Are Head Wraps Cultural Appropriation?

Confused about who can wear head scarves, hijabs, or veils?

It’s okay. A lot of people are, as misconceptions and claims about cultural appropriation are widespread these days.

our answeranyone who wants to look chic with minimal effort.

 why?

Not one culture, peoples, or faith has exclusive license to be the sole wearers of head wraps, turbans, head scarves, or head coverings. In fact, many cultures and peoples across the globe have been wearing head coverings for centuries. The first well-documented records date back to the 13th Century BC Assyrian Empire (modern-day Middle East and North Africa) where laws required women to practice “veiling”. Veiling was used to mark the differences between women’s social standings and marital status. Throughout history, head coverings have been worn for a myriad of reasons. These include: spiritual beliefs, cultural significance, practicality, and fashion. No matter the reason, covering the head is a deeply personal choice. Keep reading below to learn more about the reasons people choose to cover their hair and celebrate the beautiful diversity of our world.

 

 Spiritual Practice

Spiritual head wrapping or veiling is most commonly associated with women of Muslim faith, however, hair covering is an integral practice of many other faith traditions.

Islam: Many Muslin women wear a headscarf, often known as a hijab and in Quranic Arabic as the khimar. Many of these garments cover the hair, ears and throat, but do not cover the face. Headscarves and veils are commonly used by observant Muslim women and girls, so that no one has the right to expose her beauty but except her husband, father, son, brother, uncles, grandfather.

Judaism: Many married orthodox jewish women wear a scarf or shpitzel to cover their hair. The Tallit is commonly worn by Jewish men especially for prayers, which they use to cover their head in order to recite the blessings, although not all men do this.

Christianity: The Christian Bible mandates that women wear a head coverings when praying and worshipping in 1 Corinthians 11:4–13, while men are to pray and worship with their head uncovered. In many rural areas, women, especially widows, continue to observe the traditional Christian custom of headcovering, especially in the Mediterranean, as well as in eastern and southern Europe; in South Asia, it is common for Christian women to wear a head-covering called a dupatta.

Sikhism: Young Sikhs often wear a cloth wrapping to cover their hair, before moving on to the turban. Older Sikhs may wear them as an under-turban.

 Buddhism: The Buddhist teachings are flexible and allow any type of clothing for whatever is pertinent to the specific culture. Lay people are often described as "clothed in white" as opposed to the brighter colors of the monastics. 

There is actually one mention of head scarves in the Suttas. The brahmin lady Verahaccaani invites Ven. Udaayii to a meal. She was wearing sandals and covering her head and asked Ven. Udaayii to instruct her in Dhamma. He refused since she was wearing sandals and covering her head. The next day she prepares him a meal and uncovers her head and this time Ven. Udaayii instructs her in the Dhamma.
(SN 35.133)

 

Cultural Significance  

Head wraps hold cultural significance to many peoples and cultures across the world. You’ll see them worn in rituals, to special celebrations, or even as everyday wear.

Choosing to wear a hair covering that holds cultural significance to a culture you’re not directly linked too often comes with fear and claims of cultural appropriation. Rightfully so as there’s a very thin line between cultural appropriation and cultural appreciation. The best way to mitigate this fear or the embarrassment of insulting an entire culture is to use the resources at your hand. With greater access to other perspectives and cultures via technology, we have a greater responsibility to inquire and attempt to understand how cultural accessories are worn in context.

The easiest way to ensure you’re not appropriating a culture is to have conversations, friendships, and interactions with people of the culture you’re curious about online and/or in real life. Through these exchanges, you’ll learn the history and significance behind the head wrap or hair covering which makes it very difficult to appropriate it. That way, if a Nigerian friend invites you to take part in her wedding, you’ll know you should wear a ‘gele’ along with traditional garb. The most important thing to remember here is context.

 

 Practicality and Functionality

Many women choose to wear head wraps because they’re one of the most practical, versatile, and functional accessories of all time. Scenarios in which a woman might reach for a head wrap:

  • dealing with hair loss due to health challenges such as alopecia, cancer, and chemotherapy.
  • protecting hair from harsh weather and climates
  • keeping hair out the face during a workout, gardening, chores, traveling, etc.
  • disguising a bad hair day
  • to signify mourning
  • saving a blowout or other new hairdo
  • keeping a protective style fresh
  • protecting her hair while sleeping

 Fashion: Some folks choose to wear head wraps to make a bold statement, to take a look from meh to marvelous, to brighten their day, or simply because they feel like it. The key takeaway is wearing a head wrap boils down to personal choice

Besides culture, there are so many other reasons to wear a head coverings. But for some, disguising hair loss while looking fab is the goal. Others feel drawn to the style for its versatility. To us, none of these reasons are wrong - at the heart of it all, it’s mainly about context and respect. No one race or culture has the exclusive license to head coverings. That means respecting and honoring the style’s many cultures, while also celebrating its beauty. After all, what good is culture if it can’t be shared with others?

 

Have you thought about wearing a head wrap but are still hesitant due to any of the reasons above?

 Consider the context:

  1. why would you like to wear one?
  2. Will it make you feel beautiful and comfortable?
  3. Are you simply curious what you’d look like? 


With an open mind and curious heart, we encourage you to explore and educate yourself further, and try new things along the way! You deserve to feel confident, gorgeous, and chic as much as anyone else.

we’re not here to shame or disrespect anyone’s opinion. We acknowledge that the idea of head wraps worn by those outside a specific culture isn’t comfortable for everyone. If you’re left scratching your head trying to answer each of these questions correctly, you’re not alone. Who has the exclusive rights to specific items of clothing and culturally-influenced styles is a hotly debated topic that isn’t easily summarized in one neat article. If you’re from a culture or faith that practices hair covering or rock a head wrap for reasons outside of those listed above, shoot us an email at Info@QuartzBotanica.com