Why Did World War I Fighter Pilots Wear Long Silk Scarves and Where Did the Tradition Come From?

The dashing image of First World War fighter pilots wearing long silk scarves had nothing to do with fashion.

The open-cockpit biplanes were very primitive with no rear-view mirror, so the pilot depended entirely on his own vision to avoid or mount an attack.

The scarf was used to wipe grease from his goggles and to keep his neck from chafing against his collar as he constantly turned his head while watching for the enemy.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

3 thoughts on “Why Did World War I Fighter Pilots Wear Long Silk Scarves and Where Did the Tradition Come From?”

  1. For fighter pilots the white silk scarf was no mere affectation or fashion statement, but a serious life-saving measure of vital importance.

    As far back as World War 1, fighter pilots were well aware of the axiom that he who sees his opponent first has the advantage. Successful pilots were the ones who constantly scanned the horizon in all directions, turning their heads from one side to the other without letup. This inevitably produced uncomfortable chafing on the neck, which, if it caused a pilot to slacken his vigilance, could result in death.
    The solution was a soft silk scarf, which literally saved many pilots’ necks in both World Wars.

  2. Where did the term “I’m committed” come from? I know I’ve heard in movies pilots say this on takeoff?

  3. That is when plane gets to a speed that pilot has to take off or rotate called (V1). He can not reject take off (RTO).
    pilot

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