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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

A woman wearing a kerchief on her head
Red and blue bandanas in traditional paisley patterns

A kerchief (from the French couvre-chef, "cover the head") is a triangular or square piece of cloth tied around the head or around the neck for protective or decorative purposes. The popularity of head kerchiefs may vary by culture or religion, as among Amish women, Orthodox Jewish women, Muslim women, and older Slavic women.

A "handkerchief" or "hanky" primarily refers to a napkin made of cloth, used to dab away perspiration, clear the nostrils, or, in Victorian times, as a means of flirtation. A woman could intentionally drop a dainty square of lacy or embroidered fabric to give a favored man a chance to pick it up as an excuse to speak to her while returning it. Handkerchiefs were sometimes scented to be used like a nosegay or tussy-mussy, a way of protecting those who could afford them from the obnoxious scents in the street.

A bandanna or bandana (from the Hindi: बन्धन bandhana, "to tie") is a type of large, usually colorful, kerchief, usually worn on the head. Bandannas are frequently printed in a paisley pattern.

Bandanas are most often used to hold hair back, as a fashionable head accessory. But they're also used by:

  • Outdoor workers such as farmers and cowboys, who wear them around the neck to wipe the sweat off their faces and keep dust out of their collars.
  • Wildland firefighters, who wear them over the mouth and nose to lessen inhalation of dust and fumes.
  • Dancers and other athletes, who wear them during practice as a simple way of keeping hair and sweat out of their faces or as part of their costume/uniform.
  • Soldiers, to keep their own sweat and blood out of their eyes.

Bandanas are also traditionally used as handkerchiefs by manual laborers and outdoorsmen, since they more practically hide stains than a white handkerchief. Thus they come to symbolize social revolutions.

In particular colors, they can be worn as a means of communication or identification, as with the prominent California criminal gangs, the Bloods, the Crips, the Norteños, and the Sureños or in sexual subcultures in the United States. In the late 1980s/early 1990s, the Bloods and the Crips, wore red or blue paisley bandanas as a signifier of gang affiliation.

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BANDANA, or Bandanna, a word probably derived through the Portuguese from the Hindustani bandhnu, which signified a primitive method of obtaining an effect in dyeing by tying up cloth in different places to prevent the particular parts from receiving the dye. The name was given to richly coloured silk handkerchiefs produced by this process, of which bright colours were characteristic. Bandanas are now commonly made of cotton and produced in Lancashire, whence they are exported. The effect is also produced by a regular process in calico printing, in which the pattern is made by discharging the colour.


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Simple English

A kerchief (from the French couvre-chef, "cover the head") is a triangular or square piece of cloth tied around the head or around the neck for protective or decorative purposes. A "handkerchief" primarily refers to a napkin made of cloth, used to maintain personal hygiene. A bandanna or bandana (from Hindi: बन्धन bandhana, "to tie") is a type of large, usually colorful, kerchief, usually worn on the head. Bandannas are frequently printed in a paisley pattern.

Certain colors of kerchiefs are associated with gangs making it potentially dangerous to wear different types of them in certain areas. For example, in Los Angeles, California, a red kerchief is associated with Bloods and a blue one is associated with Crips or Sureños. In certain cities such as Richmond, Virginia, non-violent bicycle clubs such as The Loners may wear black and white bandannas to show their association.

A bandana can also be used as a gag and has been used in western movies and in BDSM movies to prevent a person from speaking. The person being gagged is almost always tied up in some way and the bandana is tied so its in the persons mouth or around over the mouth.


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