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For other uses, see headgear.
Women's headscarves for sale in Jerusalem

Headscarves or head scarves are scarves covering most or all of the top of a woman's hair and her head. Headscarves may be worn for a variety of purposes, such as for warmth, for sanitation, for fashion or social distinction; with religious significance, to hide baldness, out of modesty, or other forms of social convention.


Headscarves may have specific religious significance. Observant married Jewish women, for example, are required to cover their hair, often employing scarves, known as tichels or snoods, in compliance with the code of modesty known as tzniut.

Headscarves were also worn by married Christian women in medieval Europe, and even by some of the unmarried. This headcovering habit included a circlet, veil and wimple.

Headscarves were once required of Catholic women when attending Mass. This is no longer true, but there has been a recent increase of younger Catholic women taking up the mantilla.

16th century veil and wimple.
Elizabeth II wearing babushka-type headscarf at a meeting with Ronald Reagan, 1982.

Headscarves and veils are commonly used by observant Muslim women, and required by law for women in certain Muslim countries (Saudi Arabia for example). The Muslim religious dress varies, and various cultures include burqa, chador, niqab, dupatta, or others. The Arabic word hijab, which refers to modest behaviour or dress in general, is often used to describe the headscarf worn by Muslim women. A "head dress" could also be worn by men. The most common, keffiyeh, is worn by men (most commonly Middle Eastern) for cultural purposes rather than religious.

Headscarves are sometimes used by Christian women as well, mainly in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church, Assyrian Church of the East, and Roman Catholic Church. Some Anabaptist Protestants make use of veils also.

Some English speakers use the word "babushka" (the word for 'grandma' in Russian: About this sound бaбушка ) to indicate the headscarf tied below the chin, as commonly worn in Europe, especially by elderly women in Russia. In many parts of Europe and the Balkan region, headscarves are used mainly[citation needed] by elderly women and this led to the use of the term "babushka", a Slavic word meaning 'grandmother'. In Chile, Mapuche women wear headscarves tied behind the head.

A plain red or scarlet headscarf was worn by female commissars and other women aligning themselves with Bolshevism in times of Russian revolution and civil war.

A head tie is an elaborate ornamental head covering worn by women of western and southern Africa.

Many women with medical hair loss, due to chemotherapy, alopecia or other causes, use scarves as protective head coverings.

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