Stick Your Neck Out

The long-awaited farewell to Winter may mean parting ways with our hats, gloves and scarves for yet another season, however neckwear is here to stay this Spring in the shape of the versatile cotton square. The handkerchief is understood to have been invented by Richard II of England in the fourteenth century and has since successfully transcended styles over the centuries. Most notably worn by labourers and revolutionaries throughout history for its utility and symbolism respectively, the revival for Americana in the late-twentieth century parodied its cowboy and rebel culture heritage and was subsequently adopted by a new generation of subcultures. Originating from the Hindi word bandhana, meaning ‘to tie’, the cotton square continues to be manufactured in 100% cotton and decorated using a variety of traditional printing processes. From screen print to discharge and fast colour techniques, the trusty handkerchief, neckerchief or bandana balances beauty and design detail with practicality. 
100% cotton squares – clockwise from top:
Labour And WaitUNIQLO SPRZ NY X Keith Haring, Barbour and Hilditch & Key 

I have been collecting bandanas for many years. There is something so understated and poetic-like about its construct – its often complex design only fully revealed when unfolded – giving great satisfaction to its wearer. They are my souvenirs on my travels – a few of my favourite global pit stops are the Roman institution for vintage Omero e Cecilia; RRL's metropolitan ranch on Bleeker Street, New York; American Rag in Los Angeles and Daikanyama emporium Okura in Tokyo. 
Franklin Bandana - RRL
Prices vary from dollar store to designer creations. The market for original vintage squares is driven predominantly by Japan who have an affinity with the patterns and symbols similar to their own shibui aesthetic. Rare commemorative or political layouts incorporating stylised narratives surrounded by paisley or polka dot motifs are highly sought-after and feature in the pages of men’s lifestyle periodicals such as Free & Easy, for the discerning gentleman. 
Semper Fidelis, 2010 - Jonathan Velardi
My personal fascination with the history behind the accessory led me to design and print my own bandanas as contemporary artworks (Devon’s Political Archive Inspires Devon, BBC 2011) using the customary visual codes and allegory to create new contemporary dialogue.
Louis Vuitton Menswear SS14
For Spring/Summer 2014, Louis Vuitton and Saint Laurent showcased the menswear accessory of the season. Kim Jones for Louis Vuitton incorporated the luxury label’s iconic flower emblems into decorative bandanas. Worn as loose cravats, they deformalised the suits and business wear that they had been paired with down the runway. The theme continued with patchwork paisley packing a punch, emblazoned on oversized shirting. At Saint Laurent, Hedi Slimane’s rockabilly-inspired collection presented a more familiar image of cardinal red squares in cashmere and silk-blend, tri-folded around the neck in bandit fashion topped with slick, pomade hairstyles. 
Saint Laurent Menswear SS14
Indigo also meets the cotton square at the trend junction this season. From tones of raw serge de Nîmes to electric International Klein Blue, there is a shade for just about anyone on the indigo spectrum. 
Basket Pattern Bandana - Okura
Accent indigo or denim workwear with examples of my classic spot squares in fresh hues of green and blue (top). Channel countryside dandyism with spotted compositions by Labour And Wait, Barbour and Hilditch & Key in timeless primary colours. For a more contemporary take UNIQLO’s latest artistic collaboration with MoMA for its SPRZ NY capsule collection includes trademark designs from the art foundations of Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith HaringDrake's of London produce a range of modern and eccentric interpretations in multiple colourways - I particularly like this graduated spot print (below). Twist or tie the square around the neck or pop into a breast pocket for an effortless look.
Graduated Spot Print Pocket Square - Drake's of London
With Burberry Prorsum following the trend for neckwear in their Autumn/Winter 2014 collection – introducing a more loose style with large silk squares, worn nonchalantly on necks and shoulders - the neckerchief is very much here to stay. Square up to style and stick your neck out.

American Rag
150 South La Brea Avenue
90036 Los Angeles, CA 

Omero e Cecilia
Via del Governo Vecchio 110
00186 Rome

20-11 Sarugaku-cho Shibuya-ku
150-0033 Tokyo

381 Bleeker Street
10014 New York

Discover more about the design process behind my bandana artwork Semper Fidelis, commissioned by Devon County Council and Double Elephant Print Workshop in this series of related blog posts and read its full press release here

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Runway images courtesy of STYLE.com