With the weather changing and the cold snap fast approaching, you have probably starting to turn your attention to all things winter, from Christmas plans and festive adventures to your new seasonal clothing requirements. One of those requirements may be which scarf to choose to keep cosy and warm during the winter months. Naturally, we wanted to offer our community a complete and ultimate guide to cashmere and what makes these beautifully soft, elegant fabric scarves so well... luxurious!
In this post we will cover:
- What makes cashmere scarves so special?
- Why are cashmere scarves expensive?
- What to look for when buying a cashmere scarf
- How to style cashmere scarves
- How to care for cashmere to keep it soft and pristine
To view our full collection click here: Cashmere Scarf Collection.
WHAT MAKES CASHMERE SCARVES SO SPECIAL?
What are the unique ingredients that make cashmere so covetable and more expensive than wool and cotton? Well, the main factor is its source of animal hair. Cashmere belongs to a group of textile yarns known as ‘speciality hair fibres’ and comes from the Cashmere/Kashmir Goat. The goats take their name from their origin in the Himalayan region of Kashmir.
The species is found roaming the hilltops of Asia, namely Inner Mongolia, China, Iran, Iraq, Turkey and Afghanistan. The mere fact that it takes a single Kashmiri goat one year to produce enough cashmere for a scarf will give you an indication as to why cashmere products are more expensive than other natural fibres.
Where does the best cashmere come from? We go into more depth on quality below, but it’s commonly felt that the Inner Mongolia region has the best raw fibres, however, in general, the best cashmere comes from selecting only the longest and best fibres after harvesting, and that can be across many different Asian regions.
Cashmere fibres are longer, smoother and straighter than sheep’s wool, and are removed manually with a comb, starting from under the goat’s chin, then spun into a filament ready to be woven or knitted. In fact, so luxurious are the fibres of the Kashmir goat’s fleece that it’s alleged the Arc of the Covenant of the Old Testament was lined with it.
Kashmir goats thrive in conditions that are arid in summer and many degrees below freezing in winter (up to a shivering -45 degrees Celsius in fact), the perfect climatic conditions for the goats to grow their two coats: the outer which is hard and wiry, and the inner which is soft and luxurious. The remoteness of the raw material only adds to the mystique.
WHY ARE CASHMERE SCARVES SO EXPENSIVE?
Hopefully, by this point, you have started to see why cashmere, and specifically, the Kashmir goats unique living environments and raw materials make cashmere such a unique and sort after fibre. There is also the involvement of labour-intensive processes in the cultivation, processing, and gathering of the raw materials needed for making an 100% cashmere scarf.
The fine cashmere fibres are harvested when the goats begin to shed their winter coats in spring. But additionally there is a need to sort the fibres in order to remove the coarse fibres and provide the different levels of quality grading.
The quality grades of cashmere tend to vary depending on where the fibres were harvested from on the cashmere goat. The areas that yield the softest wool is the underbelly and throat. This means that cashmere scarves made from the fibres collected in these parts will be of premium quality.
Ultimately these manual processes and the quality of the cashmere will be reflected in the price of the fabric. But like all high quality clothing, a cashmere scarf is an investment that if maintained will last many years. The added benefit being that as your scarf ages it will get softer over time.
CASHMERE QUALITY GRADING
You can be rest assured that all our cashmere scarves are certified and made with only Grade A cashmere. This is the highest quality and richest cashmere available as the fibres will both be the longest and finest. The diameter of the fibres can be as low as 14-15.5 microns, with a length of 34- 36mm.
This will be thicker, and not as soft as Grade A, with a diameter of 19 microns. This is still considered a high-grade cashmere, but will be noticeably less valuable and durable compared to Grade A.
This is the lowest quality grade for cashmere, as the fibres are much thicker with a diameter of around 30 microns. This is much cheaper than the other grades, and will not have the very soft handle that most people associate with cashmere.
FIVE FASCINATING CASHMERE FACTS
• Cashmere goats live in only 12 countries around the world
• A typical Mongolian herder owns about 100 goats
• The diameter of a strand of cashmere yarn is under 19 microns (one sixteenth of the diameter of a human hair)
• Cashmere is eight times warmer than lambswool
• "English" and "Italian" cashmere is woven, not produced in the country
WHAT TO LOOK FOR WHEN SHOPPING FOR A CASHMERE SCARF?
When looking for your next cashmere purchase, it's essential to make sure you know what to look for. We have broken it down into three critical, simplified criteria below.
Cashmere should feel super soft to touch and not a little scratchy like you would expect with wool & merino wool scarves. Cashmere is known worldwide for the finest quality and softness used for its instantly recognisable finish, but please also bear in mind that premium quality cashmere such as our scarves will be soft, but not overly so, as it softens over time. Be wary though, if it feels too good to be true, it probably is. Some manufacturers add fabric softeners within the production cycle that will make it feel buttery soft right out of the box, but this unfortunately shortens the life of the fabric as it puts the fibres under undue stress.
Gently stretch a section of the cashmere and see how well it pings back into shape. Premium cashmere will; inferior cashmere won't. Then hold the cashmere up to the light and peer through it. For premium cashmere, you're looking for a tighter-knit weave. This is another factor in how well the garment will keep its shape in the long run.
Pilling can be an issue with much of the knitwear available on the market, and lower quality cashmere is no different. This is caused by an excess of shorter, as opposed to the premium longer hairs in the weave.
CHECK THE LABEL
When buying a cashmere scarf, the best option is always to opt for 100% pure cashmere. The next best option you can go for are scarves made of merino blends, but as suggested, these are mixtures of fibres and not wholly pure, so hence the cheaper price.
Ideally, though, we recommend avoiding anything acrylic-based, as this is an artificial fabric that is inexpensive to produce but does have a soft hand feel. Acrylic fabric lacks the breathability and temperature regulation properties that are present throughout natural cashmere, resulting in a poorer lifespan and recovery rate after use or washing.
HOW TO STYLE YOUR CASHMERE SCARF
The best thing about cashmere scarves are they they are easy to style have have multiple ways to wear. By far the most popular and one we see on a daily basis is to wear one nonchalantly across your shoulders with equal lengths on either side, referred to as The Drape - definitely a look that leans towards style over function though to keep you warm, but this should be fine on sunnier spring or autumnal days when your layers are unbuttoned.
However, when the thermometer starts to plummet, you’ll need to button up. This is when something like The Parisian Knot comes in to play as you can fasten it up closer to your chin and keep the draught out.
It also looks neat tucked inside your peace or overcoat jacket collar. Fold your scarf in half length-wise. Drape the scarf over your neck, and then bring the loose ends through the hole formed by the looped end and pull tight.
The Four in Hand is much the same as the popular tie knot. Much like its cousin The Parisian, it protects your neck from the elements in an equally stylish way. Fold the scarf in half length and width wise, and then drape it over your neck. Take one of the loose ends of the scarf and pull it through the loop formed by the folded end. Twist the loop, then pull the other end of the scarf through the loop to tie the knot. Continue to adjust the knot until it sits snugly under your chin.
HOW TO WEAR A CASHMERE SCARF WITH A JACKET
When the weather’s a little too warm for a wool overcoat or peacoat, we love the easy option to throw a scarf over top of a casual jacket like a blazer. But the rules are the opposite of a Parisian Knot. Instead of tucking the whole scarf into your jacket, you want to wrap it around your neck and let the “tail” hanging down in front, not unlike a tie.
As a rule of thumb, make sure the tail of the scarf falls no lower than your belt when it’s tied around your neck and preferably hits somewhere around the navel. If you don’t want to tie it, you can simply wrap the scarf one time around your neck and create a ‘snood’ like gathering and have either end of the scarf draping either side of your body, ideally the same lengths.
However, if you're feeling daring, a checked or patterned scarf can work really well with a patterned jacket if you have a plain coloured overcoat, over the top. This is because the overcoat takes up the majority of the visual area, so the patterned jacket and scarf effectively become accents to the overall outfit.
Our advice here is to play with your scales to add a point of difference, and colour hues should be complimentary families as not to clash too much, in the example below, camel and navy tartan works well together.
GUIDE TO WEARING CASHMERE GLOVES & HATS
Match all items together in solid colour
The simplest way to coordinate is to match the colour (pattern or solid) of all three Winter accessories. In some instances you can also match the fabrication if they are made from the same fabrics, as for example, our cashmere collection. Although perhaps the safest option, you can’t ever go wrong with a colour block choice for an easy, casual style.
Pairs two items together
This is a popular choice amongst our community. Match two of the three Winter accessories together, usually the hat and gloves. Matching the colour (solid or pattern) of your hat and glove is probably the easiest option. This is a slightly trickier option than the first one, because you need to ensure your third item (in this case a scarf) is complimentary in colour to the other two accessories. Ensure your base colour, the most dominate within the pattern will compliment your outfit.
Create a complimentary palette
The style with the most thought needed but the maximum results is wearing a hat, scarf and pair of gloves that aren’t a complete colour match, but instead complement each other and work well across your entire outfit, for example your coat. Ensure your colours and patterns are individually sartorial but also work together as a complete look by using the colour wheel.
HOW TO MAINTAIN YOUR CASHMERE SCARFOwning a little slice of cashmere luxury is one thing, but what's the best way to look after it? It's not recommended to wash a cashmere scarf until at least a dozen wears. Generally speaking, you should ignore what the label says. Because it's a delicate yarn, many cashmere items are marked 'Dry Clean Only.' As cashmere is derived from goats, whose fur, much like human hair, takes on a fluffier and more lustrous appearance after it's been washed. By contrast, dry cleaning will damage the fibres over time.
As a friendly word of warning, do not under any circumstance put your scarf in the washing machine unless you want a keyring-sized scarf to come out the other end... Always hand wash your cashmere in cold water for around 20-minutes using a very mild detergent. Cashmere is at its most vulnerable when the fibres are wet, so a degree of caution is required.
The downside is that wet cashmere can take days to dry out thoroughly, but if you stick to it, your patience will be rewarded. Do not attempt to wring out the cashmere; instead, press excess water gently out of your garment, place it on a dry towel and carefully roll it up. Once the towel has absorbed as much moisture as possible, shape the garment and lay it out flat.
Now that you have had the Rampley & Co complete guide cashmere, you should be ready to find your perfect match this winter. We opt for cashmere in the majority of our cold-weather accessories as the softness and warmth it provides is unparalleled, and once you start on your cashmere journey, you will quickly find it hard to go back to more traditional woollen products.
We would advocate that it's worth the investment for one or two key pieces of cashmere in your wardrobe; you will not be disappointed! In our opinion, we also think this makes it the perfect seasonal gift.
SHOP OUR EDIT: CASHMERE SCARF AW21 COLLECTION