top of page

Headwraps and Black women: A History Moment

Hey guys!! Welcome back to the blog on this dope Wednesday. All over social media we know Wednesday to be #WCW aka Women Crush Wednesday. Well in keeping with that I wanted to share some history or HERstory with you all about Headwraps and black women. Now some of you may be aware of this knowledge and for some this may be new. Either way I wanted to share so that when you adorn your crown you can remember how beautiful it is.

Now this is a bit different than what I normally do but hey 2020 has shown us that you must live outside of the box. This thinking lead to this blog post. I made a purchase from a black woman owned brand called Lyzadora(A self named brand) and I wanted a way to properly showcase this scarf. I wanted you all to not only love it as much as I do but get why things like this are a must have in your closet. Also I mean look at it!! This COLOR is EVERYTHANG HUNNY!!

American History

Historically in the United States well in the antebellum American South, as well as places such as South America and the Caribbean, many slave masters required enslaved black women to wear head coverings. Yes the scarves did have a functional purpose, like protecting the scalp from the sun, sweat, grime, and lice. They were also symbolic indicator, of the social hierarchy of the time period, which place black women at the bottom (some would say nothing has changed). Yet as always black women found many creative ways to resist, and use what was meant for dishonor as a way to show strength.

Examples of this range all over the diaspora such as in parts of Central America like Suriname, black women used the folds in their headscarves to communicate coded messages to one another that their masters could not understand.In 1785, Spanish colonial governor Esteban Rodriguez Miró of Louisiana mandated that Afro-Creole women wear tignons, a turban-like headwrap, to undermine their "exotic" allure. Tignon Laws aimed to reaffirm the social order by marking women of color as different. Afro-Creole women protested, decorating their tignons with jewels, ribbons, and feathers. Ultimately, the tignon became a defiant fashion statement for free women of color.

Yet as with many things, when others don't like what we have done they change the narrative. After the abolition of slavery in the United States, black women continued to wear headwraps creatively. However, the style ultimately became associated with servitude and homeliness. The mass production of mammy images like Aunt Jemima, Gone with the wind, and the woman from Tom and Jerry wearing a checkered hair tie reinforced such stigmas. In order to assimilate into the dominant culture, many middle and upper class black women began embracing Eurocentric standards for beauty and professionalism. As a result, wearing headscarves in public largely fell out of favor in early 20th century(Hmm sounds familiar)

African History

Headwraps have been a traditional attire in many Sub-Saharan African cultures for many generations. The Yoruba people in Nigeria call them geles. Ghanaian women call them dukus. South African and Namibian women often use the Afrikaans word doek. Depending on where on the continent you find yourself they may have a different name. The way they are styled may also represent many things from wealth, ethnicity, marital status, mourning or reverence. They are part of the culture and something that every black woman globally has used at some point in her life. Whether it be to cover her hair for Church or Mosque, for a function aka a party, or just because she didn't know how to style her hair that day.

According to Yoruba tradition, for example, if ones gele is leaning to the left it means she's single and leaning to the right means she's married. In other African cultures, headwraps signify respect. Southern African women for example have been known to wear doeks as an outward sign that they are engaged, married or bereaved. In Zulu culture, a woman is expected to cover her head when she visits or is in the presence of her in-laws to show respect. Some Xhosa women are also expected to wear iqhiya in the presence of in-laws as a sign of respect. For a Sotho traditional wedding, in-laws give the makoti ituku, as a sign that she has been accepted into their family.

The Return

In the 1990s and 2000s, in America we begun to see artists like Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill and India Arie popularize colorful and towering wraps. This sparked the love and desire for a new generation. Just as their music genre of neo-soul genre had repackaged black music styles like jazz, blues and swing, these artists' head coverings paid tribute to a long, rich history of black hair culture. Regardless if you were a fan of any of them you simply can't deny this!

As a Nigerian Woman growing up seeing Ichafu(Igbo) or Gele mostly donned during traditional celebrations or church ceremonies, I was always in aweee at the different ways they were tied. As I have grown up many in my generation now longer dawn the big magnificent geles as before but I think in recent times we are starting to see the return of the well crafted and tied geles. If you want to be seen as a "big woman" you must wear it to big events they honestly have grown to become the ultimate fashion accessory at most events and can honestly be head-turning work of art. Shoot you can now even get what is called an Auto Gele which is basically a pre-tied scarf, that you wear as a hat.

There are so many different ways to wear a scarf, a gele, or any of the many names they are called. I love how they allow me to accentuate the beauty go my face without the need of my hair. This particular scarf is stretchy, light weight and easy to conform into any look. I have also worn many others made with Ankara (Click here to see) I love the simplicity and sleekness of this one. Either way a dope scarf can elevate any look. All while paying homage to our culture, heritage, and power !

I hope you all enjoyed this history(HERstory) and I look forward to bringing you more moments like this.

Remember as always tag me in your purchases so I can see you slay, wash your hands, wear a mask, and advocated for them to arrest those cops that murdered Breonna Taylor and the Cops who left Jacob Blake paralyzed!


Your Favorite Aunty

Aunty Kelechi

43 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page