Style

The Neckerchief: In Praise of Individual Style

Allow me to suggest The Neckerchief: a humble scrap of fabric tied around the neck, elevated to the heights of style through the affectations of men in search of the perfect accessory. An alternative form of neckwear suitable for men of all strokes, be they bankers or buckaroos. Keep your ties, gentleman; I’ll be wearing a silk bandana.

You may think I jest, but I assure you that I do not. The neckerchief is a viable, admirable, and stylish accessory that will keep you warm, allow you to mop the sweat off your neck, protect you from sudden dust storms, or even provide anonymity in moments of pure chaos. It has been the choice of gents the world over, from military captains to artists to physical laborers, all of whom embraced the neckerchief as a functional and fashionable part of their daily wear. And, although you still find the rare man who has embraced the puissance of the neckerchief, they are sadly few and far between. I intend to change that – so please join me as we discuss some of the best ways to put these lengths of fabric to best use.


The Poet

neckerchief

George Gordon Byron, Lord Byron. © Photos.com/Thinkstock

Perhaps the best-known of all neckerchief looks, The Poet is the ‘chief of choice for men interested in adding a bit of worldly flair to their ensemble. It works with a suit, it works with a loose silk shirt (you have one of those, right?), and it probably works with anything else you can think of. Now, this one is just as much about the fabric of your neckerchief as it is the knot. Go for a larger piece of silk or otherwise lightweight material, and be sure to tie it at a rakish angle. Otherwise, it’s best you don’t care too much or try too hard, because that would defeat the purpose of wearing it in the first place. You’re trying to look as though you might recite a heroic couplet or die of consumption at any moment. My only tip is to avoid wearing a striped top with a poetically-tied neckerchief, as you run the risk of looking like a mime.


The Scout

neckerchief

Source: OrgSites.com

A throwback to the days of white picket fences and casual racism, The Scout employs the neckerchief in all its youthful glory. Fold your neckerchief in half and tie it around the neck of your shirt as you would a tie, fold your collar down, then turn the triangular fabric to the rear of your outfit and drape it over your back. Military in origin and functional in nature, it connotes boy scouts and Popeye the Sailor Man, allowing you to be both boyish and manly at the same time. As an added benefit, you’ll look a bit like you tried to wear a superhero cape but didn’t have the guts to go all-out. I can’t say I’ve ever seen this one used to positive effect on the street, but if you want to give it a shot you have my blessing.


The Vaquero

neckerchief

Sam Elliot in The Quick and the Dead / HBO

The Vaquero is my personal favorite, as it’s adaptable, functional, and has the added benefit of being not immediately noticeable by plebs who would otherwise judge you on the street. Tie your bandana in a double square not, then turn it around so that the doubled triangle of fabric covers your neck. See? It’s like a bizarro Scout look, which makes it cool and dangerous and menacing. Also, it keeps your neck warm, which is nice. You can kind of turn this to the side so that it’s over your shoulder for a John Wayne look, if you so choose.

I find that this one lends itself to more entertaining fabric choices, as a silk neckerchief can be tucked jauntily into your shirt so that you look more like a character out of a breathy adventure-romance movie than a guy who has watched too many Westerns.


The Railroader

neckerchief

Photo: RRL

Ah, The Railroader; favorite of cuffed-jean wearing, bearded men everywhere. The bandana must be red paisley (or chambray/denim with a visible selvage line), and it must be rolled and then attached with a leather or silver neckerchief slide to keep the ends of the fabric bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. Or just roll up your bandana and tie it sort of loosely around your neck like a fabric necklace. This look is best accompanied with a heavy denim chore coat, heavy jeans, heavy boots, and heavy leather accessories. See where I’m going with this? Don’t even bother trying if your outfit weighs less than 50 pounds, because you’ll look like a poser. Also, if you embrace this one, you’re required to tuck your vintage white tee shirt into your jeans and talk endlessly about craft beer. Finish the look off with a giant hammer, and watch out for tunnels.

*Not to be confused with the “Gold Panner,” which is similar but requires accessorizing with a mule and fleas.*


This is, of course, just a taste of the many ways in which the neckerchief can be worn and loved. Many others exist – the Prince, the Kid Rock, and the Rosie the Riveter are all examples of other styles, and while I can’t personally recommend any of these, the beauty of the neckerchief is that you just tie it around your neck (or head, I guess) however you want and then do as you please. Best of luck on your journey, dear reader – and enjoy.

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Jasper Lipton

EIC at Styleforum
Jasper likes indigo, flight jackets, and boots - but he likes his dogs even more. He dreams of buried cities and the spaces between the stars.

Categories: Style, Style Guides

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1 reply »

  1. when I worked as a landscaper I wore bandanas around my neck both forwards and backwards. It kept the grass clippings, sawdust etc from going down my shirt and kept the sun off my neck better than any sunscreen, and could serve as an impromptu mask. With an arsenal of different colors and patterns it was also a cheap way to brighten up the usual t-shirt and carharts uniform, because laborers have style too.