A scarf—which can come in a multitude of shapes, sizes, colors, patterns, and materials—adds an elegant flourish to almost any ensemble. Like most fashion accessories, scarves have utilitarian origins, used to wipe away sweat and dirt, protect the head or mouth, or keep the neck warm. Particular patterns and colors in scarves have been used to mark military rank, religious and political affiliations, membership in a club such as Boy Scouts, or allegiance to a sports team.
Around 1660, French men took to wearing small, light scarves around the neck and calling them "cravats." Thanks to Queen Victoria, scarves worn as embellishment—and a signal of wealth and privilege—grew popular for women and men in England in the mid-19th century.
In 1937, French fashion house Hermès introduced its famous silk scarves, hand-stitched and hand-printed with a wide variety of motifs—from coats of arms, equestrian themes, and 18th century maps to neo-Grecian embroidery and patterns inspired by artists M.C. Escher and Piet Mondrian. These delicate scarves became a must-have during the early days of Hollywood, when glamorous stars like Grace Kelly flaunted them.
Other sought-after vintage scarves are made of silk, cotton, and wools like cashmere, and include designs by Emilio Pucci, Givenchy, Chanel, and Burberry (particularly in the company's trademark Burberry Check pattern and gabardine fabric).