Difference Between Shawl and Scarf

Shawl vs Scarf

There are many garments worn by women to cover their upper body and sometimes even their heads. In different cultures, these garments are known by different names though they serve the same purposes. There are shawls, scarves, stoles, and wraps etc. that are used by ladies around the world. Despite ostensible similarities, there are differences between a shawl and a scarf that will be highlighted in this article.


Shawl is a clothing item that is a simple fabric loosely worn over the shoulders by both men and women. It is sometimes also used to cover the heads. It is a soft, long cloth that is mostly rectangular in shape. Kashmiri shawls are the most popular of shawls that originated in the Indian state of Kashmir and spread all over the world. Pashmina shawls from Kashmir are loved by people around the world for their softness and warmth. These shawls were made from the wool of the goat. Jamavar shawls are ornamental as they have brocade patterns made over the woolen fabric. Shahtoosh shawls are considered most expensive shawls as they are made using bird feathers.

Shawls in different cultures have traditionally been worn for comfort and warmth though today they are worn mostly for fashion purposes. While men wear coat suits for warmth when moving outdoors, shawls happen to be a good choice for womenfolk where jackets look inappropriate. Shawls can be short or long with long shawls allowing the user to cover the head too.


Scarf is a term that is used for a simple piece of clothing that is worn over neck and shoulders for style and comfort. In some cultures, women wrap their head and upper body with scarves for religious reasons too. It was the ancient city of Rome where people started to make use of a soft piece of cloth to wipe sweat and to cover their faces. These scarves were soon used by women too and became a fashion statement for women. The fabrics used for making these scarves were cotton, silk, and even wool. While wool is the material for scarves in cool climates, scarves made of cotton are preferred by women in places that are dusty and warm.

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

What is the difference between Shawl and Scarf?

• Shawl is a term that is used for a long piece of clothing worn to cover the upper body and sometimes even head as a protection against chill.

• Both men and women wear shawls though they are used more by women.

• Shawls are mostly made of wool and used for warmth though they can also be used to accentuate an outfit or for religious purposes during prayers.

• Scarf is a soft, thin piece of cloth that is used mostly by women as a fashion statement though it was earlier meant to cover head and upper body.

• In cold countries, scarves are made of wool, but in warm places, scarves are made of cotton to wipe sweat off faces.

• Scarves can be small too and also known as bandana or headscarves.

• Scarf worn by Muslim women to cover their faces is called Hijab.