Another myth of the scarf centers around the Duke of Krakow, a celebrated explorer. In 1783, the Duke wrapped a self knit woolen material around his neck to keep himself warm. However, he got strangled with his own scarf when it got entangled in his husky pulled sledge. Ironically, the cause of his death was the invention of a woolen scarf. Croation mercenaries have worn scarves since the 17th century. The French were attracted by this piece of clothing and adopted the scarf calling them cravats, from the Croatian word – kravata. By the 19th century the scarf, was a fashion accessory in every man and woman’s wardrobe.
In every religion the name or form of the scarf may be different but universally it symbolizes modesty, sanctity and character. Men and women wear scarves either as veils or turbans as part of their religious attire. Amongst the Muslims, the head scarf worn by women is known as the hijab. The Quran describes the hijab as a curtain that gives muslim women their privacy. The hijab in Quranic Arabic is known as the khimar. Jewish women wear a tichel – a head scarf worn to the Jewish synagogues. Amongst the Hindus, the dupatta is the Indian version of the scarf used to cover the forehead and head. Catholics wear veils to cover their heads, where scarves symbolize holiness.
In Tibet, katas are white scarves that are symbols of hope, prosperity and happiness. As a protective garment, scarves were used by aircraft pilots to avoid breathing in exhaust fumes. Tuareg tribes use a ‘cheche’ to protect themselves from the desert wind and sand. A cheche also known as a tagelmust is many layered covering the head and drapes down loosely to cover the neck.
In regions of Africa and West Indies, women wear scarves as turbans or head wraps to protect the head. Scarves soon entered the world of academic uniforms signifying merit, academic affiliation and distinction. Scouts wear scarves to indicate seniority and units to which they belong. In different parts of the world scarves are known by a variety of names- an ‘ascot’ in England, a ‘babushka’ in Russia, a ‘mantilla’ in Spain or the ‘bandana’ in Italy. Depending on their lengths and use, scarves are also known by names like jabot, ruana, hacking, muffler, do-rags or fichus.
Scarves were glamourized when actors like Grace Kelley and Greta Garbo, stylishly wore them on the silver screen. Made from different fabrics like wool, silk, cotton, rayons and synthetic nylons scarves must be light weight as they are draped around the head and neck. They are given a smooth textured finish so that they flow without sticking.
Scarves come in different shapes and dimensions – rectangular, squares or triangles as also in exotic colors and prints adorned with sequins or tassels. Tied around the neck in different knots or secured with a piece of jewellery, a scarf adds sudden color to a dull outfit. Covering the head with a scarf is traditional, but used as a belt, tied around the forehead or wrist is today’s scarf in fashion.