The History of the Headwrap | Part 1 | Black History Month 2019

Updated: Oct 23, 2019

It's Black History Month! A whole month here in the UK dedicated to Black history. AWESOME!

Since starting a blog here on Asikara, one thing i've been looking forward to is writing a blog post all about the history of the headwrap. I've been selling headwraps now for over three years and I've never had the chance to take a trip back in time to look at where these amazing accessories even came from, not until now!

I'm excited to share with you my two-part series on The juicy history of this piece of fabric we call a headwrap.

The further away in time we find ourselves from the events of the past, the more we need to educate ourselves and be aware of the circumstances that brought us to where we now stand.

The further away our black history becomes, the more important I feel it is to make sure we educate ourselves on it. The young people of today don't actually know the struggles that their grandparents faced even just coming to this country. There's so much to learn, so much to understand and I hope that this post will get you excited to research more about the deep rooted history and rich heritage you have.

Headwraps are commonly recognised as being a huge part of many Sub-saharan African cultures. There are different types of Headwraps that are widely recognised such as the Duku's from Ghana, Gele's from Nigeria and Doek's from Namibia & South Africa. But how did these amazing pieces develop into being a huge part of today's culture and fashion?

Headwraps during Slavery

Before the American revolution there was a growing concern regarding slave masters. The White women argued that the slave masters, their husbands, we're becoming distracted by the different skin tones, hair textures and varying 'shades of brown'. This is not a surprise to me at all! Although many cultures, even today think that lighter skin is more beautiful, even history can tell you that black is beautiful too!

As a result of this worry, European colonies created laws as a way for them to easily identify African slaves. In 1735, South Carolina passed the Negro Act which was a law that listed the types of clothing black people were allowed to wear. Appearing on that list of the item was a section which said women must wear their hair bound in a kerchief. Here we have the start of the humble Headwrap.

This handkerchief required as uniform which marked an inferior status also had its perks! The slave women were sent to work all day in the fields and this form of head covering actually protected the women from the blazing sun, as well as from lice and perspiration.

What started off as oppression, black women used creatively to empower.

A uniform was not enough to keep the workers down. In some parts of central America, the women got creative. As crazy as this sounds the women found ways to fold their Headwraps in order to communicate with each other in ways that their slave masters couldn't understand. (Move out the way morse code!)

It didn't stop there 1785 the Spanish colonial governor, Esteban Rodriguez Miró, demanded that afro-creole women wear tignons, which turban-like Headwrap. This was all in an attempt to undermine their exotic allure. This just resulted in another failure because the women rebelled and started decorating their wraps with amazing colours, ribbons, feathers and jewels. These beautiful headwrap displays evoked a sense of freedom and became a bold fashion statement.

I know, you we're just getting into it and that is why it's called part one! The story is not complete and if you'd like to continue reading and see where the Headwrap went next, make sure you read part two of our History of the Headwrap series

We are also hosting some amazing interactive Instagram and Facebook stories, so make sure you follow us so you can join the fun on social media.

I hope you learnt something new about the headwrap! The history of this amazing statement piece absolutely blows my mind and I cannot wait to share the next part with you, so keep your eyes peeled. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

References: Evolution of the headwrap , Headwraps then & now , Radical History of Headwraps

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