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Headwrap: A Compact Guide to Wearing the Turban

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What is a headwrap?

A headwrap, also called head tie or headscarf is a turban cloth worn on the head as an ornament, a fashion hair accessory, or a protective fabric for the hair and the scalp.


4 Quick & EASY Headwrap/Turban Styles

The Headwrap: Then & Now

The headwrap originated in Africa and is a traditional form of attire for African women. In West Africa and Southern Africa, the headwrap is called Duku in Ghana, Gele in Nigeria, or Doek in South Africa.

Women wear the African headwraps in different colors, patterns, and sizes and are sometimes matches the head tie fabric with their traditional outfit.

The style of the headwrap and turban worn by an African woman offers insight into her social, economic, or marital status. Women can wear the wraps at home daily or only on special occasions.

The African headwraps are made with fabric that is usually firmer than regular clothes, giving the head tie a hard texture.

In the Yoruba and Igbo traditions in Nigeria, women wear the African headwrap for various events like:

  • Weddings
  • Dowries
  • Church and religious ceremonies
  • Cultural events
  • Funerals
  • Anniversaries

African headwrap by @mariame_sow

Front-tied headwrap by @mariame_sow

Headwrap with ornaments

From Africa to the United States: The Rise of the Headwrap Movement

The headwrap was given a whole new meaning in the United States. During slavery times, headwraps were used to ostracize and oppress African American slaves. Black slave women were forced to wear headwraps (thought to make them less attractive) to deter white men from pursuing them.

Also, to denote a separation of class, white slave masters commanded black slaves to wear head wraps. This enabled slave masters to further distance themselves, aesthetically and socially, from black people.

Over time, Black people in America have taken the headwrap back and rewritten the rules entirely.

Today, we use headwraps to cover up our heads on bad-hair-days, we pair them with our favorite outfits as stylish fashion pieces, and most importantly, we wear them as an overt statement of pride in our black heritage.



Black woman headwrap

Wearing headwraps at home

Headwraps are now part of most women closets as a fashion accessory.

If you do not have immediate access to a hairstylist to care for your hair, the headwrap is a life-saver. If you haven’t styled or maintained your hair for a long time, the headwrap is a simple way to cover your head.

The stay-at-home order during the coronavirus outbreak has changed the way we care for our hair at home. During the months of confinement, we have seen an increase in the wear of headwraps at home.

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When to wear a headwrap at home?

  • To protect your hair
  • During a bad-hair-day
  • As a quick fix for your hair
  • To cover baldness

Headwrap/Turban Tutorial

Wearing headwraps outdoor

In the summer, headwraps protect your hair and scalp from the sun, wind, and dirt. Other than being a fashion accessory, it is an effective protective gear.

Winter is not curly hair-friendly. The cold and dry air absorbs the moisture from your hair, causing frizz, breakage, and split ends. In the winter, the headwrap works as an insulator and prevents your hair from the cold weather.

by @wrappedbysarah

Headwraps and alopecia

We captured the following comment from @harmonicurls Youtube tutorial video.

“I just discovered I have alopecia and I’m so sad cause there’s literally not a single strand of hair left on the side of my head, and this tutorial saved my life!!!”

If you suffer from alopecia, a headscarf is a good option to cover your head.

Satin lined headwrap

Fabrics matter! Silk wraps are best for protecting your hair, but this fabric is often too soft and flimsy for styling.

Cotton and polyester wraps are best for styling, though the material could potentially be damaging to your hair with prolonged wear. Remedy this by wearing a silk scarf or bonnet under your cotton/polyester for max protection and styling versatility.

The advantage of the satin-lined headwrap compared to other materials such as cotton is that they prevent your hair from dryness. They also protect your hair from breakage, tangles, and thinning.

AxeSickle Women Scarf Shawl for All Season


Wearing headwraps in the workplace

Determining which hairstyle to wear at work can be challenging. The wear of headwraps in your workplace can be controversial or inappropriate in some work environments.

In a previous publication, we recommended Five Appropriate natural hairstyles for the workplace, but you should not feel limited on how you can wear your hair to work.

Head ties are a cultural statement, and you should wear your hair the way you want without fearing criticism and judgment.

How to style turbans and head wraps + 4 to 5 different styles

Pros and Cons of Headwraps


  • The headwrap is a cool way to express individuality.
  • It comes in a variety of styles and colors.
  • It is suitable for covering up undone hair.
  • It keeps your head warm in the winter.


  • Some deem headwraps inappropriate for public wear.
  • If tied too tightly, the wearer might experience headaches or hair loss.
  • Headwraps can make you feel hot in the summer.
  • Tying head wraps too tight can be problematic. Be careful not to tie your wrap too tight, as this can cause problems like hair loss and headaches.

Pre-Tied headwraps

A pre-tied headwrap is a wrap that is already sewed with an elastic closure and designed to fit most head sizes. The stretchy fabric allows you to wear it like a hat.

No more watching YouTube videos on how to tie headwraps!

If you don’t want to bother tying the scarf, pre-tied or pre-made headwraps might be the best option for you.

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How to Tie Head Wraps step-by-step?

When it comes to tying your head wrap, you have options! There are countless ways to tie headwraps.

The best way to learn how to tie a headwrap is to watch videos of others tying theirs.

This step-by-step tutorial by Nadira shows you how to tie a headwrap:

How to Tie a Turban/Headwrap

Part 1

by Nadira037

Pull the scarf on head tight and secure it.

Start wrapping the scarf around.

Keep wrapping the scarf until the end.

Wrap the twisted scarf around to make a side bun.

Keep wrapping the twisted scarf around.

Finish the side bun.

Left side

Right side

Part 2 (Adding an extra scarf)

by Nadira037

With the existing look, you can add another lightweight scarp as an ornament

Wrap the scarf around.

Wrap the headwrap around your head.

Tie the headwrap on the back of your head.

Finish the side bun.

Finish the side bun.





Here are some additional resources that feature step-by-step instructions and illustrations of women tying their head wraps.

  1. Huffington Post- How to Tie a Headwrap in Four Fabulous Ways
  2. The Head Wrap Cheat Sheets show your eight different ways to tie a headwrap nicely.


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