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American rapper GZA wearing a durag
Master P wearing a durag

A durag or do-rag is a scarf worn on the head after a hair treatment process (hairdo).[1]


Durags were originally founded as the headgear of poor African American women laborers and slaves in the 19th century. In the 1930s, during the Harlem Renaissance and Great Depression, the durag evolved into a hairstyle preserver. After the Black Power Movement in the late 1960s, the durag became a fashion statement among African Americans, worn by rappers, athletes and men of all ages. In the 2000s, wearing durags in public lost popularity in certain areas but maintained its popularity in others. However, because of rappers, such as A$AP Ferg and the return of waves as a hairstyle, they have now regained their status as a fashion among the African American community. Durags can also be apart and or observed by different religions.[2]

Motorcyclists wear durags, especially in US states with motorcycle helmet laws, to prevent "helmet hair" or "helmet head".[3] The durag prevents sweat and sebum from causing an unpleasant smelling helmet, and also prevents sunburn when worn without a helmet.


In the United States, there have been a number of controversies[4][5] in high schools concerning the appropriateness of wearing durags as a part of regular school attire. When John Muir High School in Pasadena, California banned durags as part of a school dress-code policy, students staged a peaceful walk-out in February 2019. [6] The walk-out was staged by the Black Student Union; protesting students contended that school administrators banned the headwear because of its affiliation "with gang culture," although the school's principal claimed that it was banned because "...of values we have for how we present ourselves at school.”

In 2001, the American National Football League banned its players from wearing durags and bandanas underneath their helmets.[7]


Merriam-Webster places earliest usage of “do-rag” in 1968. [8] The New York Times corrects that the true spelling is durag, and its popularity began in the 1970s. [9] The Urban Dictionary gives the spelling doo-rag, originating as a 1970s fashion statement in prisons. [10] There is an alternative etymology in which do-rag is dew-rag, and dew is a euphemism for sweat, the current do-rag folk-etymologized from it. [11] In the same source, another author cites a reference from the 1940s, of a do-rag used to keep a hair-do in place. [12]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tom Dalzell (2009), "do-rag", The Routledge Dictionary of Modern American Slang and Unconventional English, Routledge, p. 308, ISBN 978-0-415-37182-7
  2. ^ Russell, Lee. "Benefits of Wearing A Durag and History - Du-Rag Explained". Male Sense Pro. p. 1. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  3. ^ "DareDevil Durags for Helmet Hair Care – Versatile, Effective, Stunning!". Motoress: Women Motorcycle Enthusiast. Retrieved 20 April 2019.
  4. ^ Rubio, Karolena (13 December 2018). "Du-Rag Controversy Resolved". p. 1. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  5. ^ Miller, Rann (20 July 2018). "A Charter School's Explanation for Banning Durags Is Worse Than the Ban". p. 1. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  6. ^ Kenney, Tanasia (26 February 2019). "California High School Students Stage Mass Walkout Over Policy Banning Durags". Atlanta Black Star.
  7. ^ Official NFL Playing Rules, Rule 5: Players, Substitutes, Equipment, General Rules. National Football League. 2011. p. 29.
  8. ^ "do-rag". Merriam-Webster. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  9. ^ Garcia, Sandra E. (14 May 2018). "The Durag, Explained". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  10. ^ Montrell, Lakeisha (23 June 2007). "doo-rag". Urban Dictionary. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  11. ^ Preston, Dennis R. (23 March 2005). "Do-Rag (1966)". Lingualist. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  12. ^ Lee, Margaret (6 March 2005). "Do-Rag (1966)". Lingualist. Retrieved 6 May 2019.

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