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The Iconic Bandana

The bandana is a timeless fashion statement worn by cowboys, festival-goers, teenager and fashion models alike. With more and more high-end fashion designers hopping on the bandwagon of bandanas, there’s no reason why you can’t join in too! Bandanas are versatile, expressive and add a dash of rebellion to every outfit!

As with any iconic clothing item, the bandana has a rich history, filled with fascinating facts, so let’s explore where this popular accessory came from. 


The History Of The Bandana 

Many people associate the classic paisley bandana with the Wild West movies in which cowboys fight, ride horses and hang out in saloons all day. But the bandana in its earliest form is very much an Eastern invention and had nothing to do with Clint Eastwood! The original bandana product (also known as a scarf or kerchief) can be traced back to the late 1700s in southern Asia and the Middle East. In fact, the original bandana is believed to be based on a Hindi or Urdu word for a bound cloth.  

In these regions, the black printing process emerged. Workers pressed re-carved blocks into small pieces of woven fabrics, then infusing them with dyes made from indigenous plants, berries and flowers. 

Today, we recognize the bandana as a fashion statement that often comes with a paisley design. The original name for this design is “Kashmir” or “Kashmirian,” like the Indian region from which the print originated. 


The Paisley Bandana

This famous design was first found in Iran and depicted the Cypress tree. Over time, this motif spilled over into interior design and began to appear on carpets, which we now know as expensive, opulent decorations for the home. 

People in the Middle East and southern Asia continued to design and manufacture bandanas and shawls over the next century. These intricately printed fabric pieces soon made their way to Europe via the Dutch East India Trading Company. One of the first designs to become popular was the Persian “boteh” design (or “buta” in India). Over time, this cyclical design of curved teardrop shapes became known among the European consumers as “Paisley.”

From the 1770s onwards, the paisley bandana continued to gain popularity globally, even throughout wartime. 

During the fight for American independence, the British enforced a colonies-wide printing ban. Legend has it that the First Lady, Martha Washington, commissioned a Philadelphia printmaker to print a square kerchief. He printed the cotton fabric with images of her husband, George Washington, with cannons and military flags.

After the war had been won, the bandana entered the public consciousness as a sign of defiance and resilience. 

During world war II, the world became obsessed with the wartime recruitment poster featuring a woman showing off her muscles and wearing a red polka-dot bandana tying her hair back.

The paisley bandana had established itself as an accessory that showed strength, rebelliousness and versatility. 

Since then, it has been worn by rock stars, hippies, actors and motorcyclists to denote their beliefs, fashion tastes and affiliations. Today, the paisley bandana is a versatile accessory and adds a stylish edge to any outfit. And the best thing about bandanas is their versatility. You can wear yours as a headband, neck gaiter, beanie, wrist band, face shield or hairband. What’s not to love?


Top 5 Paisley Bandanas

Looking for the best and most iconic paisley bandanas to wear? Here’s our pick of the top 5 you need in your wardrobe.

  1. The Iconic Red Paisley Bandana – this is truly the most iconic paisley colouring and is extremely versatile. It nods back to the wild west, to 50s fashion, mods and rockers, and hip hop.
  2. Green Paisley Bandana – green paisley is equally versatile but has a slightly more relaxed vibe.
  3. Black Paisley Bandana – make a statement with a black paisley bandana. The black and white works with any outfit.
  4. Grey Paisley Bandana – another muted colour that is perfect for use as a headband, hair tie, or as a facemask.
  5. Rainbow Paisley Bandana – represent your support for the LGBTQIA+ community or your colourful side with this rainbow paisley bandana.

Bandanas can work for all styles, color preferences, ages and genders. For more eye-catching bandanas that will go with every look, see our full range here.

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