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J’aime mon Carré – 7 things to know about the scarf

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You may dismiss the scarf as merely an ornamental article of clothing that you wear last to finish off an outfit or add a bit of designer glow (if you fancy silk Hermès scarves) to a pedestrian white shirt and jeans ensemble. But did you know it’s got a grander history than your prized Birkin?

Here are seven things you should know about your scarf:

1.) The scarf’s origins date back to Ancient Rome, where it wasn’t used to keep warm, but to keep clean. Men doing hard labour had first dibs on the functional accessory and hung it around their neck or on their belts to wipe sweat off their face. It was originally known as the sudarium, meaning sweat cloth.

2.) Women began wearing scarves made out of cloth, and that’s when it became more about fashion than function. But they didn’t wear silk ones. They wore scarves made of cloth.

3.) Scarves served as identification in the 17th century Croatian army. Officers wore silk scarves, while the rest of the soldiers were issued ones made of cotton. Yes, as early as then, they’ve been using fashion as a means to divide the classes from the masses.

4.) Men’s scarves are called cravats. That’s from the Croatian word cravata. The cravat is an ancestor of the modern neck tie and bow tie. Men around the world should move to reinstate the cravat as appropriate for formal business attire, no?

5.) There are what you would call academic scarves. They don’t make people smarter, but by using distinct colours, these scarves have enabled many British and Irish colleges and universities to establish a kind of visual identity for their own institutions. Even students at fictional wizarding school Hogwarts wear them, if you haven’t noticed.

6.) Coming in more than 2,500 different designs, the modern Hermès scarf measures 90 cm × 90 cm, weighs 65 grams and is woven from the silk of 250 mulberry moth cocoons. The first scarf ever produced by the French high fashion house came out in 1937.

7.) Every four years, even the most sartorially out-of-touch beer-drinking men do their bit for fashion during the FIFA Football World Cup, where they don traditional coloured scarves to show support for their favourite teams.

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