In cold climates, a thick knitted scarf (sometimes known as a “muffler”), often made of wool, is tied around the neck to keep warm. This is usually accompanied by a heavy jacket or coat. Also, the scarf could be used to wrap around the face and ears for additional cover from the cold.
In drier, dustier warm climates, or in environments where there are many airborne contaminants, a thin headscarf, kerchief, or bandanna is often worn over the eyes and nose and mouth to keep the hair clean. Over time, this custom has evolved into a fashionable item in many cultures, particularly among women. The cravat, an ancestor of the necktie and bow tie, evolved from scarves of this sort in Croatia.
In India, woollen scarfs with Bandhani work use tie and dye technique used commonly in Bhuj and Mandvi of the Kutch District of Gujarat State.
Scarves that are used to cover the lower part of face are sometimes called a cowl. Scarves can be colloquially called a neck-wrap.
Scarfs can be tied in many ways including the pussy-cat bow, the square knot, the cowboy bib, the ascot knot, the loop, the necktie, and the gypsy kerchief. Scarfs can also be tied in various ways on the head.
In religious or cultural use
Silk scarves were used by pilots of early aircraft in order to keep oily smoke from the exhaust out of their mouths while flying. These were worn by pilots of closed cockpit aircraft to prevent neck chafing, especially by fighter pilots, who were constantly turning their heads from side to side watching for enemy aircraft. Today, military flight crews wear scarves imprinted with unit insignia and emblems not for functional reasons but instead for esprit-de-corps and heritage.
Members of the Scouting movement wear a scarf-like item called a neckerchief as part of their uniform, which is sometimes referred to as a scarf. In some Socialist countries Young pioneers wore a neckerchief called a red scarf.
Since at least the early 1900s, when the phenomenon began in Britain, coloured scarves have been traditional supporter wear for fans of association football teams across the world, even those in warmer climates. These scarves come in a wide variety of sizes and are made in a club’s particular colours and may contain the club crest, pictures of renowned players, and various slogans relating to the history of the club and its rivalry with others. At some clubs supporters will sometimes perform a ‘scarf wall’ in which all supporters in a section of the stadium will stretch out their scarves above their heads with both hands, creating an impressive ‘wall’ of colour.
This is usually accompanied by the singing of a club anthem such as “You’ll Never Walk Alone” at Liverpool F.C. or “Grazie Roma” at A.S. Roma. This was initially solely a British phenomenon, but has since spread to the rest of Europe, North and South America. Some clubs supporters will perform a scarf ‘twirl’ or ‘twirly’ in which a group of supporters hold the scarves above their heads with one hand, and twirl the scarf, creating a ‘blizzard’ of colour. This is usually accompanied by a club anthem such as “Hey Jude” at Heart of Midlothian F.C.
Scarf wearing is also a noted feature of support for Australian rules football clubs in the Australian Football League. The scarves are in the form of alternating bars of colour, usually with the team name or mascot written on each second bar.