Guiding WOC Through The Process Of Returning Natural

The story behind covering hair: headwraps and durags

Our hair is a statement. It always has been and always will be. From the hairstyles rocked in ancient Africa to the innovative styles of today, being creative with our hair is in our blood. It goes beyond just what we do with our hair, it’s also about how we protect it and cover it as well. 

Black hair is delicate, so protecting it has always gone hand in hand with how we wear it. Keeping it healthy, shiny, moisturized, and away from all the effects of the elements is a key part of black hair care. From durags and head scarfs to the dynamic designs of our headwraps, here’s the history of protecting black hair. 

To honour the black experience and our history amidst everything going on, we’re giving 15% of our profits from our #DEARBLACKGIRL kit and our Onion & Garlic Thickening Ayurvedic Herb Hair Oil if you purchase them together. You can read all about our plan to give back here. If you use any of the products, please tag us at  @BELLEBARORGANIC and use the hashtag #RESPECTMYCROWN. We’d love to see your results!

The history of the durag

A durag, also known as a wave cap, serves many purposes. It’s worn to help hair develop waves – a style loved by many black men – by holding your hair in place. People with locs also tend to use durags to hold them in place after they’ve gotten their roots twisted. Alongside this, durags are also a great way to protect your hair from outside elements such as humidity, and they serve to help your hair retain moisture and the products you put in, as they minimize how quickly the products dry and leave your strands. 

If you’re black, you definitely know what a durag is, although many of us don’t know when it was invented and who created it. President of So Many Waves, a durag company, Darren Dowdy believes his father created it in 1979. It was initially part of a hair grooming kit and was called a ‘tie down’, and it was used to hold curl patterns on various hair styles. 

Durags became a prominent part of black culture across the country in the decades that followed. However, they gained mainstream popularity in the 2000s due to rappers like Nelly and 50 Cent, they were recognised by a mainstream audience and were worn in video shoots to high fashion events. There were a few instances where people attempted to ban the wearing of durgas for various ‘reasons’ (read: their link to black culture). The NFL banned players from wearing durags and bandanas beneath their helmets in 2001, and a school in Pasadena, John Muir High School, banned them to which the black students responded by staging a peaceful walkout.  

Last year, Rihanna sported a durag on the cover of British Vogue, and a piece was published in the magazine about the significance of the durag for black culture. Durgas are significant for us because they’ve become a part of black culture, especially for men; they are multifunctional, and they help us maintain curl patterns and hairstyles. It’s a slo a great tool to wrap your hair overnight, much like you would a head scarf.

The story behind our head wraps

Head wraps have undergone a roller coaster history from when they wer worn in Africa, before slavery, until now, and has stood the test fo time despite all the different eras and iterations. The wearing of headwraps in Africa is common practise today and always has been. Across the continent, there’s a variety of headwraps – some smaller, some larger, and some tied more intricately than others. Yoruba women wear geles for celebrations and other events, usually brightly coloured stiff fabrics that can hold various shapes. Ghanian women wear dukus – although they are similar to geles, they are usually patterned in kente cloth and other designs, and are made from a softer fabric.

During slavery, black women were forced to cover their hair as white women felt that their hair would be a ‘distraction’ to white men. After the abolition of slavery, many black American women still wore head wraps and became creative by decorating them with feathers, jewels, patterns and more. However, the symbol of the head wrap became synonymous with the idea of the ‘mammy’, the homely elderly black women who took care of everyone but herself. Therefore, wearing head wraps wasn’t favoured in the early 20th century amongst black people. Many black women stayed away from wearing them in public, especially the ones of a higher class, and began adopting hairstyles which were more Eurocentric, especially with the introduction of relaxers in the early 1900s. However these women still wrapped their hair in scarves at home as a way to maintain styles and protect their hair.

Towards the 70s, the head wrap became a political statement as well as a fashion one. Black women were rocking it as a source of pride and a way to connect to their African heritage. Wearing them was synonymous with black power, and head wraps made from traditional African fabrics such as kente gained popularity. 

In the 90s, with the rise of neo-souls and the success of the likes of Erykah Badu and Jill Scott, head wraps became increasingly popular and recognizable by the mainstream as a black culture and pride, and a celebration of African heritage. Check out this tutorial by Kiitanaxo on four easy ways to tie a head wrap. 

Today, headwraps are a staple and recognisable part of black hair culture, especially within the natural hair movement. Used as a fashion statement and a brilliant way to protect your kinks and curls, the use of headwraps is endless for black women. 

Finding the right head scarf

Let’s not forget that the head wrap is synonymous with the head scarf which many of us use at night to protect our hair from damage. Head scarfs are also great for helping our hair retain moisture. In recent years, it’s been great to see the representation of black women on TV rocking their head scarfs at night, such as in Being Mary Jane and Issa Rae’s Insecure

There are many different head scarfs on the market, with brands often touting them as the ‘perfect’ one, however there are a few things you should consider before buying a headscarf. Make sure the scarf is made of silk or satin. These fabrics help your hair retain moisture and won’t dry out your strands like cotton for example. This is because silk and satin have slip, and don’t soak things up easily – allowing your curls to be maintained overnight. You can go for a scarf or a bonnet but choose one that is big enough to wrap up ALL your kinks and curls. We don’t want any strands to be neglected, or to risk some breaking off. A durag is also a great option for night time!

Let’s break down the ideal night time routine for your hair:

  1. Apply a dime-sized amount of our Golden Sea Buckthorne Shine & Moisture Hair Butter to your scalp, hair and ends. You can spritz your hair with water first for added moisture. 
  2. Then go ahead and massage it all in for at least ten minutes. 
  3. After, put your hair neatly into 4 to 6 plait, or in a low manipulation protective style such as a pineapple, and tie with your headscarf to lock in that moisture overnight. 

If your hair is high porosity or if you’re suffering from hair damage or extremely dry hair. Saturate the ends of hair with Jamaican Black Castor Oil at night, after you’ve rubbed in the hair butter, to help keep ends of hair moisturized as well.

If your hair is low porosity, be careful not to overdo it as your pores get easily clogged up. 

Our Golden Sea Buckthorne Shine & Moisture Hair Butter was created for women who want to treat their hair to some hydration. It works for all hair porosities and will improve your hair health from your scalp to your curly ends!

If you use any of the products in our #DEARBLACKGIRL kit, please tag us at  @BELLEBARORGANIC and use the hashtag #RESPECTMYCROWN. We’d love to see your results!

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