Can You Wear Headwraps?

A woman wearing a headwrap


head wraps for everyone
We’ve received many questions and comments about who is “allowed” to wear head wraps. As a Black owned business that deliberately celebrates Black women through the images on our site, many people understandably assume that the products we make are primarily for other Black women and no one else. And sometimes people go as far as to suggest that only women directly from West Africa can rock a head wrap and only according to strict cultural rules. 
head wraps for women
We believe the head wrap is for everyone, because it has always been for everyone. 
For many centuries, women (and men) around the world have worn head wraps in numerous styles, with various fabrics, for many different reasons. Head wraps are worn for many reasons including religious, cultural and style expression. 
head wraps
head wraps
// The word turban comes from Turkey, where in the 1200s, men would wear turbans to protect themselves from extreme weather. As Islam spread, they began to wear them for religious reasons as well. 
  // In Jamaica, the Nyabinghi Rastafarian women wear modest wraps to protect the power in their locs and to show respect for God.
head wraps
In some cultures, head wraps are worn as a sign of maturity.
// In India, the Sikhs wear their first head wrap known as a pagris after a coming-of-age ceremony. 
 // The Wrap Life was inspired by West African expressions of head dress. Like so many other countries, head wraps in many parts of this region began as a necessity for navigating the weather. By the 1400s, as cultures of differing tribes and countries intermingled throughout Africa, the religious and style expressions of head wraps grew as well.
The gélé began when women would wear the leftover animal skins from hunts to make headbands. As fabric became more affordable, specifically wax fabric, which was inspired by Indonesian batik and manufactured by the Dutch, the gélé began its transformation into what we know today.
Many people in this culture do not wear their head wraps with western clothes, unless created with African fabric. Even still, on the fashion side of things, head wraps were seen as a form of expression. Women began to create all sorts of elaborate designs simply from pulling, wrapping and tucking until their experiments became a beautiful new creation atop their heads.
head wraps
The United States has its own head wrap history. In 1786 in Louisiana, a law known as the Tignon Law, demanded that women of African descent, slave or free, should cover their hair and heads with a knotted headdress and refrain from "excessive attention to dress".
Tignon Law was enforced with the intention to shame women of color, suppress creative expression and diminish the threat to the social status of white women during that time. 
Despite the law being meant as a way to stifle the Black woman’s beauty, those affected by the law used the head wrap to express their creativity and style. 
head wraps
Seeing as entertainment is the U.S.’s largest export, it seems fitting that the various manifestations of the headwrap were sparked by celebrities and other well known artists. During the surge in Black pride of the 1960s and 70s, many wore turbans/headwraps as a marker of their history. 
head wraps
Even the paisley bandana, made popular in the United States in the 1980s and 90s, is considered to be a form of head dress. 
head wraps
At The Wrap Life, we wear head wraps because they’re beautiful, they allow creative expression and many find them to be very convenient. Our goal is to have our customers use our products for whatever reason they feel, but overall to feel confident and beautiful. We are proud to support diversity and inclusion. 
For centuries people around the world have created their own cultural meanings and intentions behind their headwraps and today we are free to do the same. Create your own history.


  • Annamaria on

    Thank you so much for such a thorough answer! I’m non-black, mixed race POC living in the US. I have textured hair and I’ve been thinking that investing in head wraps would be a good investment to take care of my curls. However, I didn’t want to unintentionally appropriate Black Culture. I really appreciate your full scope representation of the global history of headwraps!

  • Jessica on

    I wear scrub caps to work since I can’t dye my hair fun colors. (I’m a nurse in a small town 🙄) mine are more like full bonnets and are convenient, fun, beautiful, functional etc. I’ve loved wearing large wide fabric headbands and a large bun on top of my head. However, lately I’ve thought about how beautiful headwraps are and the styles etc. And would love to be able to wear them. But I understand the significance of religious and cultural meanings behind them as well as certain patterns for certain African tribes and ceremonies etc. Being aware of the sensitivities of headwrapping and having a respect for its meaning, would it still be disrespectful for me as a white woman to wrap my hair? And if not, are there limitations to the styles of headwrapping non-African women can wear? Very interested.

  • Nasira on

    How grateful I am for a such a truly inclusive statement. Like the previous comment, I too am of mixed ethnicity, and I have struggled to truly embrace my unique ethnic identity. I worried a great deal about my personal contribution of cultural appropriation—specifically concerning head-wraps. I was so grateful to read your post, acknowledging that the head wrap IS for everyone, that knowing its various traditions and cultural significance is of benefit AND important, but to ultimately embrace the creative expression they allow and the beauty they can illuminate—no matter your background, ethnicity, gender, religion, etc…Thank you for offering such an inclusive and space!

  • Lizz on

    Thank you for this!
    I’m an Anglo woman, and have long fancied wafting about in a turban (think Elizabeth Taylor 1960s style).
    I thought nothing wrong, wore one to work today, felt really glamorous, came home thinking turbans might be my new thing. Then I googled “fashion turban 2019” (instead of turban 1920s, turban 1960s, turban Elizabeth Taylor) and read about Gucci upsetting the Sikh community with a turban. Maybe because it looked a lot more traditional than the Western fashion turbans us Anglo women have been wearing for 300 years, maybe because its stupidly expensive for a strip of fabric, I don’t know. All I do know it I want to be a good human.
    I got in a bit of a fluster and contacted a few Sikh community groups. They’ve all got back to me saying much the same as you have.

  • Marilyn Bowman on

    I want to say thank you for the information. This is my first time learning about the Tignon Law. I love wrapping my hair. It gives me a sence of pride. I feel the queen ship in me that I’m. Trying to stop black women from being beaytiful will never happen. we can make a pair overalls look good. Again thank you, Marilyn

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