s in Paris and London! I have scarves I have knitted in hand-dyed silk, and alpaca, I have silk shawls delicately batiked in Java. I have a huge box on a shelf in my wardrobe where they live. And all 3 of my daughters (23,21,& 4) love to a wear a scarf. My Mothers’ Day present this year was a leopard print scarf, which has replaced my favourite Jac & Jack fine woollen scarf from last year! And in summer it’s silk Pucci & Dolce & Gabbana – yes it’s serious!

  10. I am a massive fan of the scarf! As a pale blonde melburnian, you will be shocked to hear that I wear a lot of black (I cant help it! The colour constrast works very well for us pale blondies – and being from melbourne… well, enough said. I think its something in the water….) As a result, i find the scarf a sensational way to lift an outfit and add a bit of much needed colour.

    I inherited a large number from my mum, who loved the look of scarves but never felt comfortable wearing them – so she would buy them again and again, each time suffering temporary amnesia and forgetting that she wasn’t a “scarf-person”. I can relate, as I have the same problem with hats – i love them on others, keep buying them, but never wear them, as i am not a “hat person”.

    Long live the scarf!! As a scarf person, I pray they are here to stay.

  11. My sister gave me a keffiyah scarf not knowing the cultural significance. I live in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney in a very Jewish area so the scarf has sat at the bottom of my wardrobe for a year. I don’t want to offend my neighbours.

    • Antoine, we must almost be neighbours. Pity not to use the scarf, such wonderful cotton and a great weight. (Mind you in Sydney at the moment nothing could be warm enough!) I would dye it black; it will be gorgeous and versatile and no-one will take any offence at all. Just as long as you hand wash, there won’t be any trouble.
      Bernadette Green

    • Well done you!!! Many wouldn’t have had the sensitivity… x

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