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Facts About Headscarves, Headwraps and Bandanas We Bet You Didn’t Know

Being obsessed with all kinds of headscarves, you’d think we’d know everything about them. Turns out we didn’t -- and we bet you don't either. Here are some facts we found about head coverings that we thought were super interesting!

Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay


Headscarves have a complicated history. “Since ancient times, across so many cultures and for myriad reasons, women have covered their hair — an act tied up in competing notions of freedom and oppression.”


The word “bandana” comes from a Hindi word bāṅdhnū, which means “to tie.”

The origination of bandanas goes back far as the late 17th century in South Asia and the Middle East.

Bandanas arrived in the U.S. in 1776, thanks to Martha Washington. Despite Britain’s ban on textile printing at the time, she asked a friend of Ben Franklin’s to print fabric imprinted with canons and flags -- but he ended up making what we now a call bandana with George Washington’s likeness on it. It is “considered the first-ever bandana—at least as we know them today—it would go on to inspire political campaigns for centuries.”

Bandana, Kentucky is a real place and, as of 2010, 203 people live there.

Believe it or not, certain bandanas are considered collector’s items. One of the most in-demand bandana are those made by Elephant Brand, named for the little elephants imprinted on the labels. “Many of these are sought-after collectors’ pieces, with price tags depending on age and design, with advertising variations being the most collectible.”

Headwraps have often symbolized both oppression -- and resistance. Usually associated with black hair fashion, headwraps “link black women of the West with the traditions of their ancestors, and with their cousins across the Atlantic. Throughout the antebellum American South, South America and the Caribbean, many slave masters required enslaved black women to wear head coverings... But, enslaved black women found many creative ways to resist. For example, in parts of Central America like Suriname, black women used the folds in their headscarves to communicate coded messages to one another that their masters could not understand.”

There is no “inventor” of the durag, according to the New York Times, but “the use of having a scarf or a rag to keep your hairstyle in place and frizz-free took a great leap forward in the ’70s…Darren Dowdy, president of So Many Waves, claims his father, William J. Dowdy, invented it as part of a hair grooming kit. Mr. Dowdy called his durag a ‘tie down’ — he hated the name durag — and it was first sold widely in 1979… The idea was that you didn’t want the hair to revert to its natural, tightly coiled structure after brushing it down.”

First Lady Dolley Madison, wife of Founding Father and fourth president of the United States

James Madison, was known as a socialite in Washington, and for her love of European style, especially “the fashionable, classically inspired silhouette of her gown, its off-white color, the lush velvet material, and the long train…[H]er crown was a turban festooned with bird of paradise feathers, and the royal jewels were a simple set of pearls.”

Hijab means “barrier” or “partition” in Arabic.

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