Headwraps also known as “head rags”, “head-ties”, “head handkerchiefs,” or “turbans” have been present for decades. Women in Africa wear it as a statement of fashion or for functional reasons such as keeping the hair away from the face whilst working.
However, for African- Americans there is a deeper and sadder story behind the wearing of headwraps. During slavery, black women were forced to cover their hair with scarfs by their white masters to highlight the artificially created distinctions between them. In some form it was used as a label of enslavement.
Through time, the headwrap evolved into a stereotype of the ‘Black Mammy’ servant. This caused many to feel ashamed and discouraged to wear scarfs on their heads.
But with the fight for freedom and equality during the 60s, headwraps became a symbol of power and pride throughout the civil rights movement. Many black women wore and still wear it as as sign of solidarity, self definition and a show of African heritage.
Many have adopted the African way of styling the head with scarfs, this includes both young African-Americans and even whites. But the most important fact remains that headwraps are more than just a piece of colourful fabric.
For a visual illustration of the evolution of headwraps, Racked have put together a short video explaining the meaning of it perfectly: