We have entered a truly fallen Fall. In this freshly dystopian season of drenched hems and tightened belts, where economic nimbostratus scud on our horizons pregnant with dread, and we all shrink from the hostile heavens with Chicken Licken looks, the perfect scarf should be a soft nursery noose of love.
Fashion is splashing after us hopefully in her jewelled McQueen flats, waving effete bits of fabric in a clumsy couture dance of the seven veils, but her flimsy offerings do not fit our current neckwear need for cheering, coddling comfort. As severely, regally reassuring as Dolce and Gabbana’s Balmoral-style headscarves may be, they have about as much genuine wearability as last year’s Prada turbans or those Balenciaga helmets from 2006. Anyway, these silken squares are strictly to be used as headgear; scarf style, they loose their irony and channel a cruise-goer’s anti-wattle wrap. And to those style slaves emulating Ewan McGregor rather than Mrs McGregor this autumn, we say: the ubiquity of the patterned, tasselled cotton ‘travellers’ scarf’ has definitely killed its cool. A proper Palestinian keffiyeh from the original Hewabi factory has undeniable aesthetic and political nous, but it has been so relentlessly appropriated and adapted by high fashion and low commerce that it now looks more Leona Lewis than Leila Khaled. It still works on the right person in the right place, but I suspect that person is not you. If it was, you’d be spurring a dish-faced pony through the desert with a belly full of vengeance and aruul, not browsing an esoteric column on your hotel WiFi with a belly full of mini bar cashews.
In conclusion, couture does not a great scarf make. Last year there was potential in Giles Deacon’s voluptuously oversized Borrower knits, but they threatened to pull an Isadora Duncan every time you wore them out. And when even the reliably inventive Marc Jacobs resorts to copying his neckwear from a dead Swedish petrol pumper, you know it’s time to return to your roots.
The true spirit of scarf resides in its name: that robust, Anglo-Saxon syllable with the gruff geographical taste. Like felt hats, galoshes and spats, the sublime scarf should be both ancient and childlike. So, scuffling in a favourite old suitcase – its stippled shell tacky with sticker glue, its sateen lining stained with old face cream – I truffled out the perfect scarf from layers of abandoned acrylic like a pig in a crisp-leaved wood. Scratchy and stiff, in gunmetal blue wool with a single stern grey stripe, my father’s school scarf foretells a half earnest, half escapist autumn full of roguish, faux-innocent fun.
It’s Just William, and it’s just right.