Bandanas are popular in almost any part of the world. You can see them in someone’s foreheads, on their necks, and even some use it as a regular kerchief making it one of the most versatile types of clothing. For those who haven’t know what a bandana is, it is a square-shaped piece of plain-woven cotton printed with different designs. Throughout history, printed bandanas served an essential function to groups of people like the seafarers, sailors, cowboys, and farmers, miners, and riders. The word bandana came from the Sanskrit word ‘Badhnati’ that means to tie or bind. But because of trading and colonization, it was later altered into ‘Bandannoe’ and eventually called ‘Bandana’ as we know today.
But the question is, where did the bandana come from?
From Persia to Paisley
While it’s common to think that the famous paisley pattern came from Paisley, Scotland, but the design actually came from Kashmir, a region once belong to the ancient Persian empire. The paisley design is highly similar to Persian ‘Boteh’ that resembles a flower bud, or a cluster of leaves that dates back to over two millennia. And since Kashmir’s location is near India, it had reached Europe through the Dutch East India company in the 18th century, and they called it ‘Buta.’ Since then, both the English and Scottish companies have begun to mass-produce using the paisley pattern design and quickly grew in popularity that it even became quite expensive to own one.
The Popularization of the Bandana
In the US, the use of bandana has even more become popular during the American Revolution. The reason behind it is because during that time, the wife of Continental Army General George Washington, Martha Washington, made a souvenir bandana. She and John Hewson worked together and printed the US Commander-in-Chief in the bandana on horseback, decorated with flags, cannons, and promotional text to seek American independence. And because of this event, many politicians today also used the same concept for their political campaigns where they use bandanas to print their campaign slogans to gain more supporters.
Bandanas in Workwear
After being used as an advertising medium during the American Revolution, bandanas become an important symbol in fighting for the worker’s rights in 1921. Over ten thousand mine workers from the West Virginia Coal mine wore red bandanas in their neck as they march to fight for their labor rights. This event has put a mark in US history as one of the most massive armed uprisings called ‘redneck.’ On the other hand, during World War II, as women entered American factories to help build war machines and equipment, used bandanas to tie their long hair. And also, because of this event, bandanas became an iconic accessory for women that’s lasted even unto this day.
The Mainstream Bandana: the Turkey Red
While bandanas have already been in production for more than centuries in the east, the famous Turkey red-dyeing mainstream bandana had initially started in Scotland by a French entrepreneur in 1785. When the Turkey Red bandana began to gain popularity, it was then adopted by a lot of manufacturers in Dunbartonshire. However, the dyeing process is both laborious and complex back then since the process needs bullock’s blood and urine as well as sheep’s dung just to produce the highly valued Turkey Red color. But thanks to this process, it makes the color resist fading even if it’s exposed to sunlight and frequent washing.
Because of the high competition in Europe, manufacturers shifted their production in Manchester in 1898. In fact, the top three mass-producing bandana companies have continued to produced printed bandanas for more than two hundred years.
Due to the never-ending demand of bandanas, it has continued to this day, thanks to its versatility as a close-at-hand accessory. So whenever you see bandanas, always remember that this thing has existed thousands of years ago and continues to imprint significance to every culture around the world.