It’s that time of year again – when wind and rain can find the smallest gap in your clothing to chill you to the bone. But this year scarves are not only big and cosy, but interesting too, making wrapping up warm a lot more fun.
You've probably heard us wax lyrical about how important investing in the right winter coat is, but knitted accessories deserve just as much consideration.
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Whether you take your inspiration from an art gallery or football terrace or Rupert the Bear, there’s a scarf to brighten up your tried-and-tested winter outfits and your day.
Best Scarf Brands
Just like with suits or shoes, not all scarf brands are created equal. Of course, a lot comes down to budget and whether you’re prepared to invest in a scarf that will last you a good few years and become as much a part of the festive season as cherished Christmas baubles. Here are some of our favourites:
Acne Studios in Stockholm creates some of the most achingly cool casualwear on the planet and its scarves are no exception. The blanket-like Canada scarf is a favourite among fashion insiders and jetsetters. A staple in minimalist wardrobes, the scarf's cool credentials are signified by a small Acne label but its luxurious materials mean you'll keep it for years.
There is no more British scarf than one made by Burberry. Its iconic check pattern goes with pretty much everything and peps up the most mundane and minimalist of coats. Plus, if you're a label fiend it's instantly recognisable.
If you like your scarves and knitwear a little outdoorsy but a little luxurious, Oliver Spencer is a great brand to know. With wearable colours and label-free, understated knitwear made from quality materials, its scarves offer plenty of bang for their buck and are sure to earn a place in your wardrobe for years to come.
Paul Smith is the master of colour and his scarves come in muted tones to fabulous rainbow stripes. The best thing about scarves is that you can be adventurous and they simply add a pop of colour to a boring coat, and priced at the lower end of luxury, Paul Smith’s scarves let you have a lot of fun in return for a relatively small investment.
Looking for a classic British icon but can't quite stretch to Burberry? You'll want an iconic scarf from Barbour. The brand's scarves are often crafted from pure lambswool and featuring a number of different tartan designs. Perfect for a weekend in the countryside.
Peregrine are an 8th generation, family-owned brand with fully traceable production. They only use non-mulesed wool and love their sheep as much as they love their wool! We love the Alpine Range – a limited edition collection inspired by vintage ski wear. These retro garments are the ideal pieces for the winter months, whether you are hitting the slopes or not.
Choosing scarf materials
Which material you choose your scarf in largely comes down to your budget, with polyester or acrylic at the cheaper end and cashmere included in many luxury offerings. Of course, many scarves are a blend of materials and obviously, one with a higher percentage of cashmere in it is more luxurious so that’s something to bear in mind when shopping. Here’s our quick guide to the pros and cons of various scarf materials.
Cashmere: Let’s start with the best of the best. Cashmere is so loved because it’s soft and usually less itchy than wool, while having the same marvellously warm insulating properties. 100% cashmere scarves are the height of luxury (and often have designer names and price tags attached to them) but it is possible to bag one on the high street for around £50 and cheaper scarves sometimes have a low percentage of it too. The only downside is that it’s often hand-wash or dry clean only.
Wool: It wouldn’t be winter without a wool scarf. Reassuringly well and great value, not all wool is created equal. It can be a bit scratchy, but some brands like Paul Smith and Acne transform it into the softest, long-wearing scarves ever. Just wash them carefully!
Polyester and acrylic: Often the cheapest scarves are made solely or partially from polyester, acrylic or similar manmade materials. Many people would say they are not as cosy and warm as wool – and environmentalists may boycott them too – but synthetic fibres do have a place. If you have really sensitive skin, you might find a polyester scarf less itchy than a woollen one, and you can bung it in the washing machine when it’s dirty too.
Cotton: Cotton scarves can be hard to come by but they are another good option for those with sensitive skin, prone to feeling itchy. It’s soft but sturdy and you can often get some scarves made from a blend of cotton and wool, or even cashmere, which offer the best of both natural worlds.
Things to consider when buying a scarf
You might have a favourite designer in mind and have picked your material, but there is still more to consider.
Warmth is an obvious but overlooked consideration. If you live in the countryside and spend a lot of time outside, a larger woollen or cashmere scarf for warmth will be just the ticket, but if you only want it for looks, a nylon or blended scarf might serve you better and stop you overheating in shops!
It’s also worth thinking about bulk. Some scarves, Like Acne’s Canada scarf, are large and quite bulky. So, if you have a snug coat, you’ll want to plump for a slimmer scarf.
Some wool can be prone to shedding, so if you have sensitive skin or don’t own a lint roller and want to avoid picking strands of wool off your dark coat until March, it’s best to avoid a scarf that sheds.
Last but not least, it’s a good idea to consider colour carefully. It’s tempting to automatically pick a scarf that’s neutral, but scarves are a great opportunity to inject some colour into your winter wardrobe. So, why not pick your favourite shade or an accent colour that looks great with the rest of your winter knitwear? You can also have a lot of fun with pattern, in a subtle or vibrant way.
Pattern scarves vs plain scarves
Whether a patterned or block colour scarf is best comes down to personal preference and your current wardrobe.
Scarves come in so many beautiful patterns, such as geometric, striped, rainbow and of course, Nordic and Christmassy, but if you already have a penchant for pattern and a wardrobe full of patterned jumpers and jazzy jackets, it may be overkill.
However, if you are a fan of a black coat, jeans and plain jumpers, a patterned scarf would certainly elevate your style and add a little interest to your minimalist style.
The best thing about scarves, of course, is that if you build up a small collection you can switch up your style and pep up well-loved coats with the tiniest bit of effort. Here are a few of our favourites…
The best scarves you can buy
Norse Projects has partnered with Johnstons of Elgin's Scottish mill to create this stunning check scarf. It's made from extra soft wool patterned with checks and bordered by fringed ends. The burgundy threads and tan shades are bang on trend, and will look best when paired against a dark overcoat.
Burberry's scarf is such a wise investment because it's a true classic, meaning you'll bring it out during every cold spell for years to come. What's more, the scarf if very adaptable, and can be paired with a suit, or with a hoody and overcoat. It's been made in Italy from cosy cashmere and finished with an embroidered designer emblem and fringed ends.
Frigid temps shouldn't keep you from heading out of the office for lunch, and Mulberry's scarf will ensure you stay warm and still look smart. It's made in England from insulating wool, has wispy fringed ends and is embroidered with the label's emblem. The versatile camel colour will go with just about any outerwear, and is a timeless classic that will last your many winters to come.
You don’t need to be a member of the armed forces to sport camo print this season. In fact, it will help you blend in with the in-crowd because camouflage print is a big trend. And while fatigues may not be the most wearable for a spot of shopping or a stroll in the park, a scarf is a great way to embrace the trend.
AllSaints’ camo scarf has ribbed hems and a small leather patch embossed with a Ramskull. It’s 30% wool and 70% acrylic making it pretty warm but not itchy, and for less than £50 it’s a good way to add a little luxury to your wardrobe.
Oliver Spencer's navy 'Arbury' scarf is made from warm wool and framed by neatly ribbed ends patterned with green and mustard stripes. It's a very tasteful colour combination, and won't lead everyone to think you're a Norwich City Football Club supporter. This scarf is certainly better suited to weekend escapades however, as there are smarter looking scarves out there.
Moncler is the king when it comes to winter clothing, with the brand beginning its life manufacturing mountaineering gear. Now, you're more likely to see its wares on the streets of London, but high-performance remains at its heart. This scarf has been knitted in Italy from fine virgin wool with the label's trademark tricolour stripe running through the centre.
Tom Ford's pieces are always refined and classic, meaning you'll be able to bring this scarf out for many winters to come. It's the perfect example of an investment piece. The scarf is knitted in Italy from soft cashmere, and features minimal details with fringed trims. You can wear it with everything from an overcoat during the workweek to a leather jacket on nights out.
Sportswear and Athelisure are on of Autumn and Winter’s cosiest and most popular trends. So you can accessorise your trackies and sports jacket with a chunky scarf to keep warm. Reigning Champ’s scarf shows off the brand’s appreciation for vintage sportswear and is a little bit preppy, making it a hit with denim too.
This fringed piece has been intarsia-knitted in Canada and features varsity-style lettering. It’s nice and long and soft, and at £60 adds a designer flourish to a casual outfit without breaking the bank. The only drawback is that it’s 100% acrylic. But if you prioritise looks over warmth and find natural fibres too itchy, this might be the perfect scarf for you.
Polo Ralph Lauren's reversible Italian-made scarf has a simple, minimal design so you can easily accessorise a number of outfits with it. It's spun from thick navy and blue wool that'll keep you warm and trimmed at the ends with tactile fringing. It's pretty affordable, too.
Paul Smith's scarf has been designed with longevity in mind – the soft cashmere yarns are naturally resilient and the navy colour goes with everything. Fringed ends and a tonal embroidered logo give it a classic finish.
Logos are everywhere – from big branded trainers to t-shirts and bags so it should be no surprise that one of the most fashionable scarves has the brand name emblazoned on it in big letters. Balenciaga's Creative Director Demna Gvasalia is largely credited with spearheading logomania and his logo-printed checked wool scarf is the perfect example of this trend.
The scarf is knitted in Italy from soft wool, and the check is quite muted and elegant. But it’s all about the writing in block capitals that extends from one end of the accessory to the other. The big drawback is the price - £645, so the writing should probably read BROKE, unless you’re loaded.
If you love the norm-core look, capsule wardrobes and luxury staples, this scarf is for you. AllSaints’ solid cashmere scarf in ‘cinder black’ marl is a luxurious take on a basic at £156 and is available exclusively at John Lewis. Made from 100% cashmere it’s incredibly soft and warm. And for minimalists, the only detail is a small leather AllSaints embossed patch.
There isn’t even any fringing as the scarf is finished with an on-trend ribbed cuff. The only criticism is that it might be a tad boring if you see scarves as an easy way to liven up your winter wardrobe.
Injecting colour into your winter wardrobe can be daunting if you usually stick to black, grey or blue. But this Loewe scarf is an easy way to up your vibrancy game. Designed in a cool dégradé effect, the scarf it's spun from a really soft, insulating mohair and wool-blend and features the Spanish brand’s signature leather Anagram logo.
The quality natural materials make for a warm scarf that with care, will look great for years to come. The only drawback is that it’s an investment at £175 and is dry clean only…so best not drip anything on it at Christmas food markets.
Take a peek inside fashion editors and influencers’ wardrobes and the chances are you’ll see this scarf. Acne Studio’s Canada fringed number is one of the brand’s most popular and is effortlessly chic and versatile. The simple, sophisticated design features the label’s logo discretely in a corner but is otherwise a uniform expanse of 100% wooliness.
It’s long enough to wrap around your neck twice for added cosiness and protection from chilling winds, but it’s not bulky. If you’re looking for a way to justify the £140 price tag, fashionable jet setters say it’s great for airplanes.
Barbour and Land Rover are two iconic British brands and they’ve joined forces to create some scarves for John Lewis. The tartan design comes in blue or a multicoloured rusty palette and is understated and classic, as you might expect.
It’s made from a mixture of lambswool and cashmere so it’s super soft and has tassels, which for £40 is great value. If you want to find a scarf that’s more patriotic and obviously British, you’ll have to nick if off Rupert the bear.
A little bit preppy and a lot cosy, Topman’s blanket scarf offers a lot of bang for its buck. The £18 scarf is a blanket shape – i.e. really wide with an all over check pattern in blue, red, yellow and dark green, making it just the right amount of cheery.
It’s not the best quality, being composed of 80% acrylic and 20% polyamide, but the upside is that it won’t be itchy and you can bung it in the washing machine. If you love snuggling into a scarf that rides high on your neck this one will be a hit, but if you prefer something less bulky, you might want to steer clear.
Fair Isle knits are all the rage this autumn and winter, so why not embrace the trend with a scarf too for the times you’re giving your jumper the day off? John Lewis’ Fair Isle Nordic scarf has a distinctive but traditional design in muted multi colours.
It’s an easy way of adding some interest to a tried-and-tested winter coat or plain jumper and is cosy and casual for the weekend. The only drawback is its not-so-traditional construction, because the scarf is 100% acrylic. But for those with sensitive skin this might be a bonus – and it’s only £30.