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The Unbearable Beauty of the Scarf

The Unbearable Beauty of the Scarf

Or the Fine Art of Doing More with Less

The way French women wear their scarves has fascinated non-French women worldwide. What is it about the scarf?  For many of us, it's the emblem of sophisticated nonchalance that only French women seem to master. The sexy woman in a convertible driving along the Mediterranean coast in a cinematic moment of joie de vivre, for example, invariably wears a scarf – a frighteningly long one that flutters behind her like a wedding veil gone wild. But the scarf is just the opposite of a wedding veil. The wedding veil says: I am here as a precious dynastic symbol of the immutable ties that will bind me to my spouse for all eternity, until death do us part. The scarf says: To hell with all that.  

The scarf’s seductive appeal is so great that it enjoys an entire body of literature dedicated to scarf-tying, not to mention its own entry in Wikipedia, but guess what? It’s not the ability to tie a scarf comme ça that gives French women their seductive cachet, nor is it the ability to look sexy with no makeup or simultaneously consume pastry, foie gras, and cheese and Not Get Fat. No. It is something far more simple yet far more complex.

It is this: Less is more. And with a scarf, you get more with less. This is part of the essential fashion mindset that characterizes the French, and it’s that simple. A scarf is both utilitarian (the French seem to live in perpetual fear of drafts) and chic; a good scarf transforms an outfit – or even makes the outfit.

We can’t say for sure that the French actually invented the scarf (popular opinion suggests it goes back to ancient Rome; then again, what doesn’t?). But certainly no one put scarves on the map like Hermès: Founded in 1837 by Theirry Hermès as a harness workshop in the equestrian trade, it eventually branched into the world of scarves and is now synonymous with the ultimate in scarf luxury. (Hermès designers work with a palette of over 70,000 colors and have created 2,000 unique designs since the company’s inception.)

Anyone with scarf lust or simple curiosity about scarves can get lost in a Google search that will retrieve countless ways to actually tie a scarf, from the Basic Loop and Loose Cascade to the Faux Knot and the Infinity. (We love the videos on the Hermès website. Click here for videos on nearly every one imaginable.)  Ultimately, it’s all about the expression of a certain casual elegance and flair with a simple strip of color. Leave it to the French to master the fine art of doing more with less. 
March 20, 2017