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What is a Neckerchief?

Matthew F.
Matthew F.

A variation of the handkerchief, the neckerchief is most commonly known for its association with sailors and Scouts. It is a clothing accessory that is worn around the neck, and combines that look of a tie with that of a handkerchief. Though it comes in many variations and styles, this piece of neckwear can be as a simple as a scarf or set of scarves, and can be as complex as a specifically designed neckerchief with a “woggle" holding it in place.

Neckerchiefs are best known as the triangular scarves worn by seamen while on the ship, or as similar pieces worn by Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts with their uniforms. The pieces of neckwear can be worn with a variety of shirts and accessories, and can be tucked under a collar or worn around the neck without a collar.

Woman posing
Woman posing

In their incarnation as uniforms for Scouts and sailors, neckerchiefs are light pieces of cloth similar to a scarf that are used for their look. A light rectangular cloth is folded diagonally and then rolled from tip to tip. The two pointed ends of the rolled scarf then meet in front of the sailor or scout, with the closed end around the neck on the upper back. The ends of the neckerchief can then be tied with a slipknot or reef knot, so that two ends emerge, or can be fastened with a rubber band, leaving the two ends dangling down to the chest.

One common tool with sailors is a device known as a “woggle,” which is slid over the bottom of the handkerchief and used to secure the knot on the scarf. In the United States Navy, black neckerchiefs are worn under the collar for all male and female enlisted men and junior officers. In Souting, the neckerchief is part of the uniform as a practical tool in the wilderness. It is designed to be the perfect shape and size for bandaging a wound. Scout neckerchiefs are adorned with the color of the troop.

In other fashions, neckerchiefs can refer to scarves simply worn around the neck. Whether it is used to stay warm in the winter, as an accessory with an outfit, to hide the neck or as a replacement for a tie for a women’s business look, the neckerchief takes on various looks. While it is not officially considered a neckerchief if not tied correctly, scarves wrapped in a similar way are referred to as neckerchiefs nonetheless, and are common in Europe, especially on older women throughout the continent.

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