In this installment of our Is It Worth It? review series, we take a closer look at the iconic mens scarf from Burberry (in their trademark check and made with 100% cashmere) and find out whether its worth the hefty price tag.
A Brief History of Burberry
Burberry was established by its namesake, Thomas Burberry, in 1856 with a simple mission: to protect people from British weather. A few years later in 1879, Burberry developed gabardine fabric which, at the time, was a breakthrough in terms of weatherproofing fabric. Gabardine cotton is a traditional fabric used even in trench coats today, and Burberry is closely associated with the trench coat.
In the 1920s, for the first time, Burberry trademarked their signature checked lining. Many call it Nova Check, though Burberry themselves call it Vintage Check today. Basically, its a traditional checked pattern with a beige or camel-colored background and black-and-white plaid on top, as well as a red windowpane. Today, Burberry calls the base color archive beige. Just like many other heritage brands, Burberry has moved away from offering functional items and toward being a high-fashion brand. Because of that, Burberry uses their trademark check for branding all over the place. They also have an interlocking B branding, but its far less iconic than the Nova Check.
In my opinion, most of Burberrys fashion-forward clothing and accessory lines today are a far cry from their elegant past. Nevertheless, the Burberry check is still synonymous with Burberry as a brand. Today, you can find this check plastered all over sneakers, handbags, scarves, and even overcoats. In fact, you can even find shirts, wallets, and shorts in Nova Check plaid. While the Burberry check used to be a hidden detail on the inside that wasnt visible to the wearer, its now on the outside and its screams to everyone Look at me, I can afford this. That being said, the classic Burberry scarf with a Nova Check is one item that could still be worth having in your wardrobe, because it has such an iconic design on a small, quality item.
The Burberry Check Scarf
As we always do, we wanted to buy the most iconic and traditional version of the scarfthat meant a classic pattern in their archive beige color-way. As it turns out, what Burberry calls the classic check is, in fact, an oversized check that comes in 33 different color-ways. What we wanted, though, was something more appropriate for gentlemen; this was the classic vintage check. Unfortunately, that one only comes in nine color-ways, not including the archive beige. We picked a scarf that was as close to that color as possible, which is called antique yellow.
In my mind, both background colors are camel colors. Frankly, I was surprised I couldnt find the original-scale scarf in the traditional color scheme, but that just shows to me that Burberry doesnt care all that much about their heritage anymore. Honestly, a glimpse through the mens cashmere scarf section on the Burberry website confirms that; there are a lot of designs out there, not much classic stuff. Burberry offers a range of different scarf materials, and we went with the king of scarf materials, cashmere. On the website, it retails for $470. We got ours at Bloomingdales, which is an official retailer of Burberry scarves, for $430.
These days, Burberry scarves are heavily faked; because of that, you can find a lot of tags in the scarf. Theres one regular tag, two care tags, and one hand tag. Fake Burberry products often have issues with the detailsmaybe the R on the tag is not quite like the one on the original, or theres no serial number. On this original Burberry scarf, you have the little hang tags and you can see that Burberry bears the Royal Warrant of Queen Elizabeth II, as well as Prince Charles.
While going through their product description on the website, unsurprisingly, Burberry provides very little detail about the scarf. We learned that its 168 centimeters by 30 centimeters, which is 66.1 inches by 11.8 inches wide. Frankly, for men, that is quite short, especially if you want to wear it as a sling around your neck. In terms of weight, theres no information but we weighed the scarf and it just comes in under 150 grams, which is about 5.25 ounces. It says the scarf is made of 100% cashmere, but as we learned in our Cashmere Explained guide, not all cashmere is alike.
Where Its Made
If you dig through their FAQ, youll learn that theyre made in Scotland at two historic mills, one in Elgin and one in Ayr. Unfortunately, Burberry doesnt tell you exactly what manufacturer makes each scarf, but if you dig a little deeper, youll find that in Elgin, there is a manufacturer called Johnstons of Elgin. I watched one of Burberrys videos which describes how their scarves are made, and the Johnstons of Elgin factory is depicted. On the other hand, in the Scottish Ayr, theres a company by the name of Begg & Co which also produces high quality cashmere scarves. My guess is that Begg and Johnstons of Elgin are the two producers for Burberry scarves.
Both producers have been making and weaving cashmere for over 150 years, and theyre known for their high quality. Because of the reputation, theyre likely also more concerned about the quality they put out. Frankly, I was a bit surprised to read on the Burberry website that the scarf was treated with teasels to create that soft finish known from a good cashmere scarf. You can see it utilized in their video, and thats certainly an added production step that is more expensive. That being said, Johnstons of Elgin and Begg both use teasels in their finishing process. Unfortunately, what they dont share in that Burberry video is the origin of the cashmere, the quality of it, the staple length, or the thickness.
These days, all high-quality raw cashmere has its origins in Mongolia and China. Begg claims to utilize cashmere that has a thickness of 15-16.5 microns but doesnt mention anything about the staple length. Johnstons of Elgin neither mentions the thickness of the material nor the staple length on their website. So what does good quality cashmere look like? In a nutshell, a quality woven cashmere scarf should not be stretchy; once you pull it in another direction, it should spring back into shape. Also, higher-quality cashmere usually comes in a tighter weave. That being said, if were testing the Burberry scarf for those two things, it passes with honors. Its a very densely woven cashmere, it springs back into its original shape.
Burberry vs. Fort Belvedere
With a retail price of $470, how does the Burberry scarf stack up compared to other cashmere scarves on the market? Lets take a look at this Fort Belvedere cashmere scarf, which retails for $195. It comes in a range of classic patterns, or solids without any bold logos or branding. Just like the Burberry scarves, Fort Belvedere uses the finest Mongolian and Chinese cashmere. The cashmere runs anywhere from 15-16.5 microns thick, which is just as thin as what Begg uses. We also use long cashmere fibers that are between 35-50 millimeters long. The cashmere yarn is woven into scarves in Germany, rather than in Asia.
The weight of a Fort Belvedere scarf is about 120 grams (which is just about 4.25 ounces), so its about 30 grams or an ounce less. Its also finished with natural teasels to create that soft nap. In terms of dimensions, its also 30 centimeters (about 12 inches) wide, but its a full 6 inches longer, measuring in at 180 centimeters. For men, I find that length to be perfect; we tested many sizes and we finally settled on this length, simply because it is fine if you wear it in various styles.
Feel of the Scarves
Frankly, I think the Burberry scarf is woven a little more densely. At the same time, the Fort Belvedere scarf feels a lot softer to the touch. The Fort Belvedere model has a more extended nap, and I like the feeling of it on my skin more. A Fort Belvedere scarf is obviously 20% lighter but the retail price is also 59% lower. If you compare weight to weight, the Fort Belvedere scarves cost about half of what Burberrys cost.
Is the Burberry Scarf Worth It?
First of all, I think scarves are fantastic products for cashmere because thats where you both need the warmth and enjoy the softness. Unlike a cashmere sweater, you dont really have to worry about friction and pilling because you just dont get that when you wear it around your neck. For $470, you get a high-quality cashmere product, made in Scotland at a high level, with lots of hand labor involved. It will likely last for years to come and if you consider the cost per wear, its economical. If, for some reason, you dont like it anymore, chances are that you can resell your Burberry cashmere scarf for a much higher value than regular cashmere scarves in the market.
That being said, there are lots of fakes out there, and people might think youre selling them a fake unless you have the original purchase receipt and all the tags still onbut when wearing it, I dont like having these big tags on my scarf. So if you want to take them off, maybe take a video of them, in case you ever want to sell the scarf. Even though the quality of the cashmere is extremely high, I really dislike the dimensions; 160 centimeters or just 66.1 inches are simply too short in my book.
I still find this classic vintage pattern attractive, even though it has been so heavily utilized by Burberry. If you dont like this color-way, Burberry has 8 other ones, and you can even get your initials embroidered onto your scarf. Personally, I think a classic herringbone pattern is better suited for a classic mens wardrobe than this Burberry check, though, because its almost like a brand namelike a big H from Hermes or a Gucci belt that just screams, Look at me, I can afford this expensive product.
However, if you like the pattern of a Burberry scarf, I think the scarf can be worth it. Youre getting, after all, a high quality product. Also, if you dont mind paying twice as much to comparable cashmere scarves and you really want that Burberry feeling, then it can be worth it for you. In my personal opinion, the shortness of the scarf is a deal-breaker, and therefore not worth it for me. If you dont care about that, I think it can be a viable option if youre prepared to pay $470 for it.