The Jaunty Scarf

I think I only use the word “jaunty” when I’m talking about scarves.  And it works perfectly, as the particular ones in this article are a lot of fun, both in print and how you wear them! 

Edit: I know that were in April now.  I hope that this post isn’t too late! It can still get…mild?

A scarf really has no use here in LA.  It’s never really cold enough to require an extra layer of fabric against your neck that a fastened coat couldn’t take care of.  It can sometimes come in handy, like getting good outerwear for the off-chance rain, but it’s not something I normally gravitate towards.  I mean, obviously I love aesthetics for aesthetics reasons as not everything about menswear has to hide behind practical (neckties?), but it took me a while to finally start incorporating it into my wardrobe.

Now obviously I liked the idea of scarves, just like I liked the idea of having the classic DB belted trench coat.  But it just never materialized for me since it always ended up being bulky and a hassle to keep around, especially considering the fact that it wasn’t cold enough.  I did force myself to buy some for those early style points (and practicality at times) but they were solid or checked, i.e kinda boring for me.

Not too bad, but kinda boring and a bit try-hard. From my college days in 2015.

Enter in my discovery of #menswear on tumblr, specifically the classic styles from B&Tailor, The Armoury, and Drake’s.  I got into it much later than most people, as I was super into period vintage clothing (while my modern dress struggled).

Instead of the thick, wooly scarves that I’d come to see on random IG influencers, these bespoke gentlemen took to wearing what seemed to be very thin, silk-mix pieces.  There wasn’t many plaids or solids to be found; most of the scarves (or mufflers) were in foulards and other abstract designs, similar to what I looked for in my vintage ties.

Calling them jaunty was probably inspired by a quote from Fraiser (presumably by Niles Crane), but I can’t really recall the specifics.  In any way, I found them fun and much more interesting than the scarves I was used to.

Looking back at my vintage roots, it was clear that the jaunty scarf was a thing, both as short and long lengths.  I mean there are so many illustrations and photographs of Golden Age guy wearing scarves in paisley, foulard, and abstract designs/soft squares. with their tailoring.  It really is just jaunty.  They didn’t appear to be bulky and utilitarian for the weather, made from silk and rayon.

To me, it seems to have a lot in common with the ascot/cravat:  a fanciful piece of neckwear that has a sense of elegance.  However, the scarf goes outside the shirt and suit rather than inside like an ascot.  As a result, it looks more versatile (read: casual) and wearable, though both the ascot and jaunty scarf left the lexicon of menswear for a few years after the 1940s.

I’m not sure if they were just rare or the fact that LA is too hot (like I said) but I never really saw too many worn by people in the vintage community.  So as a result, it (like many other winter-appropriate pieces) was never incorporated into my period clothing.  Hell, I only got that 1940’s raglan sleeve overcoat shortly before my first trip to NYC in 2017!

See the similarities?

Anyway, it was cool for me to make this correlation to vintage as I started to delve deeper into this world of [contemporary] classic menswear.  It was clear that there was a whole facet of men’s clothing that viewed suits as fashion and not just as a uniform for the office. While it took me a while to get to the ties (my love of Drake’s would come later), it was the scarves that immediately jumped out at me, especially on the guys at B&Tailor.

All the scarves were so fun! From dirigibles to fruits, these novelty jaunty scarves were appealing, harkening back to the vintage illustrations and photographs I had seen, just with an updated irreverence.  None looked bulky at all; they looked like you could just throw them on! It also helped that these Korean tailors wore them with authentic nonchalance, donning the scarves with otherwise “normal” attire.  Draped plainly or with haphazardly tied knots around the neck, they all looked so cool.

An almost ascot-like presentation.

Of course, I soon found Drake’s after noticing that the Armoury (which was also new to me) all got their scarves from the same person. This is what hammered in my new found love for the jaunty scarf.   Like the B&Tailor ones, the Drake’s ones were made in a varieties of prints/patterns and appeared equally as soft. While they presumably offered a bit of warmth, it was clear that these were a fashion piece, similar to a tie; wearing them wouldn’t overheat the wearer. A love affair was born, though I still had not made the plunge to purchase one, whether it was Drake’s, a different maker, or vintage.

All I could do for now was watch how easily these menswear guys wore their jaunty scarves, torn between hopping on such a #menswear trend (okay, I know, scarves are timeless) and practicality for LA.  I understood that it looked most appropriate with layers and coats, but I was intrigued on combining it with a suit or separate tailoring.  In the latter’s case, it almost livened up the outfit, making it a bit more fun and removes almost any business connotations one might have.

A classic scarf outfit, making up for the lack of necktie (IMO) due to the turtleneck.

I like it with other vintage-esque fabrics and patterns.

Wouldn’t do it with a tee and cardigan, but I love the print!

Now as I began to hone in my style and calm down on purchases, I started to think hard about how I would wear my own scarf, assuming that I was getting closer to pulling the trigger. I knew that a fun abstract/novelty print would be ideal for me, since it’ll combine the best of vintage and modern style.

In terms of actually wearing it, I definitely liked the loose, low-hanging knot way of doing it.  As some of you may know from my livestreams (or in-person conversations), I have a small thing about body image, especially concerning my round face/neck.  I felt that having the scarf (and by extension, ascots and bandanas) knotted around the neck wasn’t doing me any favors, making the neck “disappear”.  Plus, it just looked too “closed up”, a sentiment I echoed in the Turtleneck Base Layer article.

Additionally, the low hanging scarf just has that nonchalance ease to it. It’s like the sprezza tie, leaning into aesthetics-for-aesthetics-sake territory.

It’s actually Alex Winchell’s combo that pushed me to finally get a scarf of my own.

I especially like the low tied scarf when it’s worn with a crewneck sweater.  It’s definitely more casual and makes sense, since the scarf typically calls for outerwear (I don’t like it much worn with full suits).  I’ve always felt that crewneck sweater looks are a bit plain since you don’t get to see a tie and the sweater takes up a majority of the body. This leads me to always try and layer over a crewneck just to make the look more interesting.

The use of the jaunty scarf makes a crewneck look more interesting, thanks to the colors and prints.  You could argue it’s better than a neck tie, since it’s laid outside the sweater.  Again, it’s definitely more of a fashion-piece than a utilitarian one, but I don’t care; it just looks cool.

Not a low-tied scarf, but I love it worn with this sweater.

On Me

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Unfortunately, my hopes were dashed when I got to actually try on Drake’s scarves for myself.  Not only am I “decently” short guy (5’8″ on a good day) but I tend to have a much higher trouser rise than most guys. These odd proportions means that most modern scarves are too long. They end up going past my crotch, even if I knot it and wear it under a jacket.  This is where vintage comes in clutch!

I currently own two vintage scarves which I’ve been wearing a bit during the extended LA winter.  They are much shorter than modern scarves, almost to the point where they are like an ascot, calling back to those 1930’s “casual” pics of guys relaxing with ascots/cravats.  Some have called them evening scarves despite not being the normal white.  I just think of them as a “short scarf”, being extremely light to be worn on mild days and with a length that lines up with my proportions the way I want them to.

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This early picture (as you can tell by the beard length) was one of the first times I decided to do the jaunty scarf, tied low on the neck line.  Again, I felt that the crew neck sweater on its own looked pretty boring, despite the awesome burgundy color. It called out for something extra, but I didn’t want to wear a layer on top. I think the addition of the scarf takes it from being gramps style (bucket hat!) to being a young person’s take on gramps style, if that term doesn’t make you cringe.

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The scarf features is an abstract/soft square print, which is largely similar to the types of ties that I prefer.  Purchased from Paper Moon Vintage for $10 (literally out of the hands of my friend Joshua Gooch), it’s made from a wrinkly and slightly weighty crepe silk.  It’s not “see through” like the delicate ones from Drake’s, but I think it has just as much personality and versatility.

As you can see, the length is pretty short, but it works as that necktie/ascot/scarf cross that I’ve wanted to incorporate into my casual looks as a decorative jaunty piece.

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My other vintage scarf was purchased from the PTO Holiday Market at the end of 2017 and is technically my first one.  It’s made of rayon, which handles much differently that the crepe silk. It’s shiny for starters and has a “dry” hand, making it more like a traditional straight-silk scarf. Despite that, it makes a decent knot and hangs off the neck well.

While I love the pattern (soft squares FTW!), I’ve found that the shiny burgundy color makes it hard to wear, often being loud for most outfits. This outfit, featuring a lambswool Uniqlo sweater, is directly lifted from this Drake’s illustration, so the pairing isn’t totally original.  Like with the outfit before it, I think it just adds to the rather simple outfit, adding touches of the sloppy sprezza-tie without actually incorporating a neck tie.  Perhaps that’s the entire appeal of this in a nutshell.

Here’s a couple of pics so you can see how I’ve been wearing it: almost always with a crewneck sweater and seldom with tailoring.

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Not really a jaunty scarf or my preferred length, but I included it here because fuck it.

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Spencer, doing the jaunty scarf with his only piece: a 1940’s crepe silk in brown polka dot.

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This here is a great example of why I like the Jaunty Scarf: it just make the outfit more interesting.  The outfit here, shot in prep for the Rainy Day Attire piece, is rather tame when compared to most: a white OCBD, navy crewneck sweater, and brown cords.  Sure, it has a beret and a nice A-line coat, but it’s pretty boring when those pieces are removed! The jaunty scarf adds a fun flair to the standard, ivy-esque ensemble making it more “Ethan”.

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And lastly, here’s the whole outfit from earlier, now with a sportcoat.  Unlike the previous beret outfit, this one leans more into tame ivy territory without headwear in sight.  Still, the Jaunty rayon scarf makes it more visually interesting, contrasting with the already bold mustard color of the sweater.  It’s not a dandy outfit overall, but it has that extra zest than just wearing a a crew neck sweater with your hopsack blazer and denim.

Conclusion

The Jaunty Scarf has solved one of my great clothing conundrums: how can I make an outfit more interesting without getting too formal or overheating?  I’ve realized that this post has been a long time in the making; I’ve just gone back and forth over the whole thing, like my view on watches.  You can even ask Spencer how many times I’ve pointed out how much I’ve wanted a “fun, jaunty scarf” and the times he’s voiced his concerns whether or not I’d wear it.

Luckily, I had the opportunity to try on Drake’s pieces during my NYC trips and the Bloke that lead me to see that most modern scarves weren’t right for me.  While I love the prints and the light fabric, it just didn’t work on my small frame and high rise trousers.  While my vintage ones are much shorter, I think they work for the look I’m going for.  They act as an easy accessory for a mild day that combines the best of neck ties, scarves, and cravats/ascots. It’s just jaunty!

While it’s not something I’m  always going to wear, it definitely looks best with more mild, ivy-esque outfits sprucing up plain crew neck sweaters.  The jauntiness (especially with the low-tied knot) with tends to add a flair of intellectualism (a stretch, tbh) and dandyness, similar to the effect of the beret.   Try it for yourself!  And do it soon, before the weather gets way too hot.

Always a pleasure,

Ethan W.

@ethanmwong 

Street x Sprezza

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8 comments

  1. Pingback: A Case for the Jaunty Scarf « Fashion
  2. Derek Shakespeare · April 8

    Another superbly written article Ethan. I’ve been reading the blog for ages,though I never thought to comment on the excellence of the writing and the great photography. Hugely interesting and informative,with a fun,informal writing style,giving an insight into the menswear scene of LA and beyond,plus glimpses into those often “silly” moments you and your friends spend together. All in all,a relaxed,fun read,that I hope will continue to thrive. Thank you so much for putting your work out there,for us all to enjoy.

    Like

  3. Fashionbear77 · April 9

    Great piece, but I strenuously disagree about the scarf combined with the cardigan and t-shirt–I think it’s a great way to add some formality and panache to an otherwise casual look, but to each their own 🙂

    Like

  4. badideampls · April 10

    I love a light silk scarf in the shoulder seasons, when wool is just too much. Take a look at Tootals. I got mine at modfather.co.uk when I was in London.

    Like

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