Growing up in the early aughts gave me a soft spot for the bandana. I viewed the accessory as a surefire path to a cute hairstyle, no matter how my strands looked. But if you consider the trend a thing of the past, you’re wrong: The current bandana market expands beyond classic paisley styles to include almost every color, print, and texture imaginable. Based on that alone, I’d wager the fabric squares are poised for a sweeping comeback.
“Madewell has the craziest selection of bandanas,” says Zoe Kenealy, a beauty content creator and owner of marketing agency Technomancy. She feels that popular brands’ embrace of the accessory, coupled with apps like TikTok, could create the perfect storm for a revival. “You get a couple viral videos showing a celebrity or influencer wearing a bandana, and it’s much more likely to become a trend again than it was maybe five years ago.”
Case in point: Remember the Lululemon belt bag that became so TikTok famous, it made fanny packs cool again? And as Kenealy notes, one celebrity endorsement can start a trend as effectively as thousands of viral videos. “If Hailey Bieber started rocking bandanas, we [would] definitely see an uptick,” she explains.
Meanwhile, content creator Ashlee West dreams of a different high-profile endorsement. “My favorite artist is Kehlani, and I just think bandanas would fit her style so nicely,” she says. “I feel like she would be perfect to wear them, and I’m sure she [already] has.”
Considering our collective interest in easy, versatile hairstyles (and all things cottagecore), this could be exactly the right time for a bandana renaissance. Below, Kenealy and West explain their love for the accessory and offer advice for first-time wearers.
Bandanas Vs. Headbands & Other Hair Accessories
If you’ve dabbled in the wide world of hair accessories, you’ll know the comfort of a bandana is one of its biggest perks. “Because I frequently get migraines, a headband is out of the question,” Kenealy explains. She adds that the “Blair Waldorf aesthetic” of the traditional headband isn’t her speed. “I think bandanas in the form of a headband look way cuter.”
West views bandanas as the perfect bohemian accent to any look, and she praises their versatility. “I like to wear them with updos like buns, or even a half-up, half-down style. It’s really cute to wear it like that,” she says. “I have some [regular headbands], but I gravitate toward bandanas. They’re just more convenient to wear, and you can style them literally any different way.”
Even if you love the idea of bandanas, it’s OK if you can’t imagine wearing one on a typical day. In fact, you’re not alone. “I’d probably find myself wearing a bandana if I have some sort of occasion where dressing up a little bit is more accepted,” says Kenealy. She cites vacations and beach days as great moments to wear one without wondering if you look like a Pirates of the Caribbean extra.
How To Style A Bandana In Your Hair
Another massive pro of the bandana: It’s accessible to people of any hair length and texture. Many styles are even attainable for those who have no hair at all. If you’re a first-time wearer with lengthy strands, West recommends keeping your hair down to start. “I feel like that’s the most comfortable for people,” she explains. “I normally start it off in a triangle shape and just put that over my head, over a little bit of my forehead and half of my hair.”
Partial to an updo? “A lot of people also like to do a ponytail, fold the bandana all the way up, and tie it around the elastic,” West suggests. “It’s just this cute, fun accessory in your ponytail. ”
As for the logistics of keeping your hairstyle intact, Kenealy offers a crucial tip. “Use bobby pins to keep your bandanas in place. You don’t normally see them when you see a picture of someone wearing a bandana, but you need them. Otherwise, you’ll constantly be fixing it.” Beyond that, she feels the styling possibilities are limitless. “I would say to look at a few styles people are wearing — whether it’s the headscarf style, headband style, or using it as a hair tie — and wear whatever you feel comfortable in.”
Iconic Bandana Fashion Moments
To thoughtfully partake in any trend, it’s crucial to acknowledge its origins. “I think wearing a bandana halfway over your head with your hair down is iconic. It came from Black culture,” West points out. It’s true — you can’t discuss the bandana in pop culture without nodding to the likes of Aaliyah.
Bandanas are also a staple in Chicano culture, where they’ve historically been worn rolled up as a headband. “It’s carried on for so long, and it’s just such an easy way to style your hair,” she says. “If you’re having a bad hair day, you can just throw that on.”
As Kenealy notes, we have the French girl aesthetic to thank for the bandana’s continued relevance in recent years. “I recently started listening to Harry Styles, and as one does when they start listening to Harry Styles, did a deep dive into Camille Rowe,” she explains. “She really knows how to rock a bandana.”
If you’re ready to start incorporating bandanas into your hair accessory repertoire, make sure you wear them in a way that makes you feel confident. A good rule of thumb: If a styling tactic makes you feel less like yourself, it’s probably best to try other options until you find one that truly feels right. As Kenealy puts it, “I don’t ever think it’s a good idea to wear something that makes you feel uncomfortable.”
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