The History of the Bandana

The History of the Bandana

Over time, the bandana has become associated with those who work hard as well as those who are a bit of a rebel at heart, but you might be surprised how far back in history this versatile headwear can trace its roots. 

It’s easy to conjure up the image of Rosie the Riveter. Who hasn’t seen that iconic image with Rosie’s hair held back by a red bandana? But long before Rosie pulled her hair back and went to work, bandannas were being put to use all around the world. 

Ancient Roots 

As the folks at Mental Floss explain, “The word bandana has origins in the Sanskrit badhnati, the verb “to tie,” referring to a technique of tie-dyeing cloth. By the 18th century, the world evolved into the anglicized “bandannoes,” which referred to cotton handkerchiefs.” 

The traditional red paisley bandana reflects the influence of Persia and Turkey on the development of the beloved bandana, as Mental Floss tells us: 

“Called Turkey red, the bandana’s signature color was the result of a laborious method of fast-dyeing cotton textiles. The process varied, but manufacturers usually bathed the cotton in fish oil, sheep’s dung, madder root, and ‘intestinal liquor.’” 

The traditional paisley print comes to us from Persia, via Scotland. The pattern is based on the boteh or buta, a Persian motif that is said to be a stylized representation of a floral spray and a cypress tree. Beginning in the 1700s, the pattern made its way to Europe thanks to the East India Company. It became known as paisley because the mills in Paisley, Scotland adopted the pattern, which became incredibly popular. 

The Bandana Comes to America 

You’ll never guess who made bandanas a trendy accessory in North America. It was Martha Washington! She had pictures of her hubby George printed on some of them, which made them incredibly popular. 

And now we’re writing a new chapter in the history of this iconic headwear! From flag bandanas to our popular camouflage bandana, we have brought the bandana into the 21st century with designs that are both stylish and functional. Check out our whole collection and see for yourself!