Headscarves or head scarves are scarves covering most or all of the top of a person's, usually women, hair and her head, leaving the face uncovered. A headscarf is formed of a triangular or square cloth folded into a triangle piece of fabric, with which the head is covered. Apart from the keffiyeh of the Middle East, headscarves worn by men are much less common and usually for practical purposes.
Reasons for wearing a headscarf
Headscarves may be worn for a variety of purposes, such as protection of the head or hair from rain, wind, dirt, cold, warmth, for sanitation, for fashion, recognition or social distinction; with religious significance, to hide baldness, out of modesty, or other forms of social convention. Headscarves are now mainly worn for practical, cultural or religious reasons.
Until the latter 20th century, headscarves were commonly worn by women in many parts of the Southwestern Asia, Europe, North Africa, and the Americas, as well as some other parts of the world. In recent decades, headscarves, like hats, have fallen out of favor in Western culture. They are still, though, common in many rural areas of Eastern Europe as well as many areas of the Middle East.
Headscarves and religion
Headscarves may specifically have a religious significance or function, or be expected as a matter of social custom, the two very often being confused.
Religions such as Judaism under Halakhah (Jewish Law) promote modest dress code among women. Many married Orthodox Jewish women wear a tichel to cover their hair. The Tallit is commonly worn by Jewish men especially for prayers, which they wrap around their head to recite the blessing of the Tallit.
Young Sikh boys, and sometimes girls, often wear a bandanna to cover their hair, before moving on to the turban. Older Sikhs may wear them as an under-turban.
Islam promotes modest dress among women. Many Muslim women wear a headscarf, often known as a hijab and in Quranic Arabic as the khimar. The Keffiyeh is commonly used by Muslim men, as for example Yasser Arafat who adopted a black and white fishnet-patterned keffiyeh as a hallmark.
Headscarves and veils are commonly used by observant Muslim women and girls, and required by law for women and girls 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 and girls.
Until at least the Renaissance, some form of cover for the hair was regarded as appropriate for married women in most European cultures, to agree with contemporary notions of modesty and as an indication of married status; the "matron's cap" is a general term for these. For un-married women it was considered appropriate to display their hair to attract suitors. The social elite, especially royalty, generally did not feel bound by these customs, unless they were widows. To some extent, the covering of the head depended on where the woman was; indoors and at home it was less worn, but it was usual outside and on formal occasions, especially in church. After the Renaissance, the custom slowly declined, but the Roman Catholic Church required all women to wear a Christian headcovering over their hair in church until the 1960s; these are often called mantillas, from the Spanish. Women meeting the Pope in formal audiences are still expected to wear them. Martin Luther, the founder of Lutheranism, as well as John Calvin, the founder of the Reformed Churches, also expected women to cover their heads in church, as did John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist tradition.
In many rural areas, older women, especially widows, still observe the custom, especially in eastern and southern Europe. At times the styles of covering using simple cloth became very elaborate, with complicated layers and folding, held in place with hair pins. Among the many terms for head-coverings made of flexible cloth are wimple, hennin, kerchief, gable hood, as well as light hats, mob caps and bonnets.
In countries with large Eastern Orthodox Christianity population such as Romania  or Russia headscarves and veils are used by Christian women in the Eastern Orthodox Church, Oriental Orthodox Church, Assyrian Church of the East, and Roman Catholic Church. A few years back, all women in Russia who attended Divine Liturgy wore head-coverings. A woman having her head covered means that she honors the Lord. Head-coverings also symbolizes that a woman is married and that her husband is the head of the family. Little girls also have their heads covered when they go to Mass at church, not because they are married, but in order to honor the Lord. Today, young Russian Orthodox women and little girls still cover their heads when going to church, but with a different type of headscarf: Mantilla, which is a silk or lace scarf. Nowadays only woman of older age (grandmothers) wear full head coverings.
Some English speakers use the word "babushka" (the word for 'grandma' in Russian: бaбушка (help·info)) to indicate a headscarf tied below the chin, as still commonly worn in rural parts of Europe. In many parts of Europe, headscarves are used mainly by elderly women and this led to the use of the term "babushka", a Slavic word meaning 'grandmother'. Some types of head coverings that Russian women wear are: circlet, veil, and wimple.
In Orthodox Judaism, married women are required to cover their hair with scarves, known as tichels or snoods, in compliance with the code of modesty known as tzniut. These hair coverings come in different shapes and sizes. Tichel is a veil where it covers all the hair, and towards the back of the head, the left over veil is made into a bun. Snoods belong to almost the same style, and are worn more like a hat. An alternative is to cover the natural hair by wearing a wig or a beret.
A Tichel (Yiddish טיכל tikhl), also called a mitpachat (Hebrew מִטפַּחַת miṭpaḥat), is the headscarf worn by many married Orthodox Jewish women out of religious law.
Headscarves and work/Labour units
Practical reasons include protection from bad weather and protection against industrial contamination, for example in dusty and oily environments. A headscarf can ensure that the hair does not interfere with the work and get caught-up in machinery since long hair can get into rotating parts of machines, so this is avoided either by means of a suitable head covering like a cap, hairnet or kerchief; cutting the hair short; or by putting on a scarf. Hygiene also requires wearing a head cover, for example in kitchens and hospitals. Such usage has gone on since about 1900, when women 's use of mob caps and Dutch bonnets declined.
Workers wore them at work to protect their hair from dirt. Farmers used them to see off the weather and dirt. Soviet labour units of the 1930s and 1940s wore them as part of their uniform (where uniforms were available). This habit was common until about the 1950s in the West for farmers and 1960s factory workers, and 1970s in the former USSR for farmers and factory workers.
In popular culture
Hilda Ogden, popular character from the UK soap opera Coronation Street portrayed by Jean Alexander, became famous throughout the nation for combining a headscarf with hair curlers. So famous was she that, in 1982, she came fourth behind the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II, and Diana, Princess of Wales in a poll of the most recognisable women in Britain.
Oil on canvas painting by Vittore Ghislandi, called Fra Galgario
A headscarf for chefs; Los Angeles, 2007
A young Somali woman in a traditional headscarf.
An Afghan girl wears an Islamic style scarf at the International Women’s Day celebration in Pajshir in 2008.
Scarved Moksha girls in traditional costumes.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Headscarves.|
- Christian headcovering
- Headscarf controversy in Turkey
- Islamic dress in Europe
- Shalwar Kameez
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