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American rapper GZA wearing a durag
Place of originfl. United States
Introduced19th century

A durag (alternate spellings), silky, or wave cap is a close-fitting cloth cap tied around the top of the head.[1] Durags may be worn to accelerate the development of long curly/kinky hair, waves or locks in the hair;[2] to maintain natural oils in hair (similar to a bonnet); to stop hair breakage; or to keep hair, wave patterns and braids from shifting while sleeping. Durags are also worn as an identity-making fashion choice, popular in African-American culture.

Spelling and etymology[edit]

Numerous alternative spellings exist for durag, including do-rag, dew-rag, and doo-rag, all of which may be spelled with a space instead of a hyphen, or with neither a hyphen nor a space; especially as durag. The simplest etymology for do-rag is that it is named as such because it is a rag worn to protect one's hairdo. However, The New York Times claims that the correct spelling of the word is durag.[3] An alternative etymology claims that name should be spelled dew-rag, and dew is a euphemism for sweat.[4]

Early usage
  • In the August 27, 1965 edition of LIFE magazine, a page 22 photo caption describes a man wearing a "durag on his new hair-do".[5]
  • On June 4, 1966, the Akron Beacon Journal printed "do rag ... a cloth band worn around the forehead as a sweatband or to keep hair in place".[6]
  • On September 2, 1966, the Dayton Daily News printed "the man with the black dew rag... one with the black bandana".[7]
  • In late 1966, "do rag ... processed hair done up in black rags" appeared in Newsweek.[8]

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary places the earliest usage of do-rag in 1968.[1]


In the 1930s, during the Harlem Renaissance and Great Depression, the durag was used to maintain hairstyles.

During the black pride movement of the 1960s and '70s, durags became a fashion statement among (The Black and Hispanic) men.[9] In the 1990s, durags were further popularized by rappers like Jay-Z, Nelly, and 50 Cent.[9] The popularity of rappers such as A$AP Ferg[10] and the waves hairstyle have re-stimulated the use of durags.

In popular culture[edit]

American singer and bassist Thundercat's album It Is What It Is features the song entitled "Dragonball Durag". The lyrics references the headwear as the title piece to impress women. The durag referenced has a pattern taken from popular Japanese television cartoon Dragon Ball. [11]

Rapper Royce da 5'9" has a song on the 2020 album The Allegory entitled "Rhinestone Doo Rag".

Rihanna wore a durag on the cover of the British Vogue, which marked a milestone of durags as seen as a fashion symbol.[12]

The character of Leon Black on Curb Your Enthusiasm is famous for wearing his durag on the show.[13]

In 2021, contestant Symone wore an outfit with a durag, which extended to a train, on the thirteenth season of RuPaul's Drag Race.[14]

The rapper Baby Keem, with a feature from Travis Scott, released a single in 2021 with the name "durag activity".

Kvarforth, frontman of the Swedish depressive suicidal black metal band Shining, is known to wear a durag as part of his onstage look, in contrast to the corpse paint traditionally synonymous with black metal.


Some United States high schools attempted to ban the wearing of durags.[15][16] When John Muir High School in Pasadena, California, banned durags as part of a school dress-code policy, the Black Student Union staged a peaceful walk-out in February 2019.[17] Protesting students contended that school administrators banned the head-wear because of its affiliation with gang culture, although the principal claimed that durags were banned because "of values we have for how we present ourselves at school".[17]

In 2001, the National Football League banned its players from wearing durags and bandanas underneath their helmets.[18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Definition of DO-RAG". Retrieved 2021-03-29.
  2. ^ Tom Dalzell (2009), "durag", The Routledge Dictionary of Modern American Slang and Unconventional English, Routledge, p. 308, ISBN 978-0-415-37182-7
  3. ^ Garcia, Sandra E. (2018-05-14). "The Durag, Explained". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-03-29.
  4. ^ Preston, Dennis R. (23 March 2005). "Do-Rag (1966)". Lingualist. Retrieved 6 May 2019.
  5. ^ Alexander, Shana (27 August 1965). "Out of the Cauldron of Hate - Arson and Death". LIFE: 22. Retrieved 13 September 2020.
  6. ^ "The Akron Beacon Journal from Akron, Ohio on June 4, 1966 · Page 37". Retrieved 2021-03-29.
  7. ^ "Dayton Daily News from Dayton, Ohio on September 2, 1966 · 4". Retrieved 2020-12-26.
  8. ^ "" the do rag " - Google Search". Retrieved 2021-03-29.
  9. ^ a b Shen, Ann (2020). Nevertheless, She Wore It: 50 Iconic Fashion Moments. San Francisco: Chronicle Books LLC. p. 44. ISBN 978-1452184012.
  10. ^ Dawson, Lamar (6 April 2018). "How to Tie a Durag, According to A$AP Ferg". GQ. Retrieved 2021-03-29.
  11. ^ "Dragon Ball Durag Lyrics". Durag Wave. Retrieved 2021-03-29.
  12. ^ "Rihanna makes history: 'Did I ever imagine that I would see a durag on the cover of Vogue?'". the Guardian. 2020-03-31. Retrieved 2020-11-02.
  13. ^ "Is Leon Black on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" The Most Influential Durag Ambassador on TV?". Durag Wave. Retrieved 2021-03-29.
  14. ^ "Eliminations return as Drag Race celebrates cheesy holiday movies". TV Club. Retrieved 2021-03-29.
  15. ^ Rubio, Karolena (13 December 2018). "Du-Rag Controversy Resolved". p. 1. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  16. ^ Miller, Rann (20 July 2018). "A Charter School's Explanation for Banning Durags Is Worse Than the Ban". p. 1. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  17. ^ a b Kenney, Tanasia (26 February 2019). "California High School Students Stage Mass Walkout Over Policy Banning Durags". Atlanta Black Star.
  18. ^ "Official Playing Rules and Casebook of the National Football League" (PDF). National Football League. 2011. Archived (PDF) from the original on 15 December 2011. Retrieved 30 May 2021.

External links[edit]