The Evolution of Headscarves: From Ancient Egypt to the Red Carpet

The Evolution of Headscarves: From Ancient Egypt to the Red Carpet

Head coverings in ancient times- practical and traditional uses


Historians have found evidence of headscarves in ancient Egyptian tombs and artwork as far back as 1350 BC. The Egyptians covered their heads with fabrics made of fine linen to protect from the sun. They were often adorned with gold or other precious materials to signify the wearer's wealth and status.  

woman in head scarf
  • Functional and spiritual purposes

Headscarves were also commonly worn in ancient Greece and Rome. Greek women would wear a veil called a kredemnon, which covered their entire head and shoulders. Roman women wore a similar veil called a flammeum, which was traditionally dyed bright red. Wealthy women wore these headscarves to demonstrate their piety, but prostitutes and lower class women were not allowed to wear them. 

Moroccan Jewish woman dressed in traditional clothing 1900
In many cultures, headscarves have been worn as a sign of religious devotion or obligation. For example, in Islam, the hijab is a head covering worn by Muslim women, shrouding
their hair and neck as a sign of modesty and religious observance. Similarly, Orthodox Jewish women, Catholic nuns, and some Mennonite women may wear headscarves as a sign of modesty and respect for tradition.



Headscarves in the 20th century-  from Hollywood to the factory

Audrey Hepburn in a headscarf 6 times

In the 20th century, headwraps became an important fashion accessory, worn by women from all walks of life. In the early years of the century, scarves were used in the film industry to create glamorous looks for female movie stars–like the iconic headscarf worn by actress Greta Garbo in the 1930 film Romance. The headscarf became a symbol of the golden age of Hollywood and was often seen on the heads of stars like Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn. 


  • Multi-purpose head scarves are both stylish and useful

With the advent of the automobile, headscarves became a a practical accessory, particularly for women with long hair. In the 1940s and 1950s, headscarves became popularamong women who wanted to protect their hair from the wind in open vehicles. 

2 ladies in headscarves, working in a factory wwII building airplanes



During World War II, women who worked in factories and other industries wore kerchiefs to keep their hair out of their faces and machinery. In the 1960s, these scarves took on a new meaning as a symbol of the feminist movement. Women protesting for their rights and marching for equality often wore headscarves as a way to demonstrate their solidarity and unity.



A modern accessory: from medical hair loss to the red carpet

woman in golden headscarf with a paisley design handkerchief 


Today, women continue to wear headcoverings for a variety of reasons.. As fashion accessories they can add a pop of color or pattern to an outfit or cover up a bad hair day. Headscarves are also a practical accessory for women with hair loss due to medical treatments, illness, or aging. 



  • Fashionable accessories with practical advantages

    Rihanna in a headscarf kerchief

    In recent years, designers are incorporating scarves into their runway collections and celebrities like Rihanna, Beyoncé, and Lupita Nyong'o have worn them on the red carpet.

     In my own experience, head wraps have been a powerful tool for self-expression and a way to embrace my own unique style–from a vintage-inspired scarf tied in a bow to a sleek and modern turban. Headcoverings have allowed me to feel confident and stylish in any situation, whether that’s just a bad hair day or regrowth after cancer treatments.

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