If you live anywhere that requires you to layer up before going outdoors in the fall or winter, then I think you’ll agree that the scarf is kind of an odd piece of menswear.
The problem is that wrapping your neck in a soft strip of cosy fabric just feels inherently… well, if not exactly feminine, at least a little un-masculine, which makes it tricky to figure out how to wear a scarf for men.
I live in Toronto, wear scarves are essential from November until about April.
It took me years of experimenting with various knots, loops and twists before I found a way to combine form and function, and actually make scarves look masculine and cool while keeping my neck warm.
The Scarf-Wearing Secret:
Think “What” Not “How”
Fortunately, I didn’t have to learn to tie knots like a sailor to start looking sharp in a scarf.
Instead, what I discovered was that making a scarf look good has more to do with the what (as in “what is it made of?” and “what are you pairing it with?”) than the how (as in “how do you tie it?”).
That insight helped me step up my style in the cold weather months, and actually start looking forward to busting out my scarf come fall.
In fact, once I figured out how to wear a scarf properly, people at work actually started complimenting me on the same scarf I had been wearing all winter.
Turns out, when you learn to wear a scarf in ways that stylishly complement the rest of your outfit, people all of a sudden find the same scarf a lot more attractive.
In this post I’ll share my formula for figuring out how to wear a scarf for men, and lay out the seven most stylish ways to keep your neck warm and your style sharp.
How to Wear a Scarf for Men
Breaking Down the Best Ways to
Wear Rock Men’s Scarves
The (Other) Key to Making Scarves Look Good ↓
As mentioned, what I’ve discovered is that the key to making scarves look good is to think less about how you’re tying them and more about what you’re wearing them with.
Instead of dictating that you must use such-and-such a knot in such-and-such a scenario, the rest of this post will focus on ways to make your scarf look good no matter how you knot it.
Let your look and the composition of your scarf dictate how you wear it.
Instead of arbitrarily deciding that you need to use an overhand knot because it’s the most “manly,” let your look and the composition of your scarf dictate how you wear it.
Putting this much thought into how you wear your scarf may seem a little overwrought, but remember:
The (handsome) devil is in the details.
The guys who look the most handsome and attractive in scarves – or any other piece of menswear – are the ones who put the most thought into their looks.
So with that in mind, let’s explore some common scarf scenarios and find out how to make the most of each one.
Breaking Down the Most Stylish Mens Scarf Styles ↓
1. How to Wear a Scarf with a Peacoat
Pairing a scarf with a pea coat is one of the most classic – and most masculine – looks of all time.
(Especially if you’re rocking one of the best mens pea coats on the market.)
There are two ways to pull this look off.
First, if you’re going to wear your scarf tied, make sure it’s fully contained within the collar of your peacoat.
If you’re going for the tied look, then you want to make sure your scarf is, well, tied—not spilling over the collar because it’s only half cinched.
The image below is a good reference point that illustrates what I mean:
Whether you flip your collar upor leave it down, as the guy in the picture has, is up to you. (I find that on some pea coats it looks great, others not so much.)
Either way, the key is to keep the tail tucked into the collar.
The second good way to make the scarf/peacoat combo look great is to leave the scarf untied.
Here, you want to flip the collar up so that it’s touching the back of your neck (rather than resting on your shoulders) and then have the scarf drape over your shoulders by wrapping it around the back of the collar:
Usually I’ll use the two styles above as kind of a one-two combo.
For instance, when I’m walking to the mall on December 23rd to start my Christmas shopping (don’t pretend you haven’t done it!), I’ll wear my scarf wrapped up around my neck.
But once I get into the (jam-packed and over-heating mall), I’ll loosen the scarf into a classic drape and let it hang in front of my shoulders to relieve a little heat.
A Couple Scarves to Wear with a Peacoat:
1a. How to Wear a Scarf with a Top Coat
All of the rules above for wearing a scarf with a peacoat can also be applied to wearing it with a top coat or over coat as well.
But note that top coats tend to have smaller collars and narrower lapels, so flipping up the collar at the back may present more of a challenge.
In most cases I find the sharpest look is to leave the collar down while the scarf is tied.
You may be able to flp it when you untie the scarf and throw it around your shoulders, but leaving the collar down also works well, as you can see in the image above.
Good Options to Go With a Top Coat:
2. How to Wear a Scarf with a Jacket or Blazer
When the weather’s a little warmer and the pea coat is a bit too heavy, one of my go-to moves is to throw a scarf over top of a casual jacket like a blazer or sport coat.
The key to pulling off this look is basically the opposite of the pea coat move I noted above.
Instead of tucking the whole scarf into your jacket, you want to wrap it around your neck and let the “tail” hang down in front, not unlike a tie.
As in all things in life, size matters here—but in this case, length isn’t always a good thing.
If your scarf is too long, letting it flap over your torso will look sloppy and unbalanced rather than sharp and put together.
As a rule of thumb, make sure the tail of the scarf falls no lower than your belt when it’s tied around your neck, and preferably hits somewhere around the navel.
Good Scarves to Wear with a Blazer or Jacket:
3. How to Wear a Scarf with a Suit
All of the advice in the How to Wear a Scarf with a Jacket section above also applies to the slightly more formal look of wearing a full suit.
But with suits there are a few additional criteria to keep in mind:
First, you want to make sure the color of your scarf complements the color of your suit.
Way too many guys make the mistake of thinking that their outerwear need not match the rest of their outfit, but this couldn’t be further from the truth.
Think of your scarf as an exterior version of your tie, and choose one that works with the rest of your get up.
The second consideration here is the fabric.
Most suits will look best with a finer scarf made from a more refined fabric like cashmere or merino wool. (Fortunately, in addition to looking sharp, these have the added advantage of tending to be softer and more comfortable.)
But if you happen to be wearing a thicker winter suit, then you may want to opt for a chunkier scarf made from a heartier fabric, like wool.
A Couple Options to Pair with a Suit:
4. How to Wear a Scarf with a Parka or Puffer Coat
Parkas are heavy-duty coats, so they tend to look best with heavy-duty scarves. Same goes for puffers, so the rules below apply equally to both.
In terms of material, opt for a thick wool or wool/cotton blend, which will both keep you warm and match the heartiness of your coat.
You can also get away with synthetic scarves in this scenario, which will complement the synthetic outer lining of your parka or puffer.
When it comes to size, you’ll want to go with a wider scarf than you would wear with a suit or a blazer, which again is in keeping with the thickness and padding of the coat.
The Best Scarf Style for Parkas and Puffers? It depends.
Exactly how you tie/wear the scarf with a parka will depend a little bit on the style of your particular coat.
If your parka has the type of collar that pops up and can zip up to your chin, your best bet is to keep the scarf wrapped inside the collar, the same way you do for a peacoat.
But if your parka’s collar stops at your shoulders and leaves your whole neck exposed (when the hood is down), you can wear the scarf in a style similar to the suit/blazer style above, and let the tail hang in front of your chest.
If you plan on keeping the tail of your scarf inside your parka anyway, you may want to consider foregoing the tail altogether and opting for an infinity scarf.
An infinity scarf tends to look pretty bulky around the neck, making them hard to pull off with lighter-weight jackets.
But since a parka is about as heavyweight as a jacket gets, an infinity scarf can be a stylish (and cozy) complement.
Scarves to Pair with a Parka:
5. How to Wear a Scarf with a Sweater
Some of my favorite looks are the ones that combine high style with both practicality and masculinity, so the warm-scarf-over-chunky-sweater look checks a lot of my favorite boxes.
But there are a few important ingredients you need to nail in order to pull this look off.
First is the sweater itself.
As mentioned, for this look I prefer chunky sweaters—the kind that let you get away without a lightweight jacket, even at the time of year when everyone starts layering up. The image above is a great example.
Pullover crew necks tend to look best because they leave your neck exposed.
Combining a scarf with a shawl collar sweater is both awkward and redundant, since the collar itself is designed to keep your neck warm.
Put pairing a scarf with a slim-fitting cable knit sweater is perfect, since a crew neck sweater like that leaves your neck exposed.
For the scarf, I recommend matching the scarf’s texture to the sweater.
If the sweater is made (or at least looks like it’s made) from natural fibers like wool, then the scarf should be too, and the colors of both should be neutral and muted.
The look you’re evoking here is that of a roguish Irish writer, holed up in a cottage on the coast writing his masterpiece.
That look kind of goes out the window if your Irish wool sweater is topped with a neon orange nylon scarf…
Good Options to Wear with a Sweater:
6. How to Wear a Scarf with a Puffer Vest
…and while we’re on the topic of nylon scarves: I highly, highly recommend that you never own one.
But if for some reason you do, and you’re desperately looking for a way to wear it, this could be your one (and only) option.
Just as you want to match the natural texture of your sweater with a naturally textured scarf, you can pair your warm, but artificial looking puffer vest with an equally artificial scarf.
7. How to Wear a Scarf in Spring
When deciding what to wear in the spring, women opt for scarves all the time.
But for guys it’s definitely a rarer and more fashion-forward move—which is exactly why you should consider it.
All the guidelines above about wearing scarves with suits, jackets or sweaters apply just as much to lightweight spring get-ups as to heavy winter outfits.
But, in the spring they come with the (perhaps somewhat obvious) caveat that in warmer months, your best bet is to opt for a lightweight scarf.
This is what I think deters a lot of guys.
A heavy scarf style that helps beat back the elements during the colder weather just kind of seems like what a men’s scarf should feel like.
But when the weather calls for a lightweight silk scarf worn over a linen blazer?
That can easily feel like a dandyish affectation, not unlike a bow tie or a pocket watch.
But it doesn’t have to!
A lightweight spring scarf can look like it’s of a piece with your masculinity, rather than working against it.
Just keep the colors dark, and the rest of your get-up classically masculine (think jeans, a leather messenger bag and a little scruff on your face).
How to Tie a Scarf
As mentioned above, making a scarf look good has more to do with how you pair it than how you tie it.
But with that said, you still (obviously) have to tie it up somehow.
Fortunately, tying a scarf is a lot easier than tying a tie.
It shows you how to tie a scarf men will envy and women will admire.
How to Wear a Scarf Like a (Stylish-ass) European
For reasons that are still unknown to science, European guys seem much more comfortable wearing scarves than those of us on the west side of the Atlantic.
Maybe it’s because they have three fashion powerhouses in Paris, London and Milan, while we only have New York.
Maybe it’s because their fashion sense has evolved over millennia, where we’ve had mere centuries.
Or maybe it’s because their minds are programmed from birth to think “I literally don’t give a f*ck about anything other than fashion, football and fine wine.”
Whatever the reason, Europeans really tend to go for it when they wear scarves, and we North Americans could learn a thing or two from their elevated approach to casual style.
Introducing the European Knot
One reason why Europeans make scarves look so good is because of how they tie them, often with what’s (appropriate) called the European knot.
The European knot – also called the Hoxton knot, the Parisian knot, or (in the graphic above) the City Slicker knot– is a great way to tie a scarf because in addition to being a super simple knot, it’s also one of the most stylish.
Here’s how to do it:
- Fold the scarf in half, ensuring the loose ends are of equal length.
- Holding the loose ends in one hand and the looped end in the other, wrap the scarf around the back of your neck.
- With the looped end draped in front of one shoulder and the loose ends draped in front of the opposite shoulder, grab the loose ends of your scarf and pull them through the loop.
- Tighten until the scarf is snug around both the back and front of your neck, but not tight.
- OPTIONAL: Light up a cigarette, and stroll the streets with a sexy indifference that makes people say, “Wow, that guy must be European.”
The European knot might just be the easiest way to make scarves of all weights and patterns look good, but it tends to work better with a long scarf that has enough slack.
(Especially if you want to wear it with a loose knot!)
You also might want to try it with a patterned scarf with a dash of color, which adds an extra bit of stylish European flair.
You Know How to Wear a Scarf Like a Man
Now Learn How to Nail the Rest of Your Winter Getup ↓
At this point you should have a pretty good idea of how to wear a scarf for men while maintaining – and if you do it right, enhancing – your masculinity.
But knowing how to rock the right accessories is only one piece of the winter menswear puzzle.
If you really want to look cool when the weather gets (ball-shrinkingly) cold, you need to know all the other essential pieces that make up a man’s winter wardrobe.
Check out our Men’s Winter Fashion Guide to how to achieve heat and handsomeness in equal measure, and strike the perfect balance between sharp men’s winter style and warm winter clothing.
More Great Stuff From Irreverent Gent:
- The Ultimate Guide to Men’s Winter Fashion
- What to Wear in the Fall for Men
- 13 of the Best Men’s Pea Coats Available on Amazon
- 11 of the Best Men’s Top Coats Available Online
- The 8 Most Stylish Men’s Shirts Colors
- The Absolute Best Men’s Pants Colors
- The Best Shirt Stays for Men
- The 17 Most Stylish Types of Men’s Hats
- How to Wear Pocket Squares: The Definitive Guide
Banner image: BMPhotolab / Shutterstock