Scarves: The Warm Elegance of Double-Sided Scarves

Scarf stack

Outside of the all silk, and mostly decorative, opera scarf, the double-sided scarf is perhaps the most elegant. But don’t all scarves have two sides, you ask? Yes, certainly, but double-sided scarves typically are made by sewing a layer of silk (or, in the past, rayon) onto usually a solid scarf of wool or cashmere, thus the sides are not only different in design but are also made of different material.

The silk side of such double-sided scarves traditionally have been printed foulards, sometimes ancient madder, with paisleys, pines, and dots. I recently picked up a vintage Cisco scarf from the legendary Washington, D.C. clothier Julius Garfinckel & Co., which has striped repp silk rather than the typical foulard.

Cisco scarf

Double-sided scarves are meant particularly for wearing with dressier overcoats the lapels on which typically leave an open V-shape at the chest. Scarves are perfect for plugging this hole, providing useful warmth with splash of color in what typically are long, solid gray, navy, or tan coats.

Unlike the standard wool or cashmere scarf, the double-sided scarf’s silk side offers a more elegant, dressier look while providing the wool/cashmere warmth against the body. And although silk can be cool to the touch, it actually gives a practical double layer of warmth on a double-sided scarf. Silk, while often thin, is quite insulating.

Brooks Brothers scarf

Drake's scarf

Double-sided scarves are not easily found these days. British scarf and tie maker Drake’s usually offers a selection. And although the price is not for the faint of heart, the quality from Drake’s is always unquestioned. As is often the case, turning to the secondary market will save one quite a bit of money. England’s Tootal and Sammy are names frequently associated with vintage double-sided scarf, although both use alternatives for the silk side, usually rayon or Tricel. Vintage scarves from traditional men’s clothiers like Brooks Brothers will turn up from time to time as well.

For those times when you pull out the dressier overcoat, a double-sided scarf is an elegant, and rarely seen, option to have in your wardrobe.

scarf group

Scarves: Feel Like a Schoolboy Again

J Press schoolboy

I like scarves. They’re utilitarian, of course. Wrap one around your neck to keep off the cold and wind. But they’re also a way to sneak some color and pattern into even a casual ensemble. I think I’ve been hooked since Tom Baker wore his in old Doctor Who episodes when I was a kid.

Scarves come in variety of types, but one of the most traditional and classic is the schoolboy scarf. Schoolboy scarves are so called because of their association with colleges and prep schools. They are made of vertical stripes of contrasting woven wool, typically incorporating an institution’s signature colors, sometimes with an added school crest.

The primary maker of the traditional schoolboy scarf is Cambridge, England based Luke Eyres. The company says the scarves were born during wartime privation, proper wool yarn being unavailable for proper knit scarves. They developed the sewn vertical stripe design using woven wool fabric, and offered it to Cambridge’s colleges in lieu of the knit versions. When World War II was over, the colleges opted to keep the new schoolboy scarves.

Schoolboy labels

Soon other colleges began adopting them, including colleges and universities across the pond in the United States, particularly Ivy League institutions. The legendary J. Press, the shop so closely associated with Ivy League prep, became the go-to shop for American schoolboy scarves. It’s still a signature item for them.

Not everyone’s alma mater has an official schoolboy scarf, but I give you permission to cheat and choose one that uses your school’s colors. I found that a small private school in Connecticut used the colors of my own University of Kentucky in its schoolboy scarf, and grabbed one during a seasonal sale from J. Press several years ago. It’s a favorite during the winter months.

There few places to buy a quality schoolboy scarf. In the U.S., O’Connell’s Clothing is a reliable option, and seems to source from Luke Eyres. (Also take a look at Smart TurnoutRyder & Amies, and The Tie & Scarf Company.) Other classic designs such Argyle & Sutherland are also available in schoolboy scarf design, so these days the options are limitless. Luke Eyres will even make one up to your custom order. 

With the cold weather of winter ahead of us, schoolboy scarves are a great way to show loyalty to the alma mater while adding a bit of traditional style as well.

Schoolboy stack