Similar to how girls stash away Chapstick and scrunchies in every room and purse, the Black men in my life do the same with durags. The durag, known and highly coveted in the Black community, is a type of head scarf used as a protective layer against environmental stressors (dirt, pollution, debris, etc.) and as a styling accessory.
I’ve seen it on men in my family, men I date, and men on the street. I’ve seen it used to add color to an outfit, symbolize a culture in a music video, on screens where Black characters are getting ready for bed after moisturizing and brushing their hair, and everything in between. It is a major part of our culture. But do any of us really know where it came from and why it continues to have clout over the years?
Some people credit its origin to the 1966 Akron Beacon Journal, who had spelled it “Do Rag” and described it as “a cloth band worn around the forehead as a sweatband to keep hair in place.” A couple of years later, it became an imperative tool for Black men to keep hair neat and train curl patterns (back when waves were the goal) while they slept.
Brands like So Many Waves and others started popping up with their own iterations, calling it the “Tie-Down” in reference to those that sleep with it. But in the early ’90s is when popular culture got a hold of the hair tool and started sporting it in a way that made it become an accessory. It all started in the streets of New York and Los Angeles, where ultra cool Black men and hip-hop cultural icons wore it with their denim, long before the fashion industry adopted it.
Durags from then till now have always been symbolic of the beauty and pride in the natural hair movement, prior to the natural hair movement being coined as a thing. Back in the day, it was cool to have 360 waves — waves that surrounded the entire head — made by durags and in a sense, this is still popular today on social media via the #wavecheck.
In typical fashion, it was more accepting for females to care about their hair and take on special techniques to learn about their curl patterns and protect a style. Durags gave and give men that same authority, allowing them the freedom and acceptance to care about the appearance of their hair.
And it’s only become a bigger symbol in the Black community as the years go by with people like Cam’ron, who sported pink durags in his rap videos in the early ’00s, Solange Knowles who wore one to the 2018 Met Gala, and so many more in between.
Today you will find durags in all sorts of patterns and colors, options available to fit every mood and wearer.
Read on about the long history of judgement towards Black hair.
Photo via Getty/Johnny Nunez/WireImage