How to wear a shawl or stole

Monday, February 12th 2024
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A shawl (or stole) can be a really practical thing to wear. Simply hung round the neck, it’s a lovely layer of warmth down the front of the body and on the back of the neck. And when looped or tied, it’s also effective protection against the cold wind. 

I often wear them with my PS Donegal coats (above), as their length suits the long lines of that balmacaan style. But they can work with any type of coat, and are particularly useful when travelling, as we detailed in our recent article on Paris

Men sometimes find them difficult to wear, though, especially when they are required to wrap the thing. A shawl is quite bulky, and it can feel messy and difficult to control. 

(There’s an interesting side topic here actually, about the link between men that are into classic clothing are those that are naturally fussy, even obsessive. Waistcoats and ties and oxfords feel neat and controllable; shawls do not. A subject for another day perhaps.)  

In today’s piece, I’m going to quickly set out quickly how I wear a shawl, and suggest how it can be done with control and even nonchalance.

Most shawls are long enough to wrap around the neck and leave a good amount hanging either end. This old one from Begg & Co of mine does that, measuring 183x73cm. 

So start with the shawl hanging shorter on one side, as in the image above. What that length should be becomes quickly instinctive, but as with everything here, precision doesn’t matter that much. In fact it should be actively avoided. 

Then take the long end (that’s the end I’m holding - the photo is a little unclear) and wrap it loosely around the neck. 

Don’t do it too tightly - not as tight as you might wrap a regular scarf - as the thickness can make it uncomfortable, and again it could stop looking nice and loose and easy.

A good tip here is to hold the corner of the shawl as you wrap it, rather than the whole end. I’m demonstrating, or trying to demonstrate, this in the image above. It’s not helped by the fact that Lucas is laughing off camera, and I’m trying not to smile. 

Anyway, the point of this is that it makes the width of the shawl spread out across your back and the shoulders. The shawl is also not as thick, it covers more of the upper body, and it looks less considered. 

The biggest problem with shawls comes at this point, when you have two ends hanging down on the chest. They feel messy, out of control, and can easily get blown around. There is an urge to tie or otherwise secure them. 

The best solution with a coat is to push one of the ends inside the front, as I’m doing above. This keeps it under control and stops if flapping about. Note the fringe is showing because I’m holding only the corner. 

Then, I like to tuck the other end inside the front edge of the coat too, as shown above. Not pushing it, just lying it inside that front edge. It gives a modicum more control. 

You can try this once or twice in the mirror if you want but, when you’re out and about, resist the urge to play or adjust or even look in a car window. Just let it be. The danger of looking too neat is greater than looking too messy. Have a play, have fun, but do not fiddle. 

When I’m on the Tube, my shawl is normally hanging loose around my neck, coat open. Then when I emerge into the biting cold (or am going to emerge), one end is pulled longer, a corner held, the thing wrapped around and tucked. 

Easy, simple and (literally) without a second thought. I know you care (you're a PS reader after all), but try very much not to. 

I’ve included a few other images here of shawls other than the toffee-coloured Begg one. Begg does still sell that style, but not in the same colour unfortunately. 

My other favourites are from Loro Piana (back in the days when there were big discounts at Bicester Village) and from Anderson & Sheppard. They have a big range of larger scarves though again, unfortunately, not my bright orange one I’ve shown at the top and bottom of this post. They do have the cream above though, which is amazing, although being hand-woven is also proportionately expensive. 

I also wear larger silk/cashmere Hermes shawls in the same way too, like the one below. 

What’s the difference between a shawl, a scarf and a stole I hear you say? Well, shawls are usually heavier and often square (as those Hermes ones are). Stoles are large and rectangular, but also lighter in weight. Scarves are rectangular but can be many sizes. 

As with many things in clothing, there is no clean definition for my Begg one. It’s the weight of a scarf but the shape of a stole, and perhaps looks most like a shawl. It doesn’t matter as long as we all know what we mean. 

For details on the other clothes shown in the main images, see Paris article here

The top image is taken from this outfit shoot on the herringbone Donegal coat.

The Hermes scarf outfit is taken from this post on the brown Donegal coat

The bright orange scarf outfit is in this post on strong colours

The cream shawl outfit is featured in that article too, but morex details can be seen in this post on navy odd trousers.

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Lindsay McKee

I’m afraid that I’ll be going no bigger than The Arran Scarf and in a muted and modest colour.


Hi Simon,
Another useful article. In my case I’ve had one for quite a while, which doesn’t get worn very often, for the reasons (although I wasn’t so consciously aware of them, just felt uncomfortable) you state. I’ll give this a try. Another item not wasted. Thanks again

Peter Hall

I agree with those who think they can spoil the lines of classic men’s wear. I like a long scarf which hangs down. When they sit around the neck like an old rose they distract.


It depends on the weather, no? They’re never out of place when it’s cold outside or when you’re walking or cycling into the city centre. But then you’d typically pair it with a heavy loden or woollen overcoat as shown in the pictures above. I found the article informative, thank you 🙂


Silly question but for men are shawls advertised as shawls or scarves !? (Excuse my stupidity)

After the last time I raised a question about shawls, several articles ago , I did a search and found references to women’s shawls and nothing for men .

Might I suggest a PS shawl !?


How about a thin cotton or cotton silk linen one?


I think I wouldn’t just drape it around shoulders too, but folded in half and french loop, one I got from Zara was my favourite scarf for couple years. Pity it was such a low quality and I can’t find anything like this in nice colours anymore…..


On the contrary, a linen one would sit more subtly beneath the coat or sport coat and give a more reserved, masculine line to the outfit.


This is a matter of searching thrift stores and consignment shops for older versions rather than going with the modern lightweight scarves that have a crumpled wet rag look (if they’re linen, for instance).
Though, yes, I do have some heavy wool scarves that are pretty much the scarf version of a nice Aran sweater, densely hand knit with wool that appears unscoured. The real deal. But, I wear these only when it is super cold and windy out and so they are worn for practical reasons first and foremost… but, because I am a “clothes horse” like yourself and because I appreciate high quality, even my most practical clothing items are special and well considered.


You could look for Blanket scarves too Robin.. I have several, worn similar to Simon’s shawl, and they are ideal in wintry weather.


What are your thoughts on labels/tags on shawls/scarfs/stoles? I see you’ve left them in place on the Begg one above, but I worry (only very slightly, and only when I haven’t got anything better to do) that this can look a bit messy.


Hi Simon,

I found it really surprising just how much I liked the yellow scarf compared to others shown in the photos of this article.

I have a very old cashmere scarf bought years ago from Aquascutum of all places but it seems to be my default. It is 1.5m long by about 30cm wide which I’ve found perfect for leaving hung around the neck or wrapped around the neck. Doesn’t quite have the shawl effect.

I am in the market for a different colour and the tobacco/coffee colour from Begg looks mighty appealing. The main hold-back are the sizes from Begg, which are different and therefore the styling and how you wear the item.

I digressed quite a bit…the main reason for commenting was that it would be great to see your full collection of Hermes scarfs but more importantly how you choose the style/wear/tie them. I think that would be a great article.

Thanks as always.


Thanks for the advice on looking under women’s as well as men’s. You’re right there are sizes closer to the one I already own. The pity is that the solid colour I like (and mentioned above) is only in the men’s range. I might still try the larger size in men’s.


Very helpful article Simon!
Reading some of the other comments and how your first response to a thin cotton shawl is too feminine reminds me that I wear a gifted shawl just like that to much delight.
But my point in that being that lately I have found myself being drawn to a nice juxtaposition of feminine and masculine clothing items. Perhaps this could be an article – how to do this more often, to have fun with it!
For example, I recently got a pair of dark brown B&L Sagans (wow are they a great shoe). Maybe against popular onion, but the whole slipper aesthetic feels soft / rounded / feminine to me. Regardless, when I pair them with some washed out 90s black levis and a similarly masculine top, they strike an amazing balance! The guys at brycelands do this particularly well with their slippers as well.
Maybe an article to be commissioned if it’s not up your alley. What do you think?


Ten Hag is that you….Great article by way… they are another stylish way to accessorize, adds texture and personality to an outfit

J Crewless

A little too flamboyant for my taste.


Small but very noticeable issue with the look is that the sunglasses are too big for your face.


Hi Simon. This article got me looking back at old articles you have done on sunglasses. For those of us who have a habit of dropping their glasses or children who would cause them damage, I’d probably be interested in a less expensive pair.

is the quality of Raybans etc much of a muchness and therefore should the driver just be how they look in your face?


Again, not a fan of scarves or these uber-scarves, but the color combinations in the outfits, and the photos themselves are great little works of art.
Maybe contrary to the scarf/ stole concept, but I like the outfits where the scarf hides a bit and doesn’t shove the other clothing items aside, so to speak. So, not the sequence of five pics with the tan stole.
You’ve mentioned in past posts, Simon, that one should not wear just one special item and sort of ignore the rest of the outfit. I agree fully. What I see with these big flouncy scarves — though I realize you don’t intend it, and that your entire outfits are indeed well considered — is that scarves bully everything else aside.


To date I am unable to wrap a shawl around me, relying completely on my mother to do so when I am visiting. On my own, I tie an unelegant knot instead.

It is silly, but the weight lifting has made me quite bulky! Even shampooing is a tad difficult.

I will consult her on the articles accuracy 😉


Possibly providing another data point for your proposed link between an interest in classic clothing and fussiness by pointing this out, but “[t]he danger of looking too neat is great than looking too messy” should be “[t]he danger of looking too neat is greater than looking too messy”.


Hi Simon,
would you mind sharing the name of this silk-cashmere Hermès scarf? Colours are wonderful.
thank you in advance!


Hi Simon,
A great idea to highlight the importance of this accessory. What seems to have been lost nowadays is the mere fact that it instantly smartens up an outfit, even if the choice of its color isn’t of everyone’s taste.
Provided of course, that the worn coat is a proper one!

Ben Frankel

Enjoyed these thoughts ! Indian travel provided me a collection of shawls mainly in cashmere of various weights. I wear a shawl as Indian men do – covering the shoulders and thrown over one shoulder – dArtagnan musketeer style- your photos highlight a layered scarf – why not open up the cloth and adopt this more dashing less heavy style. – the recent Armani collection featured this classic way- and of course there are many other ways of wearing this useful and timeless accessory – day and evening.

Ben Frankel

Good to have dash! New French movie The Three Musketeers huge box office hit -in two parts. Current special shawl is purple – bought in Delhi from a specialist dealer whose sale patter was it was made for the Olympic Indian polo team!


A timely post, Simon. Nothing more comfortable and elegant than a regal shawl draping over one’s shoulders. Begg & Co ( make some of the best ones I have come across. Another recent find was the Exclusives collection from the Finnish brand Flâneri (; especially their Pashmina shawl. The traditional Himalayan motif embroidery is a sight to behold.
Anyway, would appreciate a post in the future on how to pair shawls with tailoring.


Great and very instructive post, thank you Simon!
One question: do you wear this kind of shawls with your ulster coats, live the Ciardi or the Liverano ones? I don’t remember seeing any picture of you wearing such combination and I was wondering why…


Nice to see the brown Donegal getting some love, it often seems the unloved stepchild of the family! I have a HUGE Begg scarf which I suppose is close to a shawl by those definitions. As you say, loose and almost untidy is key or it just looks wrong.


Arrived at this blog via a post I saw on my instagram explore page. Your posts are very informative and I admire that you haven’t hidden from any of the criticism in the comment section of each post. I will say though, that although the information is good and it is clear you know a lot about the industry, it is hard to describe you as ‘stylish’. Knowing a lot about style and being stylish are two very different things. There must be a reason that you are not on the frequently published best dressed lists or appear in any fashion media outside of the echo chamber of bespoke menswear. It would make sense for a ‘style icon’ to be on Vogue best dressed lists, front row at major fashion shows, rubbing shoulders with industry luminaries etc. It seems more like the company you keep are those that have a sort of symbiotic relationship with you – small independent makers that need the visibility of your blog to promote themselves. I guess my question is, do you see how conflicting it is for the reader to witness someone dress so poorly in spite of having all the available resources. Because a lot of these outfits you put together, are quite frankly, pretty awful. But the knowledge part I don’t think anyone can fault you on.

Bryan H


I think you’ll find that Permanent Style is a really informative and helpful site to visit often. Whether you enjoy each style/look or not, there are always interesting discussions below the articles.
True, it exists in a little niche bubble of the internet but Simon’s interests (and the readers) are far deeper than cliche Top Ten lists and Conde Nast-type media.
Heavy on the style, light on “fashion”.

Hope you return often.


Hi! A question a little off topic; PIACENZA, is this brand good quality? Where does it measure up compared to begg and others covered on this site? I can’t find any information about them.


Thank you so much!


Hi Simon,

I am thinking of getting a brown and charcoal check cashmere scarf from Anderson & Sheppard as a birthday gift for my husband (here is the link for it on their website –, and just wanted to ask you whether this could be worn with both smart and casual outfits? My husband mostly wears dark brown/olive, navy and greys. They say the colours are brown and charcoal but in real life the brown looks slightly more reddish and the charcoal more blueish (I have attached a photo). I would really appreciate your advice on it!

Many thanks,