- The origin of head wraps, and methods of tying them, can be traced to different geographic locations around the world. Often they are used in correspondence to religious practices. In Muslim countries, head wraps are used to convey modesty. Similarly, Orthodox Jewish women are required to cover their hair with scarves or even wigs. During the Russian Revolution, women aligned with the Bolsheviks used red headscarves. Head decorations have played a role in African dress for centuries. They are used to indicate wealth and social status; head wraps in Africa also serve a practical function, protecting against the rays of the sun.
- Head wraps can serve many different functions. They may carry religious significance. Burqas and chadors, for example, are meant to cover a Muslim woman's head and face; they are tied in such a way as to express humility. Head wraps also provide protection from the elements. Many women use head wraps to keep their hair contained and out of their face. Others who suffer from alopecia or cancer wear head wraps to cover bald spots. Often, head wraps are used as adornment.
- There are many different types of head wraps, each of which is tied in a distinct manner. In West Africa, head wraps, known as 'gele' in Yoruba or 'ichafu' in Ibo, are tied using long pieces of clothes that are folded over the head creating a V and then secured by tying in the back. Turbans are formed using a scarf or bandanna, which are wrapped around the head. French style head coverings are placed over the head and are secured under the chin. Scarves tied in the Italian fashion are folded so that the ends meet behind the head, where they are then tied together.
Choosing the Right Cloth
- Today, many woman use scarves and bandannas to cover their hair. These are easily purchased at department stores and retail outlets. However, for more elaborate head wraps, additional fabric is needed. Generally, two yards will allow you to style the head wrap with more detail. Cotton works best as it is easily held in place; however, many women may opt for silk for its more delicate appearance. Traditional African wraps are made with bright, colorful printed cloth, which you can find in fabric stores or at African markets. For a more casual look, you can use an old T-shirt that has been cut open across the sleeves.
- When choosing a head wrap consider the occasion. If you are going to the beach and want to keep your hair away from your face, for instance, a simple scarf tied in the back will do the trick. However, for more formal purposes, you may want to consider using a more decorative fabric. If it has decorative elements such as rhinestones, be sure to tie the wrap with the decorations facing outwards away from your skin, as they may cause irritations.