As a popular headwrap company, we’ve gotten many questions and comments about who is “allowed” to wear headwraps. As a Black owned business that deliberately celebrates the 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 an headwrap and only according to strict cultural rules.
We believe the headwrap is for everyone, because it has always been for everyone. For many centuries, women (and men) around the world have worn headwraps in numerous styles, with various fabrics, for many different reasons. All across the world, people wear headwraps for religious, cultural and fashionable purposes.
The word turban comes from Turkey where back 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. In some cultures, headwraps are worn as a sign of maturity. In India, the Sikhs wear their first headwrap known as a pagris after a coming-of-age ceremony.
The Wrap Life was inspired by West African culture. Like in so many other countries, headwraps 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 fashionable components 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 it as today. Many people in this culture do not wear their headwraps with western clothes, unless created with African fabric. Even still, on the fashion side of things, headwraps were seen as a means 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. Today there are stylists dedicated to keeping the women fashion forward with new, interesting wrap styles.
The United States, which credits its unique culture to the thousands of cultures that have gathered here since its inception, has its own headwrap history. Stemming from the traditions of the African slaves, Black Americans always wore head coverings, as slaves and indentured servants. In 1786 in Louisiana, a law known as the Tignon Law stated that all women with any African ancestry were required to wear headwraps in public. The law was made as a way to differentiate the Black and racially mixed women from the white ones, in a region where it was often difficult to tell the difference. Despite the law being meant as a way to stifle the Black woman’s beauty, those affected by the law used the headwrap to express their creativity and fashion sense.
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.
Even the paisley bandana, made popular in the United States in the 1980s and 90s, is considered to be a form of headwrap.
At The Wrap Life, we wear headwraps because they’re fun, they allow creative expression and many find them to be very convenient. Our main goal is to have our customers use our products for whatever reason they feel fit, but overall to feel confident and beautiful. We are so proud to have such a diverse clientele of clients.
Check out Miss Ruby who styled our wraps in her unique vintage style.
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.