Headwraps, also known as headscarves or head ties, are a type of hair accessory worn on the head like a turban. There are many ways to style a fashionable headwrap depending on the occasion.
They can be worn casually on a daily basis at home or when meeting with friends, for example, or to formal events and special occasions including parties and weddings. Women often wear headwraps to express their individual style and personality.
The headwrap originated from Africa and is traditionally worn by women in many different countries. They are called ‘Duka’ in Ghana, ‘Gele’ in Nigeria and ‘Doek’ in South Africa. The chosen style of headwrap worn by African women can display information about their marital status, and social and economic background.
Headwraps can be worn in the same fabric to match traditional handwoven or modern African print clothing outfits.Browse African Headwraps
There are numerous reasons why women choose to wear headwraps. They protect your hair and scalp from weather conditions such as rain, sun, wind and dirt. They can be used for fashion, warmth, sanitation, medical and religious purposes. African headwraps are the best go-to accessory for a bad hair day!
In the winter, headwraps not only keep your head warm but also protect your hair as the cold temperature and dry air absorbs moisture from curly hair, which can cause breakage, frizz and split ends.
Headwraps can be worn in a range of different styles, fabrics, colours, textures, patterns and sizes. There are various different materials that can be used for headwraps; each has its own pros and cons.
Silk is a natural fiber that protects hair well from frizz and prevents curls from losing their shape. This material helps to keep your hair hydrated, improves hair strength and reduces scalp irritation. Silk has a shiny appearance so you can create a glamourous look for formal occasions. It can be challenging to style silk headwraps though as the material is soft and flimsy.
Like silk, satin protects natural hair from dryness and prevents frizz, tangles, thinning, breakage, and moisture loss. It also looks dramatic when worn to formal occasions due to its shiny appearance. This material is lightweight so it can feel more comfortable to wear in warm climates. Satin does not stretch as much compared to other materials.
Cotton is a natural, soft, durable, and breathable fiber that is comfortable to wear. It’s a versatile material that can be used to create many different headwrap styles. Cotton is one of the best fabrics for styling headwraps as it’s stiffer than silk and satin so it’s easier to twist the fabric and hold the wrap in place without slipping off your head.
Stretch cotton jersey that’s been knitted with lycra can also be used effectively, as it’s more flexible than 100% cotton woven fabric. This material, which is light to medium in weight, is suitable for more casual, everyday headwrap looks.
Cotton headwraps may absorb your hair’s natural moisture and oils if worn for a long time. If you like to wear cotton headwraps often then you can protect your hair by wearing a silk scarf (or bonnet) underneath. You could also attach a satin or silk lining to a cotton headwrap if you like to make them yourself at home.
Similar to cotton, polyester is another fabric that is good for styling headwraps. However, it’s a synthetic fiber which is not sustainable like cotton or silk. This material can also absorb moisture from your hair, especially if it’s curly which can be prone to dryness. Polyester is often used to create hair turbans but is not a suitable fabric to wear as a head scarf as it can slip off the head easily if not properly and securely tied.
There are so many beautiful traditional and modern African fabrics, both handwoven and printed, that are suitable for making headwraps. Continue reading to find out more!
Mud cloth from Mali (also called bògòlanfini) is handwoven cotton fabric hand-dyed and painted. Once the handwoven strips are sewn together to make the cloth, it is put inside a dye bath made from boiled leaves. After the fabric is dried in the sun, fermented mud is used to paint the patterns before the cloth is washed.
This popular fabric is used for fashion and accessories as well as interior design. There are mass-produced, printed imitation mud cloth fabrics and scarfs available, which are suitable for headwraps.
Adire is an indigo-dyed cotton cloth traditionally made and worn by Yoruba women in Nigeria, West Africa. A natural dyeing process is used which involves boiling leaves and seeds from indigo plants. The cloth is dipped several times into dye pits to achieve a dark blue colour. Different dye-resit techniques are used to create the patterns such as batik and tie-dye.
If you’re looking for fabric to create a casual headwrap that isn’t too colourful but still has African-inspired patterns, then Adire cloth could be a suitable option.
Aso-òkè is handwoven in strips that are later sewn together to form the cloth. It’s traditionally woven by Yoruba men in Nigeria using locally grown cotton that is spun by hand. The yarn is used in its natural form or dyed using natural indigo dyes.
The different coloured yarns are used to create intricate patterns. Shiny gold and silver threads have been introduced to the designs. The cloth can be used to make clothing and headwraps, particularly for special occasions.
Kente is a luxurious strip woven cloth that is also usually worn for special occasions. It originates from Ghana and is traditionally handwoven by the Asante and Ewe people. Each pattern has its own name and hidden meaning; the colours used are also symbolic.
Printed replicas of the cloth are widely available which has increased Kente’s popularity, especially among young people in West Africa and the diaspora. The printed Kente imitation fabrics are regularly used to make modern African print clothing and headwraps.
Kikoy is a rectangular cotton sarong handwoven and traditionally worn in Kenya and Tanzania, East Africa. It’s the perfect shape and size for a headscarf and features short tassels and simple stripe patterns. Versatile Kikoys can easily be worn as a headscarf just as they are with no sewing necessary.
African wax print fabric, also known as leso, kitenge (or chitenge), and ankara fabric is printed 100% cotton cloth that uses batik (a wax-resist dyeing technique). These well-loved fabrics are mass produced by machines.
The printed pattern and colours look the same on both sides of the fabric, which is great for headwraps if you would like to wear one fabric design. The bold motifs and bright colours make wax print fabric a popular choice when it comes to African-inspired accessories.
You may have some spare fabric at home which could be repurposed by making a headwrap. The length of a headwrap is usually 50-72 inches and you can make the width as wide as you like. If you would like to create headwrap styles that include twisting then we recommend a long length so you have enough fabric to work with.
Watch the below video tutorial to see how easy it is to make a simple headwrap at home. If you don’t know how to sew then you can easily use a long rectangular scarf, wrap or sarong to create a headwrap style. Suitable scarf materials that work well include chiffon, viscose and jersey.
There are lots of materials that are suitable for wearing (or making) a headwrap. You might be interested to explore our top 5 basic headscarf styles, which you could try and have fun experimenting with at home.
While you’re here, why not browse our gorgeous collection of colourful and unique African wax print fabric headwraps. We offer two different sizes; 72 x 11 inches will cover the sides of your head so you can still see some hair whereas 72 x 22 inches will cover your whole head.
Our stylish African headwraps are lovingly handmade by our talented tailors and shipped worldwide from Tanzania within 5 working days from receiving your order. They can also be worn as a neck scarf and make great gifts too.
You can currently get 10% off when you purchase more than one headwrap (use code: HEADWRAPS10). Why not treat yourself and/or a loved one!Shop Headwraps
Alternatively, browse our collection of authentic, high-quality African wax print fabrics if you would like to make your own headwraps at home. To make one headwrap, you’ll need a piece of kitenge fabric that is 2 yards (72 inches) in length. The width of our fabric is 46 inches, which is enough to cover the whole head.Shop African Print Fabric
Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you have any questions. We’re always happy to help 🙂
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