The Scarf

No garment combines simplicity and utility like the scarf. Minimal in design—essentially, it's just a long rectangle of cloth—the scarf most nearly approaches the ideal of one size fits all (which is why it's such a ubiquitous gift, either store-bought or amateurishly hand-knitted by an ambitious sweetheart). And, as every mother who has ever forced a muffler on her kid on a cold day knows, it works. That scratchy swatch of wool will protect her kid's neck from the cold (at least until he rounds the corner and takes it off).

But forget throwaway gifts and the indignities of childhood. This is about style, and what you may not have recognized as an oppressed kid with an itchy neck is that scarves have style in spades. Ask any rock star. Worn right, a scarf is a dashing complement to any ensemble that can broadcast a range of messages.

Wear a scarf under a top coat and looped tight to the neck with one end draped neatly over the other, and you're a swell with very important business to attend to. Layer it loosely around the neck and put on a sport jacket, and you're the dashing man-about-town who wants a splash of color without having to wear a tie. Drape it on top of your jacket, and you're a movie director (or an Episcopal bishop). Toss it across your shoulder and you just don't give a damn (or are rooting for a soccer team).

Cloth selection is the key to comfort. You hated scarves as a kid because they were rough. Treat yourself to fine wool or cashmere. Silk is the smoothest choice and offers the greatest range of patterns, but it's not as warm. Scarves with one side silk and the other fine wool are a sublime compromise. Silk in solid white is the best accompaniment to formal wear. Cotton, soft yet not as warm, has its place in old-school scarves or for showing allegiance to a favorite sports team.

Consider fine scarves from such renowned makers as Pringle of Scotland, Begg Scotland (known for its signature paisley patterns), Ermenegildo Zegna (pictured right, $375, www.zegna.com), David Chu, Missoni and Canali. Or you can take the category to a higher plateau with the Loro Piana Sciarpa Winston Marmotta (pictured at center, $2,000, along with the company's Sciarpa Fraganza, $675, left, www.loropiana.com). One side of the Winston is cashmere and the other marmot. We're betting it won't itch.

Good Life Guide Style

More in The Good Life

See all
Baseball At 150: Five Problems

Baseball At 150: Five Problems

Major league baseball turned 150 years old this year. But the game is far from perfect.

Oct 15, 2019
Smoke The Cigar of the Year for a Good Cause

Smoke The Cigar of the Year for a Good Cause

Ernesto Perez-Carrillo, the maker of Cigar Aficionado’s Cigar of the Year, will be in New York City …

Sep 24, 2019
Babe Ruth Sets Yet Another Record With $5.6 Million Jersey Sale

Babe Ruth Sets Yet Another Record With $5.6 Million Jersey Sale

Babe Ruth's New York Yankees road jersey, dated between 1928 and 1930, sold at auction for $5.64 …

Aug 22, 2019
Car-Themed Watch Auction For Monterey Car Week

Car-Themed Watch Auction For Monterey Car Week

Bidding for Watches Online: The Driver’s Collection will open on August 14 and run through August 20.

Aug 14, 2019
End-of-Summer Mixing With Vodka

End-of-Summer Mixing With Vodka

Mixing it up with vodka.

Jul 2, 2019
Dukes Hotel: The World’s Best Martini?

Dukes Hotel: The World’s Best Martini?

A look at how the bar inside Dukes Hotel crafts its signature Martini.

Jun 28, 2019