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Updated: Sep 21, 2022

What used to be a stylish accessory worn only by royalty is now the soccer fan’s favorite article of clothing. As versatile as it is practical, the soccer scarf (and the sports scarf in general) has become a staple of ravenous stadium crowds across the world. The authenticity and popularity of the types of scarves IMS Industrial Machine Sales helps manufacturers sell is proven by how ubiquitous they’ve become at events on all continents. Backed by a versatile and technologically advanced knitting industry, scarves are everywhere these days. But how did it get to be this way?

Here’s a brief history of the soccer scarf as we know it.


Although the scarves of today are worn for fashionable decoration or to root for your favorite team, they actually started as a sort of sweat towel in Ancient Rome. Well-to-do Romans would wear a woolen scarf around their necks or tie it to their waste and use it to wipe the sweat off on hot days. Once only for men, women began to wear them not long after.

It was in Ancient China that their duty as a fashion accessory began to take hold. Chinese officers would wear them to identify rank. There’s no evidence to suggest that anyone wore colored scarves to support their favorite gladiator, but in hindsight that seems like a great idea!

Early 20th Century and Beyond

Scarf fashion remained stagnant for millennia until improvements in manufacturing began to change how they were bought and worn. Eventually, working-class people could afford them, and they began to show up at the place they frequented most: the football pitch!

As one fan of the time put it: “people didn’t wear bright colors. The only way to show your affiliation was with a scarf”. Actually, at first, fans used ribbons to support their clubs, but that soon changed. Scarves are said to owe their popularity to the fans need to keep warm in the dead of winter.

Clubs hadn’t yet started selling scarves with their logos, but the industry was driven by another scarf provider: mothers. One boy recalls his mother knitting him a blue and white scarf to support his team only to see his entire class show up with similar ones! Who needs a circular knitting machine when your mom can do it?


The present reality of sports scarves began in the 1970’s. At that time, clubs weren’t selling to fans. Everything went directly through a manufacturer. Modern developments in knitting technology increased the accessibility to the average fan and a shifting business model increased supply and demand throughout the world. By the 80’s, the craze had spread beyond British shores to the mainland and North America. The scarf was now synonymous with being a soccer fan. The first modern, screen-printed, jacquard and polyester scarves began to hit the market and drive the craze even further.

Today, you can see scarves everywhere from the professional soccer pitch to the corporate fundraiser and little league fields across the world. And to think, it all started with a boy’s mother knitting him a scarf for his favorite club!

The modern sports scarf industry is driven by advanced machinery capable of precision design. IMS Industrial Machine Sales takes pride in being the primary supplier of new electronic jacquard and used circular knitting machines for the sports scarf industry in North America. We are the exclusive agent for Opek, Inderle and Gorteks on the continent!

Contact us today for high-quality scarf knitting machines and expert service.


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