If the first rule of fashion is that all trends are cyclical, the second is that no classic is too classic to be turned on its ear now and again — assigned to a different body part, given new meaning, deconstructed, embellished with all kinds of whatsits. The humble cotton kerchief is the latest Americana artifact to undergo such a renaissance. As you may have noticed, the rules of how to wear a bandana are [John Wayne voice] changin’.
Ranchers, festivalgoers and protestors value bandanas’ debris-shielding abilities, fashion kids their ability to, as Vogue writer Kristin Anderson puts it, “add chutzpah to the otherwise quotidian.” Plus, the historically paisley-patterned scarves tap into the fashion set’s current affinity for Westernwear and — for better or worse — all things protest-inspired.
On a related note, bandanas turned up on many a Fall 2017 runway — and not by coincidence. On the eve of fashion month, The Business of Fashion invited members of “the global fashion community” to wear a white bandana around their wrists, necks, heads or handbags “as a sign to the world that you believe in the common bonds of humankind — regardless of race, sexuality, gender or religion.” Models at Tommy Hilfiger, Prabal Gurung, Diane von Furstenberg and more bandana-ed up in solidarity.
Of course, Tommy & Co. weren’t the first to use bandanas to liven up their looks. Stuart Vevers is a longtime kerchief fan. For Spring 2017, nearly every Coach 1941 look came paired with a bandana, usually in the form of a cloth bracelet. Baja East’s models wore theirs folded, flattened and tied around their crowns, hippie-style.
Bandanas are great for any and all weather, but we appreciate them most under extreme meteorological conditions. In the winter, when all you want to wear is a sweater and jeans, bandanas add a touch of interest to your swaddle. In the summer, when metals irritate and outerwear is a no-go, that extra swatch of material adds dimension to a simple one- or two-piece look (as Gigi Hadid demonstrates above).
Best of all, the styling possibilities are endless. For summer, take a page out of Maria Grazia Chiuri’s stylebook and wrap a bandana around your head to avoid straw-hat hair. Or make like Los Angeles-based streetwear label Fear of God and wear one (or two) as an anklet. While this trick doesn’t serve any real “purpose,” it will draw attention to your fresh summer footwear. (In fashion, aesthetics always trump utility.)
Click through the gallery below for even more tips on how to wear a bandana (hey, we did say the possibilities were endless) plus shop 20 of the chicest bandanas the internet has to offer.