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Learn More About Bandanas
Traditional bandanas are large squares of fabric that are worn around the neck or the head. They’re usually made of cotton, measure slightly less than two feet across, and can be folded in a variety of ways. Banadas patterns span a wide range, but paisley is a classic choice.
It is thought that bandanas originated in Southern Asia around the late 17th century. The word “bandana” is thought to be a derivation of Hindi and Urdu words meaning “a tied piece of cloth.” Block printing—the process for how the pattern was applied to the cloth—first emerged in the regions of India and Pakistan where Urdu and Hindi languages are spoken.
Bandanas have a special place as an accessory throughout American history. Their origins go far back to the American Revolution when George Washington’s wife Martha had a bandana printed that featured her husband on horseback—considered the first bandana created in the Americas. Later, they became a popular accessory in the Wild West for their versatility: They could be used to keep sun off the neck, wipe away sweat, and keep dust out of your nose and mouth while horseback riding. When women entered the war effort during World War II, they used these scarves to tie their hair back to keep it away from the running factory machinery, famously captured by the poster of Rosie the Riveter wearing a red polka-dot hair bandana.
In the 1960s and ‘70s, bandana headbands became fashionable among hippies and musicians—think Jimi Hendrix performing at Woodstock or Willie Nelson’s iconic bandana-and-braids combo.
There are many types of bandanas to choose from today. Beyond classic red and blue bandanas, they come in a rainbow of colors and a wide variety of materials. They can be found in silk, cotton, and even leather. Bandana styles also vary widely, including vintage bandanas, pre-tied, fringed, beaded, wrist bandanas, and even dog bandanas for your furry friend. There’s no right or wrong way to wear a bandana, whether it’s a subtle addition to your outfit or becomes a hallmark of your signature style.