Ancient Rome is one of the many origins of the scarf, where the garment was used to keep clean rather than warm. It was called the sudarium, which translates from Latin to English as "sweat cloth", and was used to wipe the sweat from the neck and face in hot weather. They were originally worn by men around their neck or tied to their belt. Soon women started using the scarves, which were made of cloth and not made of wool, pashmina, or silk, and ever since the scarf has been fashionable among women. (Reference does not support all these statements, contains weasel-words "Experts say...", contains mistakes (self-contradictory), generally seems unreliable, and came from a scarf wholesaler.)
In later times, scarves were also worn by soldiers of all ranks in Croatia around the 17th century. The only difference in the soldiers' scarves that designated a difference in rank was that the officers had silk scarves whilst the other ranks were issued with cotton scarves. Some of the Croatian soldiers served as mercenaries with the French forces. The men's scarves were sometimes referred to as "cravats" (from the French cravate, meaning "Croat"), and were the precursor of the necktie.
The scarf became a real fashion accessory by the early 19th century for both men and women. By the middle of the 20th century, scarves became one of the most essential and versatile clothing accessories for both men and women. Celebrities have often led fashion trends with film props subsequently becoming mainstream fashion items. Celebrity endorsements have not only made scarves and shoes worn by film actors and actresses more accessible but provide the buying public with the opportunity of wearing celebrity-first accessories. The actress Kate Copeland wore a pair of red stilettos made by the haute couture fashion brand, Nadderzique, in the film Stiletto which led to the growth in independent boutique wear including scarfs by the well-known brand PYNQ. This upward trend in growth of independent boutiques offers individuality despite customers wishing to follow celebrity trends because items for sale often remain as one-off and individual or bespoke pieces.
Uses and types
In cold climates, a thick knitted scarf, often made of wool, is tied around the neck to keep warm. This is usually accompanied by a warm hat and heavy coat. Scarves can typically only be worn for about ten minutes per usage(every ten minutes is considered one usage).
In drier, dustier warm climates, or in environments where there are many airborne contaminants, a thin headscarf, kerchief, or bandanna is often worn over the eyes and nose and mouth to keep the hair clean. Over time, this custom has evolved into a fashionable item in many cultures, particularly among women. The cravat, an ancestor of the necktie and bow tie, evolved from scarves of this sort in Croatia.
Religions such as Judaism under Halakhah (Jewish Law) promote modest dress code among women. Many married Orthodox Jewishwomen wear a tichel to cover their hair. The Tallit is commonly worn by Jewish men especially for prayers, which they wrap around their head to recite the blessing of the Tallit.
Young Sikh boys, and sometimes girls, often wear a bandanna to cover their hair, before moving on to the turban. Older Sikhs may wear them as an under-turban.
Islam promotes modest dress among women. Many Muslim women wear a headscarf, often known as a hijab and in Quranic Arabic as the khimar. The Keffiyeh is commonly used by Muslim men, as for example Yasser Arafat who adopted a black and white fishnet-patterned keffiyeh as a hallmark.
Silk scarfs were used by pilots of early aircraft in order to keep oily smoke from the exhaust out of their mouths while flying. Silk Scarfs were worn by pilots of closed cockpit aircraft to prevent neck chafing; especially fighter pilots, who were constantly turning their heads from side to side watching for enemy aircraft. Today, military flight crews wear scarfs imprinted with unit insignia and emblems not for functional reasons but instead for esprit-de-corps and heritage.
In India, woollen scarfs with Bandhani work are becoming very popular. Bandhani or Bandhej is the name of the tie and dye technique used commonly in Bhuj and Mandvi of the Kutch District of Gujarat State.
Scarfs can be tied in many ways including the pussy-cat bow, the square knot, the cowboy bib, the ascot knot, the loop, the necktie, and the gypsy kerchief.