post February 2006 update October 2008

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It"sprobablyone that the much more cliche"d items about open-cockpit flying. Friend tell folks you own an open-cockpit airplane, and also they ask, "Do you have actually a silk scarf?"

Well...do you?

I"ll admit, the outright classic nature of it is one large reason ns wear one. But, you know, they"re an ext than simply a fashion accessory.

This was brought out to me just last spring. I"d lugged my white silk scarf house to to wash it, and also had hung the on the shower rod to dried (high sufficient that the wife"s cat can"t reach it, thankyew very much).

The previously mentioned wife happened to take it a look at it. "Looks choose it"s time girlfriend bought another one," she said.

I hemmed and hawed. "Yeah, it"s not really whitening up, however they"re an alleged to look a little bit grimy..."

She shook her head. "No, this one is worn out. Look in ~ the holes!"

Sure enough, she was right. After two decades of use, I had a variety of thin point out in mine silk scarf, and also a pair of spots wherein it had been worn right through.

Pure fashion sense didn"t placed so countless flight hrs on the scarf that i wore it out. Over the years, i have involved recognize it together a essential item the my flight gear. Why?

A bit of History

To discover the answer, let"s turn ago 90 years ago. Why walk aviators start wearing silk scarves?

One basic reason: The planes to be wide-open, cold winds have actually a tendency to blow under the neck the pilots" coats. They had actually two basic choices: wear a coat with a high, close-fitting collar, or use a little of cloth to plug the gap...e.g., a scarf.

But there"s a problem with the high-fitting collar. A chop collar restricts the movement of the neck...makes it harder come look around, to spot the wily Hun. What"s more, wool, linen, cotton, or leather often tends to chafe the tender skin about the neck.

So a scarf makes much more sense. However a traditional woolen scarf isn"t much of one advantage. The scarf needs to be a soft, however tight-weave cloth that slips smoothly by the skin while still barring entry to the cold winds.

Nowadays there are probably dozens of miracle fabrics that fit the bill. But to the early aviator, over there was just one: silk.

A silk scarf is a perfect companion to the classic leather paris jacket. The inside of the jacket collar is commonly a little rough, yet wrapping a scarf approximately your neck fixes that difficulty nicely.

I"m not sure where the tradition comes of a white scarf comes in. It appears to it is in the shade of the military Air Force"s problems scarves during WWII, but it seemed to have actually been common before that, too. It might be the the water of the day tended to run and rub off against the clothing and skin, and bleached white silk didn"t have that problem. One human being has said that parachute silk was used, which wasn"t dyed.

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It might, too, be related to the claim that pilots supplied the scarves to clean the oil off your goggles if flying. A white scarf would certainly make sense, in that case, as you might ensure that you used a clean clues on the scarf fairly than a part carrying dust or oil.

However, I review one ide that yes, really rings true: The early aviators wore what were called opera scarves.

Imagine going out for a night of formal entertainment (such together an opera) in 1910. You"ll don "Evening Wear," which today we might speak to "Black Tie" or a Tuxedo. Black pants, white waistcoat, black color coat with tails, white or black bow tie. But it"s a cold, merganser winter night, and the car/coach you"ll it is in riding to the event won"t have a heater. Therefore you"ll placed on a peak coat of the very same quality and also style together your evening wear, and top that off through a an intricate top hat.

But the topcoat doesn"t switch all they way to the top, so your neck will acquire cold.

Hmmmm...what you require is a scarf. And also since you"re dressed in white and also black, the scarf better be white, too. The photo above mirrors Ralph Bellamy in the 1937 movie "The dreadful Truth," attract an opera scarf the looks bland close come the standard aviator scarf.

It really provides sense. Beforehand aviation wasn"t cheap, and also a variety of the at an early stage aviators were affluent guys who to be accustomed come formal wear, and also would likely have owned a variety of opera scarves. Seems like it would be pretty organic to seize one to walk flying, if one"s neck were obtaining cold or chafed. And also even the non-rich aviators would discover that any men"s apparel store offered "opera scarves" which were perfect because that flying.

The Spaulding agency sold aviator"s garments in the short article WW-I period, Schiffer posting sells a reproduction that the company"s catalog. In it, you"ll uncover leather jackets, lengthy leather coats, canvas one-piece flight suits, leather helmets, gloves, goggles, boots, shoes, parachutes, also waders.

But girlfriend don"t watch scarves. It might be the the price earlier then was so low the it wasn"t precious Spaulding"s while come package and ship them. Or... Castle knew it was something anyone might buy in ~ the local haberdashery.

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Color Variations

However, it must be provided that aviator scarves weren"t solely white. In the movie "The Blue Max," George Peppard even wears a black color scarf. Actually, it looks two-sided...one side black, the various other a kind of dark gray with a dot pattern on it. It might have represented a two-part scarf; a silk lining because that a heavier-fabric outer component for extr warmth.

Interestingly, the poster because that the movie mirrors Peppard through a RED scarf...and a frayed one at that!

And the looks like Bob Grimstead keeps that red-scarf heritage with his "Bristol Balderdash" paris Baby. Interesting way enough, as soon as an aviation-collectables agency named the merchant of Glenorchy turn Bob"s photo right into an art deco poster (with Bob"s permission), they turned the scarf white....pretty lot reflecting the current style.

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Overthe years, I"ve viewed any number of colors, including some that were printed in patterns. Ns watched the cringe-inducing movie, "A Yank in the RAF" recently, and also the location character (Tyrone Power) wore some type of monster paisley scarf. Logo scarves it seems ~ big, now.

Recently, I discovered a web page that pointed out that blue scarves with small white polka dots were well-known with RAF pilots throughout WWII. Interesting enough news, yet the page then stated that this scarves to be still come be found in western-wear stores! I uncovered one displayed on the "WildWest Mercantile" net page, and it to be instantly familiar. The big drawback is the the cowboy scarf is a large square 35" every side... No suited to the really standard look through the long tails hanging free. However, appears to me the if you node the scarf choose a bandana and put the knot in the BACK, it must look about right, if you"re wearing a coat.

J. Peterman currently sells a replica RAF scarf. It"s a little bit pricy in ~ $150, but if you watch the site, they sometimes have actually a half-price discount. My wife bought me one a couple of years back, and it"s nice nice. It"s my key scarf now, when the weather transforms colder.

Buying your Scarf

Basically, you want to to buy a six-foot silk scarf.

Why 6 feet? due to the fact that you are going to tie it roughly your neck, and wrapping it about your neck and also getting that secured will take a significant length the that.

Fortunately, there are a variety of aviation outlets the sell standard white aviator scarves. Commonly as new items...but the high quality seems nice good. Prices typicall run around $30. However, one online firm named major Surplus and Survival sell one because that $10.My wife claims it"s no as nicely made as the $30 scarves, and it"s single-ply fairly than the more standard two-layer ones. Yet I purchase a couple, and I think they"re just fine. I have the right to use my two-ply scarves because that cold weather.

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Wearingthe Scarf

I recognize what you"re thinking. You"re going to take a rapid turn that the scarf roughly your neck, and also let the finish trail in the breeze behind the cockpit.

One large problem v that: due to the slipstream gift deflected by the windshield, the Fly baby cockpit is a low pressure area. The wind access time the windshield and gets deflected upwards then rolls under. Thus, the usual airflow previous the pilot"s head is FORWARD. Ago when ns wore noodle balls as temporary ear plugs, they"d occasionally come free. I"d check out them walk forward, climate up till they hit the main slipstream.

Your scarf will perform the same thing, too, if you"re no careful...as this photo of Bob Grimstead illustrates. Yes, the red thing in former of his chest is his scarf.

If you want the classic look of a scarf fluttering in the breeze, it"s easy enough: simply buy a second scarf and attach it come the aircraft"s headrest. That"ll put most of that is weight outside the rough area.

So, what perform you do with the scarf the you"re wearing?

Scarf Knots

The an easy thing: friend *must* secure the loose ends the the scarf. The cockpit turbulence WILL traction them upward and also forward. If the ends or the knot space loose, the scarf will billow up in prior of her face.

There room two straightforward knots you have the right to use. I usage the standard square knot. I start with the scarf in former of my neck, take it both ends fully around, then knot them in front and stuff the loosened ends under under mine shirt. The end aren"t very long, so even if castle come loose, they don"t usually reason a problem. Gift so short, lock can"t really get grabbed that solid by the wind. Ns zip the jacket up nearly all the way, too.

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The 2nd knot is something I contact the "Hollywood Knot" It"s not really design for open up cockpits, yet gives a devil-may-care watch under the leather jacket.

The biggest difficulty with the Hollywood node is that the scarf ends room unsecured. Uneven you make an initiative to secure those ends, the scarf will billow in front of your face while girlfriend fly.

But, hey...it go look good, don"t it?

The art of tie the Hollywood Knot has been lost for generations, however I think I have actually rediscovered it. It"s usually a modified variation of the traditional double-Winsor knot, v the exception that the horizontal happen of the long end is left out.

Basically, you collection up through one cost-free end of the scarf really long, and the other very short. Cross the long end over the brief end, bring it up the middle, take it to the side it originally came from, then ago underneath again. Tighten the knot, then manually spread the top layer out.

I"ve included a visual guide to the finish of this net page.

The optimal layer is basically loose. If you put on a jacket, it will naturally form the billowy "V" shape approximately your neck. There is no a jacket, the end hangs dashingly free.

Wrapping up (No pun intended)

The silk scarf is a surprisingly advantageous accessory, for Fly baby pilots. For something that expenses so little, it gives a surprising amount that comfort. Ns recommend them highly.

If you wear one if flying, though, make certain the ends room secure.

Finally, be advised: Hollywood node is a fearsome weapon, specifically coupled with a dazzling smile. Usage it responsibly.

Comments? contact Ron Wanttaja .

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Return to The Stories page

Ron"s guide to the Hollywood knot This gives a step-by-step illustration of exactly how to tie the Hollywood Knot. The is done together if you space looking in the mirror.

One addition, suggested by a friend"s talk v a WWII aviator: If your scarf is lengthy enough, take it a wrap fully around your neck before starting with action 1.


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In other words, host the middle of the scarf in prior of your neck, climate wrap both ends around until castle come out as displayed in step 1.