Head Wraps and Culture: What You Need to Understand | Turbie Twist

Head Wraps and Culture: What You Need to Understand

Women's head wraps have symbolic value in culture throughout the world, including how they should be worn. Read this article and become better informed.

Know Before You Wrap 

We all have those days when our hair just is not working for us, it can’t be tamed, or we just really don’t have the time or desire to style it. Historically, we’d say, throw on a head wrap! 

But despite it’s benefits as a beautiful hair accessory, that’s been around for thousands of years, it can be appropriative and insensitive to wear certain styles when you aren’t part of the culture, religion, or race in which or by whom the head wraps were brought into being.

If you have head wraps, it's important to know when it is appropriate to wear them and how they can be used. 

Together, with the knowledge in this guide, we can make sure our hair looks great without offending or disrespecting anyone.

 

The History of Head Wraps

As with most anything, the best route to a full understanding starts at the beginning. Before diving into how to wear a head wrap, it's important to know the historical origins and roots of this clothing item. 

It’s likely head wraps were used long before any known documentation, but as far as we know, now, the first recorded use of head wraps can be traced all the way back to the 13th century. This first mention of wearing a head wrap can be found in an ancient Assyrian legal document. In this society, the head wrap was an indicator of a woman’s social status and eligibility for marriage.

It’s clear that a head wrap is often so much more than a fashion choice. It can be cultural symbol with deep-rooted connotations. Head wraps, scarves and veils have been used throughout all of history to indicate social or religious status. In the time of the Assyrians, wives were made to wear a scarf or veil, while prostitutes, enslaved people, and lower-class women were completely forbidden from wearing a scarf, veil or head wrap. In fact, doing so could even result in penalty of death. 

Thankfully, this brutal punishment is no longer the rule, but the head wrap still carries a lot of the same cultural weight.

 

Head Wraps and BIPOC

For Black, indigenous, people of color, head wraps have a long and complicated history. They've been celebrated, used as a symbol of freedom, and as a staple in wardrobes across the world. But they've also been a sign of oppression, racism, and hate.

For many African women, head wraps were first used as part of their traditional dress. Yet, while first worn proudly by Black, indigenous, people of color, soon enough the head wrap was co-opted for a far more sinister use in the slave trade. 

White slave masters used head wraps as a symbol of ownership and oppression. Eventually, in certain parts of the American South, legislation was enacted to make it illegal for enslaved women to wear their hair in any way other than bound up in a head wrap. 

At the time, Black women managed to turn their head wraps into tools for liberation. They used them to communicate with one another, covertly hiding secret messages in the folds of their head wraps. 

In the 1960s and 70s, the head wrap was embraced as part of the Black Power uniform, worn as a sign of rebellion. The head wrap was embraced and celebrated for its cultural significance, reclaiming the power former slave owners so brutally took from the people they enslaved. 

 

Can White People Wear Head Wraps?

Asking this question of yourself is half the battle. Despite the desire to express oneself through fashion, with the complicated cultural history, it is right to be uncertain about donning a head wrap as a white person. 

Traditionally the head wrap belongs to Black, indigenous, people of color, and wearing one can often be an act of cultural appropriation. If you’re white, it’s likely best not to wear head wraps in public, in the West; to leave it for wear by those people and cultures with a historical attachment to the head wrap. 

If you're in a place where head wraps are culturally appropriate for all women, or significant for religious reasons, however, then it would not an act of cultural appropriation to wear one. In fact, in instances like these, it may even be a sign of respect to don a head wrap. 

And, of course, you can always use a microfiber hair towel as a head wrap in your  home to keep your hair in place or dry it.

 

How to Wear a Head Wrap

If you're looking for ways to style Black hair with a head wrap, check out these awesome ideas.

If you're wondering how to wrap your hair in a head wrap at night, all hair types can benefit from using a Turbie Twist hair towel to dry your hair and keep it in place as you sleep. They are easy to use and ideal for being worn at home. 

You can even go a step further and use a silk pillowcase to keep your hair protected overnight. These smooth, soft, decadent pillowcases help reduce frizz and tangling, keeping your hair healthy and damage-free.

 

Find Out More About Head Wraps

Our Turbie Twist towels and wraps are slightly different from traditional headscarves worn by Black, indigenous, people of color. They're made of material specific for drying your hair and do not have the same cultural significance. 

If you're worried about disrespecting other people and cultures, or want to learn more about how you can use our Turbie Twist towels, feel free to get in touch with our team. 

We're always happy to help, especially if it means creating a freer, fairer, more respectful world for all of us.