There is something so cheering about the first day you leave the house without a coat, but layer up with a cosy scarf in case.
Every year, like clockwork, my tolerance for wearing a coat runs out a few weeks before winter ends. The heavy schlump on my back that felt so cosy and reassuring six months ago begins to get on my nerves. Coats start to annoy me even when I’m not wearing one. Getting from my hallway to the kitchen makes me feel like Lucy pushing her way to Narnia, only with less fur and more North Face nylon.
The hero of spring layering for 2022 is – drumroll, please – the scarf. The proper knitted kind, rather than the cutesy silk type, is a fashion accessory as well as a practical one for the first time in ages. It is the star of a cult Instagram account called Parisiens in Paris, which posts photos snapped on the Métro, at the bakery, crossing the street. Parisiens in Paris is real street style, the way it was before it was cannibalised by overdressed influencers shivering on the Pont des Arts in borrowed gowns they’re paid to post about. It is a genuinely useful fashion resource, because it shows real-life humans, complete with bags and buggies, who look chic, for us to learn from.
And there is something so cheering about the first day you leave the house without a proper coat. It puts a smile on your face and a spring in your step – but not if you’re shivering by the time you get to work. So then, it’s time to address the crucial matter of spring layers.
Also, although Paris weather gets much better PR than London weather, the climate is essentially the same, so these people wear layers and umbrellas and scarves. Lots of scarves. In one photo, a woman wears a check coat and a beige beanie, with a thick charcoal scarf around her neck, and a vintage-looking suede saddle bag. Another sits at a pavement cafe with a leather bomber jacket and a fringed scarf, a glass of wine and a novel.
If the Hermès scarf is Ladies Who Lunch chic, the cosy woollen scarf is Pavement Cafe chic. And Pavement Cafe chic is about as #goals as it gets, both for the French Girl looks and the reading-a-book-with-a-glass-of-wine part. A scarf has always been a staple of real-life city chic. In the Sex and the City days, Carrie would sometimes wear a tartan scarf, tied just so and pinned in place with a cameo brooch. Fastening a scarf with a brooch is a red flag for me on a practical level, but I have to admit she looked kind of amazing. In And Just Like That, Carrie had a Gabriela Hearst rainbow-knit throw that she wore as a scarf and even took to hospital as a blanket.
The coat that I saw most on showgoers at recent fashion weeks was by Totême, and is really a knitted jacket with attached scarf. It’s gorgeous but expensive and also, at the time of writing, out of stock – but it proves that a sturdy knitted outer layer combined with a scarf is practical, chic spring layering. Think of it as a nu-wave twinset. Two knitted pieces that don’t have to match but work together. It could be a cable-knit sweater and a contrasting long, fringed scarf, or a crew-neck jumper with a mismatched oversize cardigan. Or perhaps all three together.
I know what you’re thinking, because I’m thinking it too. What if it rains? Then you’ll be sorry you flounced out of the house with no coat, you stroppy cow. The solution is a) a grownup baseball cap or b) a hoodie with a generous hood. Either of these, with a blazer, will see you right in a shower. You can forget your coat, if you remember to check your weather app. And wear a scarf, of course.