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Rapper Slim Thug wearing a do-rag.

A do-rag, also spelled doo-rag, du-rag, durag is a piece of cloth used to cover the head. A popular folk etymology claims that the term derives from drive-on rag, a term first used by U.S. soldiers during the Vietnam War to refer to a muslin bandage often used as a head covering. According to the Oxford English Dictionary and Merriam-Webster, however, the term derives from do as in hairdo: a do-rag is often worn to protect a processed hairstyle during sleep.[1][2]



Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia wearing something similar to a do-rag

The do-rag was popular throughout many different eras. A popular misconception is that the do-rag is a recent African-American trend, but, in actuality, for centuries, men and women of African descent from around the world have used various fabrics and scarves to cover their hair. The custom is known also from ancient China, where wrapping the hair (often held in a topknot) was common during physical labour and military service.

Large silk handkerchiefs (or bandanas) are frequently found in Latin America as well, though they are typically worn under a Panama hat. They are very commonly seen in Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Colombia, Haiti & Peru (this custom may very well have come from the African slaves brought to this part of the Spanish-speaking world). These handkerchiefs were in much wider use at one time, being worn by the Spanish in what is now the American Southwest. It was common to see a black or white silk bandana worn under a matching black or white bolero hat by the Spanish horsemen or vaqueros. The most notable example is the one worn by the fictional character Zorro. It was this silk bandana that spawned the trend among cowboys to start sporting cotton bandanas.

In the 1930s women wore bandanna-like fabric to fasten their hairstyles in place while they set. In the 1940s the style among women shifted into the workplace where they were taking over factory jobs and needed a safe way to keep their hair out of the machinery. Rosie the Riveter is famously featured wearing the blue-collar woman's do-rag.

From the 1930s to the 1960s, they were used by African-American men to hold chemically processed hair-dos in place while they slept. Originally they were made from pieces of handkerchief, bandannas, or women's stockings; now many are made from polyester. Do-rags resurged as a fashion trend among urban youth in the 1970s and 2000s. Do-rags are worn in a variety of colours, with black being the most common. Do-rags are regularly used to create and maintain waves. They are also used for cornrowed hairstyles. They usually have long ties on either side that are wrapped around the head to secure the do-rag and tied at the back.

It is also in widespread use among women who have had Japanese Hair Straightening done to their hair.


The do-rag may be worn by motorcycle riders to keep hair from blowing into the face and eyes (a benefit to both the rider and to any passenger they may have riding on their bike behind them), to keep bugs out of the hair, and to absorb sweat. Generally, riders who use a do-rag do not wear a helmet. The do-rag adds to the attitude projected by the rider as having a tough guy personality. Nevertheless, the majority of motorcyclists prefer the original bandanna. They are also worn by cyclists who wear helmets to keep the helmet from making their head sore. Some motorcyclists, however, wear a do-rag beneath their helmets to reduce the amount of sweat and hair left behind in the helmet—thus reducing the need to wash the inside of the helmet.

African-American men use do-rags to maintain the wave patterns in their hair. After intense brushing, an oil sheen or grease is usually applied to the hair which is then wrapped in a do-rag overnight to prevent the waves from losing their pattern.


Some gang members wear do-rags representing their gang colors.

In April 2001, the National Football League banned its players from wearing do-rags and bandanas underneath their helmets. The ban did not apply to players who wore them for medical reasons.[3]

A do rag is also reminiscent of a 'mitpachat': an Israeli style of head covering worn by Orthodox Jewish women. It can be a variety of colours and fabrics, but often it is longer than the average do-rag and tails down the back of the neck. Women who wear the do-rag style mitpachot often cut their hair short in accordance with Jewish law that stipulates that a woman's hair must be covered once married. Some women prefer to keep their hair long and tie the mitpachat in a knot at the back of their head, covering the hair within, this is less like the conventional do-rag. Mitpachot are colour co-ordinated to match clothing, but on special occasions white is a popular choice.

See also


  1. ^ do-rag, n. Oxford English Dictionary. Accessed 9 July 2008
  2. ^ do-rag. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. Accessed 9 June 2008.
  3. ^ NFL's New Rule Bans Do-Rags And Bandanas Worn On The Field - National Football League - Brief Article | Jet | Find Articles at


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