Scarves 101: A Primer on 5 Basic Scarf Shapes

Scarves 101: a primer on 5 basic scarf shapes

Scarves have cemented their place as an essential accessory in modern fashion. You may not know that the cozy scarves we wear around our necks today have a rich history, dating all the way back to circa 3 BC. The first solid evidence of this neckwear comes from representations of the warriors who served under the reign of Emperor Qin Shi Huang in China. The buried Terra Cotta Warriors feature renderings of silk scarves which are knotted in various ways to identify the rank of each soldier. Women across the globe wear scarves as a way to stay warm while looking fashionable. More recently scarves are begin worn as a purely aesthetic accessory in the spring and summer. We’ve laid out the 5 basic scarf types in a quick guide below.

The Rectangle Scarf (a.k.a. Long Scarf or Oblong Scarf)

Scarves 101: Rectangle Scarf, Oblong, Long

Rectangle scarves, or long scarves, are the most common type of scarf. This style has an incredibly basic shape. It’s simply just one long piece of fabric in the shape of a rectangle. Some may feature tassels, poms, or fringe at the ends. The edges can be either hemmed, raw cut or trimmed. The length of a long scarf can range anywhere from 40 inches all the way to over 80 inches, though most tend to be around 50 to 65 inches long. From fast-fashion retailers like Forever 21 to high-end designers like Alexander McQueen, there’s a huge selection of different colors and patterns that will fit your unique personal style. The best thing about this type of scarf is that it is truly versatile in terms of tying and styling. Although the shape is originally meant to be looped around the neck a couple of times, women have found many new purposes for the rectangle scarf. You can transform the scarf into a virtually anything: a sarong, a shirt, a handbag, a belt, you name it!  No matter which design you opt for, the long scarf is a timeless shape that will be around for ages to come.

The Square Scarf & The Neckerchief

Scarves 101: Square Scarf

The square scarf is fashionable staple that adds a touch of classic charm to an ensemble. This type of scarf is available in a variety of materials, though it is most commonly made of silk. There is no standard size for square scarves; some can be as small as 16″ by 16″ while others can be large with dimensions of 60″ by 60″. The Hermès scarf is a classic example of a silk square scarf. This cult item is sought after by fashionistas everywhere for its chic and unique statement designs. The luxury square scarf has been well loved by style icons such as Kate Middleton, who wore it with a loose knot around her neck, and Audrey Hepburn, who opted to wear it as a head scarf to keep her hairstyle in tact when riding around in a car.  You can even tie this scarf around a purse handle for some extra flair. With the stamp of approval from Hollywood glamour and English royalty alike, there’s no question that you’ll look timelessly chic when wearing a square scarf.

Scarves 101: Neckerchief

Smaller versions of the square scarf (about 20″ by 20″ or smaller) are referred to as neckerchiefs. These small scarves can be styled to create a range of looks. Anything from a neat and sophisticated French-inspired ensemble or a straight up hipster look with a cool cotton bandana.


The Infinity Scarf

Scarves 101: Infinity Scarf, Circle Scarf, Loop Scarf

The infinity scarf, also known as the circle or loop scarf, is a contemporary shape that is super easy to wear. Like the name suggests, this scarf features a closed loop with no loose ends. With this shape, you don’t have to worry about fussing with uneven ends or snagging a tassel on your jacket zipper. These scarves come in a wide variety of fabrications; chunky knit circle scarves will keep you warm on a cold winter’s night while a cotton woven loop scarf is perfect for a breezy, springtime picnic. Although most infinity scarves are solid prints, you can also find them in beautiful patterns to instantly add a focal point to your outfit.

The Pashmina Wrap

Scarves 101: Pashmina Scarf, Wrap

Pashmina refers to a fine cashmere wool that is made from the coat of a Tibetan Chanthangi goat. These fibers must be collected by hand by brushing the underside of the goat. It is then carefully spun into threads and tightly woven into cloth. It is this artisanal quality that makes the Pashmina scarf such an elegant (and sometimes expensive) accessory. The shape of the pashmina wrap is almost always a long and wide rectangular scarf with long, twisted tassels on each end. This classic shape, coupled with its luxurious material, can give a touch of sophistication to any ensemble. Because of its width, a Pashmina can be worn as a shawl /wrap or as a scarf with lots of luxurious volume. Available in an array of solid colors and intricate patterns, the pashmina scarf will satisfy anyone’s craving for a posh new accessory. Due to the high price of authentic pashminas, you can find alternatives made of viscose or rayon that are inexpensive and nearly as soft. Although these imitations are not technically made of pashmina wool, they are still referred to as pashminas or “pashmina-style wraps.”


Now that you understand the basics on different scarf shapes, you can stock your closet with the scarf that best suits your style. Accessorize a casual day ensemble with an infinity scarf to look instantly bundled and trendy. Or add a pashmina scarf to an otherwise plain outfit for a touch of elegance. Next step in your scarf education: learn how to tie your scarf with these scarf knot tutorials!