The silk 90cm square was at its height of powerful allure in the 1950s, what was intended to be worn to shield a costly hair-do (either in time or money, or both) from the elements whilst outdoors, in an open-top car, whilst shooting, fishing or riding or in town out and about became the 'must-have' accessory of the era, whatever else a 'lady' wore. The large silk square, folded into a triangle and knotted under the chin was considered very grown-up and literally lady-like, aspiring to the traditional lifestyle of power, landowning and old money, an echo of what only very few had enjoyed pre-World War II. In reality very few women rode in open-top sports cars or astride horses for their morning exercise and were more likely to wear their precious scaves on annual trips to the seaside or waiting for the bus in-town.
Hermes' La Femme au Carre (Bali Barret) 2005
The traditional brace of pheasants and compass and other similar spoils of hunting scenes on scarves were common, as were every conceivable variation of horses and their tack and paraphernalia, historical costume and vintage automobiles. Mostly on a white background these icons of a bygone age were, perhaps in vain a nostalgic attempt to see pre-war days as settled and peaceful, a reassurance that things would go back to 'the way they were'. Counter to this, was the young youthful rebellion of rock 'n' rollers and beatniks who had no intention of settling down or doffing their caps respectfully (at least not for while). Though they didn't throw away the idea of the silk square completely but often wore it pocket sized around their necks like the cotton gavroche or neckerchief of the old fashioned working class (man). Their scarves were equally traditional in their way or very quirky and modern. In bright polka dots or festooned with cute cartoon dogs, they were tied them around their necks with casual irreverence. Either way the United States took inspiration from Europe, and in turn Hollywood popularised the look worldwide with its parade of beautiful young stars on set and off. Below, the young star Audrey Hepburn typifies the more 'grown-up' look while Natalie Wood, eleven years her junior, wears a chiffon version of the neckerchief. Elizabeth Taylor in a very similar scarf to Wood's, but tied around the head a la style Gypsy, adopting the hour-glass exotic siren look, another popular theme of the 1950s
Hermes had put its first in-house silk square into production 1937 with Hugo Gryghar's Jeu des Omnibus et Dames Blanches, setting the standard by which other silk scarves were measured by, then and since. The thick silk twill 90cm is not the only format made now, nor the only material, yet the original endures to this day as the most collectable and wearable. The established French leather goods house had introduced one of the centuries most enduring fashion accessory. Because of changing social patterns and what and who was deemed desirable, it did not necessarily translate through the decades, but someone somewhere was wearing a silk square, albeit in different ways. Some seemed to have been almost immune to fashion's whims and extremes. Here Princess Margret wears her scarf in the traditional manner on a country walk with her mother, father and sister in 1942, below her elder sister, Queen Elizabeth wears hers with her own family looking very coordinated as was the fashion during most of the 1960s and '70s, and lastly in the mid-1980s when classic-traditional dress again became king (or should that be queen?). The British Royal Family demonstrating their own determined faith and in continuum and tradition. The British monarch now more iconic wearing a silk square on her head than a crown.