Bandanas: The Perfect Choice for Casual Neckwear?

Add a dash of pizazz to your outfit with this.

While perhaps associated most strongly with an image of the Old West and silver screen cowboys like John Wayne, the bandana (or neckerchief, or kerchief, or neckerscarf, or…) makes a case – in my opinion – for a classy casual alternative to traditional neckwear.

In my mind, I see the bandana as a casual alternative to an ascot or cravat. While most men in Australia associate the cravat with former Masterchef judge Matt Preston and something that belongs with more formal, antiquated dress, a bandana is perfectly at home with a wide range of casual shirting.

Polos, tee shirts, oxfords, work shirts and so on are all great companions for the bandana.

Why wear one? Not only does it look good – and these days you’re really not running the risk of looking like donning a cowboy costume, especially if wearing one with something like a polo – it keeps the summer sun off your neck.

How I Wear Mine

I find myself reaching for a bandana primarily when I’m wearing polos.

I’ve come to especially enjoy combining the polo/bandana with a sport jacket and pocket square. To me, the polo and bandana is like a super casual replacement for a dress shirt and tie.

I also enjoy wearing one with a tee and casual jacket, like a denim jacket. It gives off a bit of a western/workwear vibe, but by switching things up and wearing pleated pants and something like a hat it becomes a more sartorial take on the style.

A good linen overshirt with pleated pants is a winning situation too. The pattern of the bandana brings a bit of spice into an otherwise colour blocked outfit.

Inspiration From Around the World

There are a few menswear guys who are regular wearers of these types of looks, and they do it in various levels of dress. It’s great to take inspiration from your fellow men, so I’ll share some of my favourite fits from around the world.

Erik Mannby – a source of style inspiration for many men worldwide – has, since the last Pitti Uomo, posted a couple of looks featuring wonderful casual neckwear in unique interpretations.

Despite both outfits featuring prominent western inspiration, the use of flat cap and cords in the first outfit and the use of a sartorial field jacket – plus wearing loafers in both instances – puts a decidedly modern and fun spin on things.

And the neckwear brings so much to the look. While both outfits would look fine with a plain open neck, the bandanas just elevate it. They do so without looking costume-y whatsoever, and that’s the kind of thing that has inspired my own gradually increasing use of bandanas.

Dennis Kleidsam is another menswear favourite of mine who does well in utilising casual neckwear to bring a bit of spark to an outfit. His neckerchiefs are often silk, and he tends to include his in more of a dressy way. It’s a great touch on every outfit he includes one in – his Instagram is certainly worth checking out.

Between Dennis and Erik, you can see just how versatile a casual approach to neckwear can be… and you’ll probably start asking yourself why more people don’t do it, since it looks so good.

And they’re not the only ones killing it.

I love this look from Ethan Newton of Bryceland’s:

I enjoy following his Insta. He’s always putting together unique and interesting outfits drawing from all kinds of influences, and it’s great to see a fellow Aussie making it in the international business.

Now it’s time to talk about some true blue Aussie gents whose casual neckwear looks are inspiration-worthy.

Melbourne based Jared Acquaro is often seen in outfits that draw inspiration from vintage, western and work wear in addition to classic suiting. Naturally, this means bandanas!

And of course, I can’t pass up the opportunity to mention my good friend Blake Canham-Bennett, the one who got me into wearing bandanas in the first place. He’s always wearing vintage and/or western inspired outfits, and is often sporting some casual neckwear to match:

Read more about Blake here.

A Fabric For Every Occasion

It’s important when purchasing neckwear to consider what fabric it’s made of, as there are various levels of quality and some fabrics are better suited to different levels of dress.

The majority of bandanas I see are made from cotton, which is a good choice for more casual outfits. Good quality cotton bandanas are usually somewhat breathable so they’re decent year-round options. I’m sure there are linen options out there too, and these would be best for summer.

If you want to sport a bandana in a more dressy manner, do as Dennis who is featured above – he often wears his neckerchiefs in silk.

Above all, I think it’s even more imperative here compared to other garments that you avoid synthetic materials like polyester and viscose. Polyester won’t breathe, and you don’t want that around your neck. Viscose is too weak, given the need to tie a bandana and that it sits on your neck. I’ve had a couple of cheap viscose bandanas from Zara before and neither have lasted more than a few wears.

Concluding Thoughts

The bandana is a fun way to spruce up an outfit and give it a dash of ruggedness. I like to think of it like a casual alternative to a necktie, and as you can see from the fit pics featured there are plenty of ways to dress up and down with one.

While you might be concerned that you could come across like wearing a John Wayne costume, the reality is that if you add a bandana to an outfit that doesn’t already look like it’s straight out of a western film, you won’t have an issue.

Give it a go! You just might like it.

Thanks for reading, and stay healthy.


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With content features ranging from appearances on popular menswear hubs (The Rake, StyleForum, Put This On) to French perfume newsletters and university course readings, Sam is a writer, designer and enthusiast in the fields of menswear and fragrance.

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