The bandana has a rich and nebulous history, adopted by many different cultures over the past few centuries. Now, brands continue to reinterpret the bandana, shedding new light on the highly-symbolic, shape-shifting piece.
Although the word is thought to originate from the hindi ‘bāṅdhnū’, to tie, the bandana has tied itself to subcultures across the continents.
As well as HANSEN Garment’s own interpretation, we stock bandanas from two Japanese cult brands - Kapital and Mountain Research. Both designers key into the anarchic history of bandanas, using emblematic imagery to tell a narrative through print.
Here at HANSEN, we stock a range of bandanas from our own HANSEN Garments collection, Kapital, and Mountain Research.
To begin, the bandanas we produce at HANSEN Garments are all two-tone in design and made from 100% merino wool. This is a special kind of merino wool from Italy which is super fine. This means that it replicates the weight of cotton beautifully, though is much softer. Each of the HANSEN Garment bandanas are made in Denmark.
Our bandanas come in two designs - a spot design and a snow one. As the names suggest, the dot bandanas are covered in a dotted pattern and the star a tessellation of stars and triangles.
These thin bandanas are also special in that their two-tone patterns reverse on the back. This means that they can be worn either way, depending on which side you would like to show off.
They come in the colours blue and grey, blue and white, plus green and grey. Each piece is also adorned with the HANSEN logo as well as a line saying it was made in Denmark.
We also stock designs from Kapital, the Japanese mens bandana designer amongst other cult items. The bandanas from Kapital come in several different styles, mixing the traditional indigo colour with rich iconography and sometimes text.
A favourite amongst their pieces is the Denim Man in Big Maze bandana. This design features the classic indigo with a white, swirling maze design. Small men stand throughout the maze, trapped by the whirlpooling designs set around them.
The design also features dots of bold colour in each corner as well as a small label bearing a rat. As the bandana has been washed out once, it has a vintage feel and means that the colours are all beautifully muted.
This piece is made from 100% cotton and is screen printed in Kapital’s factories in Kojima, Japan. You can get this same design only with a bandana black background.
There are plenty more designs in their rat series, such as a piece decorated with a mirrored Mount Fiji and two smiley faces, a ‘pissed off cat’, and a whale with only its face and tail breaching the surface of the water.
Kapital have also produced scarves which are made from a bandana print design. These compressed wool pieces bear the print of typical paisley bandanas, though are mismatched sizes and mimic a patchwork design.
The Kapital bandana print scarves are made from 100% compressed wool and are again made in Kojima, Japan.
We also stock bandana designs from another Japanese brand Mountain Research. Their pieces are printed with designs from their Anarcho Mountaineers collection. This is a narrative which is weaved through a lot of their work, taking inspiration from the strength it takes to climb a mountain and reforming it into an anarchist statement against society.
The bandanas follow this thread, one bearing a comic strip offering the People’s Guide to Civil Disobedience, the other lots of tiny faces covered with bandanas, as if to inspire the wearer to anonymise themselves with the bandana. Their bandanas are also made from 100% cotton and in Japan.
Although those in our collection are bandana mens, they can also be worn as bandana womens as they are a truly non-gendered accessory.
FAQs about Bandanas
How to pronounce ‘bandana’?
It is pronounced ban-da-nuh. The word is spelt ‘bandana’ or ‘bandanna’. There is not a definitive way of spelling the word. This is because it has been adopted by so many different subcultures over the years.
What is the history behind bandanas?
As we touched on in the introduction, the bandana has a history which spans many centuries and continents.
The bandana etymology is complex and dates back a long way. Bandana’s meaning in hindi is ‘to tie’ which elucidates some of the bandana origin story. They were first worn by people in the Indian subcontinent to cover their head or neck.
Therefore, the bandana meaning in English is a square piece of cloth which can be folded and tied to yourself as you wish. In this way, a bandana synonym is the kerchief which has been worn by people since the Ancient Roman and Greek times. The difference with these pieces was their emphasis on design.
The classic bandana pattern of paisley pattern originated in Kashmir which was a Persian territory at the time. The intricate design of swirling, feather-like shapes is rooted in a millennium of design history.
Although the name that stuck was paisley, after a factory in Scotland which reproduced the design for Europeans, this pattern bears much similarity to the ‘butah’, a Persian design over two thousand years old.
Of course, the design was adopted by the West, especially thanks to the Dutch East India Company in the eighteenth century, which is when the design started to be adopted by so many different subcultures of people.
Martha Washington, wife of George Washington, had a bandana made with a design of her husband on horseback, showing his dedication to his country. Many more a bandana scarf were created to show political allegiance, donning campaign slogans and patriotic colours.
However, these signs of dedication did not just come from the top. For the West Virginia Coal Miners March of 1921, every worker wore a red bandana around their neck in what was to become one of the largest labour uprisings in history.
It is from this political moment that many believe the phrase ‘redneck’ to come from. The knowledge of this event makes you rethink the bandana around neck meaning.
During World War II, the bandana became the symbol of the newly female workforce as women in America tied their hair back with bandanas to get it out of their eyes while they worked. A bandana on your head was a way to liberate yourself from the expectations of your gender.
It even became a symbol of LGBT+ rights, bandanas being used in the 70s to identify people of different sexual preferences. Wearing a bandana came to mean a lot more than just a fashion accessory but a whole identity.
How should I look after my bandana?
For the most part, bandanas should be easy to wash as they are made out of cotton. This means that you could put them in the washing machine and they would come out okay. However, as the pieces are normally made out of different colours in stark contrast with one another, it is safer to hand wash them.
Run some water so that it is lukewarm and put a small amount of washing detergent into it. Then, place the bandana into the sink, making sure all parts of it are submerged. If you leave the piece there for five minutes, this should be enough to clean it unless it had any dirt on it.
Air dry your bandana to be safe. As it is such a light piece of fabric, you can air dry it on a normal drying rack.
For the HANSEN Garments bandanas which are made from merino wool, it is definitely best to hand wash them and then set them on a mesh drying rack so they can dry flat.
How to tie a bandana around your neck?
There are many different bandana styles you can choose from. One such is bandana styles for your neck.
To do this, fold the bandana diagonally so that it is in a triangle shape. You can then fold it as many times as you want or leave it as a triangle. Attach it around your neck with a double knot.
How to tie a bandana as a headband?
Many bandana styles for the hair are very popular as well. Men’s headbands made from bandana print were used to show allegiance to different gangs during the 80s where different colours would show who you belonged to.
This was often done by folding the bandana diagonally and then again and again until it was just a strip of fabric. This piece was then tied around the head.
Other ways bandanas are worn include hanging from the back pocket of a pair of jeans, around your arm, or around your thigh.
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