The suit is cleaned and hung, the shirt has been starched, the bow tie neatly laid on the dressing table; all of this perfection is reflected in the dazzling shine of the patent shoes. At this time of year, aside from an appropriate overcoat, there is one more accessory worthy of accompanying the classic evening dress (dinner suit/tuxedo – depending on your nationality) and surprisingly, this is an accessory which does not receive universal approval. For the wearer of the evening scarf is not always in company; even on bitterly cold nights, it is rare to see the stark splash of white or ivory, fluttering in the winter wind.
Perhaps it is because the silk scarf is considered effeminate, or perhaps it is that, aside from wearing with evening dress, a white silk scarf is unlikely to be used. Or perhaps it is that white is too impractical a colour for boozing bachelors; “One splash of port” coughs our hypothetical reveller “and it’s five quid at the dry cleaners.” This is certainly a consideration, although what our reveller was doing wearing the scarf when quaffing port – evidently well into the evenings entertainment – unless he happened to be outside is a mystery. It is true that those ill-used to the trappings of ‘black tie’ – unsure of how to tie bows, not in possession of patent shoes – are likely to avoid too much paraphernalia but on the other hand, should they adorn such items, they are loathe to part with them for the point of etiquette. The argument being that if they’re going to ‘spend that sort of money’ they’re not going to ‘leave the bally thing stuffed in a pocket.’ Scarves should really be left at the door with the overcoat and umbrella, but many choose to keep them draped over their shoulders theatrically; etiquette would suggest this is incorrect, but I have little issue with it. At least they are being worn.
Despite their decorative appearance, silk scarves can be effective in keeping you warm. Wrapped tightly around the neck, it is as efficient as wool whilst being as comfortingly soft as cashmere. It is also far smarter than both those materials. The shame of it, as previously mentioned, is that gentlemen of today generally feel that silk is too effete a material for a scarf. However, for those who consider themselves discerning, and brave enough, if you are reticent to purchase the ivory or white evening scarf, perhaps you will consider something that is useful in other ensembles; something appropriate for black tie, but also for less formal outfits: the patterned silk scarf.
Purists might sneer at the use of a patterned silk scarf at a black tie function but I believe they can add zest and spice to the monochrome simplicity. They also come in handy doubling up as an elaborate cravat-cum-neck warmer; the method is to tie once around the neck, create a single knot and then fold in place behind the shirt front. The other benefit, or annoyance (what you will), is that other halves are keen to borrow said scarves – as they are sufficiently elegant for feminine wear – when they are at a loose end for such an accessory.