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Slim Thug wearing a do-rag.jpg
American rapper Slim Thug wearing a durag
Place of originfl. United States
Introduced20th century

A durag (alternate spellings) is a close-fitting cloth tied around the top of the head to protect the hair; similarly a wave cap is a close-fitting cap for the same purpose.[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, one writer in 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[edit]

  • In the August 27, 1965, edition of LIFE magazine, a page 22 photo caption describes a man wearing a "'do-rag' 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.[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]

GZA wearing a durag in 2000

The 1974 song "Uncle Remus," cowritten by Frank Zappa and George Duke, includes the lyric, "I can't wait till my Fro is full-grown / I'll just throw 'way my Doo-Rag at home."[11]

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. [12]

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.[13]

The character of Leon Black on Curb Your Enthusiasm is famous for wearing his durag on the show.[14]

In 2021, contestant Symone wore an outfit with a durag, which extended to a train, on the thirteenth season of RuPaul's Drag Race.[15]

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.

Bans and controversy[edit]

In 1995, the National Football League (NFL) considered banning players from wearing "bandanas, known as do-rags." League executive Gene Washington said durags were associated with crime and gang violence but insisted that the idea was "driven largely by black people, not white people." Safety Merton Hanks said that he wore one because it made his helmet fit better and was therefore akin to safety equipment. Ultimately, the league decided to take no action.[16] In 2001, however, the league owners voted 30–1 to ban players from wearing all headwear under helmets except for "skull caps" in what the league claimed was "a matter of image." Although there were concerns that the move may have been racially biased, the league again framed the ban as being originated by black members of their competition committee, including Denny Green.[17][18] Some players argued unsuccessfully that wearing durags under helmets helped them prevent hair loss.[17]

During a preseason game in 2000, the National Basketball Association (NBA) told Indiana Pacers player Sam Perkins that he could not wear a durag because it was "a safety hazard."[19] In October 2005, the NBA issued a dress code which, among other changes, forbade players from wearing durags not just on the court but while engaged in any manner of team or league business.[20]

Some United States high schools have attempted to ban the wearing of durags.[21][22] 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.[23] Protesting students contended that school administrators banned the headwear 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".[23]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Definition of DO-RAG". www.merriam-webster.com. 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. p. 22. Retrieved 13 September 2020.
  6. ^ "The Akron Beacon Journal from Akron, Ohio on June 4, 1966 · Page 37". Newspapers.com. Retrieved 2021-03-29.
  7. ^ "Dayton Daily News from Dayton, Ohio on September 2, 1966 · 4". Newspapers.com. Retrieved 2020-12-26.
  8. ^ "" the do rag " - Google Search". www.google.com. 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. ^ García Albertos, Román. "Apostrophe('): Uncle Remus". Information Is Not Knowledge. Retrieved January 12, 2022.
  12. ^ "Dragon Ball Durag Lyrics". Durag Wave. Retrieved 2021-03-29.
  13. ^ "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.
  14. ^ "Is Leon Black on "Curb Your Enthusiasm" The Most Influential Durag Ambassador on TV?". Durag Wave. Retrieved 2021-03-29.
  15. ^ "Eliminations return as Drag Race celebrates cheesy holiday movies". TV Club. 23 January 2021. Retrieved 2021-03-29.
  16. ^ "The idea of an NFL ban on bandanas isn't sitting well with some players". AP News. Associated Press. May 23, 1995. Retrieved 6 May 2022.
  17. ^ a b "NFL TO PLAYERS . . . DUMP THE DO-RAGS". Chicago Tribune. April 3, 2001. Retrieved 6 May 2022.
  18. ^ George, Thomas (4 April 2001). "ON PRO FOOTBALL; Blacks at Center Stage in Rancorous Debate on Headgear". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 May 2022.
  19. ^ "LEAGUE NOTES". Sports Business Journal. October 17, 2000. Retrieved 6 May 2022.
  20. ^ MacLeod, Robert (18 October 2005). "Do-rags done for in NBA code". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 6 May 2022.
  21. ^ Rubio, Karolena (13 December 2018). "Du-Rag Controversy Resolved". raidervoice.com. p. 1. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  22. ^ Miller, Rann (20 July 2018). "A Charter School's Explanation for Banning Durags Is Worse Than the Ban". progressive.org. p. 1. Retrieved 15 July 2019.
  23. ^ a b Kenney, Tanasia (26 February 2019). "California High School Students Stage Mass Walkout Over Policy Banning Durags". Atlanta Black Star.

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