BANDANA HISTORY & MY STORY
Iconic and humble, the distinctive American printed bandana has it’s roots as a venue for political opinion, military propaganda, event commemoration, and brand advertisement. The origin of the word bandana is thought to come from the Hindi word 'bāṅdhnū' and in Urdu 'bāndhnū' meaning a tied, bound cloth. Kerchief comes from the French word couvre-chef, "cover the head." Bandanas are also synonymous with the indigo dying process that dates to around 4000 BCE.
The first bandana in America is believed to be George Washington’s likeness on horseback commissioned by his wife Martha. Soldiers went off to war with their possessions bundled in a cotton bandana imprinted with a sweetheart’s message. During WWII first-time working women like Rosie the Riveter tied their hair back with bandanas. The functional nature of bandanas made them popular with the working class. Cowboys, coal miners and railroad engineers very much depended on bandanas to keep dust out of their lungs, sweat from their eyes or in dire times as a tourniquet. Native Americans have worn bandanas since the early trading days. In the early twentieth century red bandanas were worn at union strikes and demonstrations signifying labor solidarity. In the 60s bandanas found new life as the counter culture accessory of musicians and motorcyclists. In the 70s and beyond bandanas have been used to signify gang identity and loyalty, and also as a means to convey sexual preferences within the gay community. For many of the world's devout peoples, head kerchiefs are worn as part of their religion, common among Orthodox Jews, Christians, Amish and Muslim women. In Japan, a hachimaki (鉢巻, "helmet-scarf") is a stylized headband usually made of red or white cloth, worn as a symbol of perseverance, effort, and/or courage for occasions such as women giving birth, students in "cram school," and expert tradesmen taking pride in their work. Today, luxury and lifestyle labels around the world like Hermès, Saint Laurent, Union Made Goods and Vans offer their take on the bandana trend making them popular with celebrities, sports figures and other influencers.
Whether called a bandana, kerchief, neckerchief, silk, scarf, hanky, or do-rag the useful square has a steadfast place in popular fashion and utilitarian service. Spelled correctly with one “n” or two, this versatile and recurring accessory trend has become a staple of the American wardrobe. The classic paisley bandana is an all-American-original with longevity that continues to find it’s way back into our hearts.