The History of the Headwrap | Part 2 | Black History Month 2019

Last week I brought to you the first in my Black History month series - The History of the Headwrap. A topic I’ve been excited to cover since my blog started.


If you haven’t already read part one, make sure you head over to last weeks post and get up to date! 

Towards the end of the 18th century, the headwrap went from being a piece of cloth worn as a sign of identification, to being a brightly coloured, heavily embellished, self proclaimed emblem of freedom!


After 1865, when slavery was abolished, some black women continued to wear headwraps in order to represent their lower class status. It seemed the stigma, although it had been challenged, was still very much a part of life.





Moving swiftly to the 20th century, the dreaded relaxer was introduced! This created an opportunity for black Men and women to ‘fit in’ to the white dominated society they lived in.


Such a drastic upgrade from slave uniform to red carpet accessories!

Relaxers are still used today and are a way of chemically straightening curly, Afro hair. At the time, because of its function it became very popular.


In order to set the relaxer and hold the hair in specific styles, a type of Headwrap called the durag was introduced. Worn mostly by men, the durag was a pressing scarf used to protect the hair from dust, sweat and dirt as well set in waves, kinks and coils.


Towards the 1960s & 70s the demand for relaxer decreased due to the black power movement but the headwrap and durag remained and were reintroduced as fashion statements through pop culture and music.


Headwraps in Pop Culture & Music


Nina Simone amongst others was known for her jazz, R&B and gospel vibe. Most women during her time wore wigs or used relaxers on their hair to hide their ‘blackness’ in white spaces, choosing not to conform Nina was often seen with her hair wrapped in decadent headwraps. This act of courage was a way for her to fight back and be a huge part of the black power movement.



Bringing it closer to home, Ms Lauryn Hill, (if you don’t know her music you probably know her best from sister act 2,) was an iconic singer and still is today. Her Afrocentric wrap styles were a hit in black communities and she inspired many to join the natural hair movement.



The headwrap went from being a piece of cloth worn as a sign of identification, to being a brightly coloured, heavily embellished, self proclaimed emblem of freedom!

Back in 2016, Alicia keys announced that she would no longer be wearing make up, she wanted to empower people to be proud of the skin they’re in and be free from the social pressures of looking ‘perfect’. Alicia also made the decision to keep her hair natural and has been seen since wearing some amazing headwraps.



Last but not least, Lupita Nyong’o, a humble actress, who started out on Nollywood has now taken our screens by storm, staring in huge films like 12 Years a Slave and Black Panther. She has always been an advocate for headwraps and natural hair. She even challenged Grazia UK magazine when they photoshopped fake hair onto a photograph they had taken of her for the front cover of their November 2017 issue. Lupita is not ashamed or afraid to stand for her rights, she is proud of her culture and heritage so much so she has even been seen to even rock headwraps on red carpets! Such a drastic upgrade from slave uniform to red carpet accessories!



The headwrap today is worn not just by celebrities, but people of all different walks of life for different reasons. I like to think of headwraps as the finishing touch of an outfit and also like an alternative crown. When I wear headwraps I feel braver, I stand taller and I exude a whole new level of confidence.



What’s your Headwrap story? Why do you wear headwraps? Or maybe you haven’t worn them before? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

Thanks so much for reading our Headwrap series! What would you like us to cover next?


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

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