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history of the bandana

a lil’ history of the bandana in the US

The bandana, this iconic and functional accessory, is almost sure to be found in almost every home in the southern United States and probably the homes beyond the Mason-Dixon line. Whether we enjoy channeling our inner Rosie the Riveter or paying homage to Willie Nelson or Axl Rose, we all have a memory and a use for our bandanas. 

I think the reinvention of such a household item was what appealed to me with this project. If I could connect the powerful history of the bandana, a history that predominately leans to the rebels and wanderers, to a feeling, to that bravery and adventure within us all, I could really be onto something…

I wanted to take a look back over the history of the bandana just to see where this thing we all love got its start. 

To my surprise, Martha Washington popularized the bandana in the United States by having an image of her husband printed on some (in spite of a British ban on textile printing that was in effect at the time). Martha was a rebel. Hell yes. I love it. So think of it, the very first bandana in the US, broke rules and set a bar for those to come. 

After that, bandanas became a marketing strategy for political candidates of the time, hoping to adopt some of Washington’s charisma. If you haven’t stumbled across political bandanas from the early days of our country I urge you to pop over to Pinterest and do a search. you can almost see the bunting and hear the brass band. 

Beto O’Rourke, if you are reading and need a custom bandana for your Texas Senate race, I’m here for ya!! 

The original paisley design that has become what we all know as “classic bandana” came to us from Persian influences, brought to Europe and then the US through the Dutch East India Company. This style spread far and wide and became a functional accessory for laborers and blue-collar workers as well as cowboys and pioneers. (long live cowboys, amiright?)

So there ya go. Little history lesson of the bandana for ya.

Go forth, be badasses, be brave!

jenni earle