Distinguishing Shawls & Scarves

Shawl vs Scarf

Both shawls and scarves are garments worn by women to cover their upper body and sometimes even their heads. These clothing items serve the same purposes in different cultures and are known by different names, such as stoles and wraps. Although they may appear similar, there are distinctions between a shawl and a scarf.


A shawl is a simple fabric that is loosely worn over the shoulders by both men and women, and is sometimes used to cover the head. The garment is typically made of a soft, long cloth that is mostly rectangular in shape. Kashmiri shawls, originating from the Indian state of Kashmir, are the most well-known and have gained popularity worldwide. Pashmina shawls from Kashmir are particularly favored for their softness and warmth, as they are made from goat wool. Jamavar shawls, featuring brocade patterns over the woolen fabric, are more ornamental. Shahtoosh shawls are considered the most expensive, as they are made using bird feathers. Although shawls were traditionally worn for comfort and warmth, they are now mostly worn for fashion purposes.


A scarf is a simple piece of clothing worn around the neck and shoulders for style and comfort. In some cultures, women also use scarves to wrap their head and upper body for religious reasons. The ancient city of Rome was where people first started using a soft cloth to wipe sweat and cover their faces. These scarves soon became a fashion statement for women and were made from a variety of fabrics, including cotton, silk, and wool. Wool scarves are popular in colder climates, while cotton scarves are preferred in dusty, warm locations.

The Hijab, worn by Muslim women around the world, is a type of head scarf. Sikhism, a religion in India, requires boys to wear a bandana to cover their hair before they transition to wearing turbans.

Key Takeaways

  • Shawls are long pieces of clothing worn to cover the upper body and sometimes the head, providing protection against the cold. Both men and women wear shawls, which are often made of wool and can be used for warmth, fashion, or religious purposes.
  • Scarves are soft, thin pieces of cloth mostly worn by women as a fashion statement, but were initially intended to cover the head and upper body. Scarves can be small and are also known as bandanas or headscarves.
  • The Hijab, a scarf worn by Muslim women to cover their faces, is an example of a religious headscarf.
Dmitri Ivanov
Dmitri Ivanovhttps://whats-different.com
Dmitri Ivanov, a writer and managing editor, was educated in Canada and holds a BS in Science. Dmitri loves doing research, writing, and teaching various courses.


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