How to wear a bandana – 21 Outfit Tips + Do’s & Don’ts

How to wear a bandana - faverie

If you are looking for something new to add to your wardrobe to change up your looks, consider bandanas. They are a marvelous choice that can be worn in a multitude of ways with your casual clothing. You can even use big ones to create dresses and coverups.

In this post, we will first define bandanas, and I will share a little about their history. Then, I will give you ten ideas for men and women on how to wear a bandana.

You will not want to miss this post about these colorful pieces of fabric. So without any further ado, let’s learn about bandanas.

The bandana

Bandanas are a terrific way to add an interesting piece of color to almost any casual outfit. In this chapter, I will discuss the definition of a bandana and share a little about its history.

I will also talk about the right times and places to wear a bandana and share where the trend of wearing bandanas started. Finally, I will discuss if this is a trend you need to be following right now or information you need to tuck away for a future date.

Experts suggest that the word bandana comes from two Hindi words that are very similar. The first is “badhnu,” which means tie-dye, and the second is “bandhana,” meaning to tie something up. 

Like other Hindi words that are commonplace today, including forest, jungle, and cashmere, the word likely has deep Indian roots that entered the English language about 1858, during the British Raj.

The two similar Hindi words perfectly define this clothing item that can be worn in so many ways. While I will share more details later, you can tie them around your head, neck, torso, waist, or leg.

What’s a bandana?

A bandana is a triangle or square piece of fabric that can be worn on many body parts. It is often worn with casual clothes. A bandana can also be called a kerchief as long as it is big. It differs from a handkerchief, which is used for blowing your nose.

Manufacturers make most bandanas from cotton or cotton-blend fabrics, and they often have a paisley design. These colorful fabric shapes can also be silk or other materials.

While it is no longer the case, the first bandanas had a practical purpose. At that time, chewing tobacco was immensely popular, and when smokers blew their noses, yellow and brown stuff would come out and stain white handkerchiefs. Therefore, red bandanas were invented to help hide the stains.

Soon, most bandanas were printed in a paisley design. This design has its roots in the Indian pinecone. However, there is plenty of room for speculation because it could be based on many wild plants that grew in the Kashmir region of ancient Persia.

As I mentioned earlier, bandanas were introduced to Europe, and their popularity exploded. During the early 19th century, many bandanas were made in Mulhouse, France, where manufacturers dyed white fabric red by using sheep dung, olive oil, and madder root. 

Madder is a long-lived perennial that is a cousin to coffee. Mulhouse may have been chosen because the harder the water, the more brilliant red the fabric will turn out.

Some believe we can thank Martha Washington for raising the physique of the humble bandana. During the American Revolutionary War, the British tried to institute a ban on textiles being made in the United States. 

She arranged for a bandana to be printed with her husband’s likeness, designed by John Hewson and printed in Philadelphia. Suddenly, bandanas became a political rallying point.

When should you wear a bandana?

There are many occasions when wearing a bandana is perfect. You can use it to keep dust and dirt from getting in your mouth. It can also be tied around your head to keep sweat from getting in your eyes. The best use of a bandana is to wear it as a fashion statement when wearing casual or smart casual clothing.

Early settlers often wore bandanas to keep dust and dirt out of their mouths, and this piece of fabric is still highly functional in that way.

Since Martha Washington had Hewson make one for her husband’s supporters, many other groups have used bandanas to identify their supporters. James G. Blaine, Benjamin Harrison, and Teddy Roosevelt used them in this way.

Some schools have banned bandanas because particular colors are associated with specific gangs. Las Angeles’ Bloods and Crips were earlier adopters, with Bloods wearing red bandanas on their heads and Crips wearing blue.

They are not the only groups to use bandanas to signify identity with a group. For example, in 2017, many fashion designers, including Tommy Hilfiger, sent models down the runway with white bandanas to show the world that the industry was united.

Many high school and college sports teams have fans wave bandanas to show school spirit. These bandanas often contain an image of the school’s mascot and name. Camps often use bandanas to signify staff or groups of campers serving in specific roles.

The most popular way to wear a bandana is to add color to a casual or smart casual outfit. The remainder of this post will focus on the beautiful ways you can add bandanas to your wardrobe.

When did the bandana first come into fashion?

While there was some use of bandanas during the Civil War, the next time it became fashionable to wear bandanas was during the West Virginia coal miners’ strikes around 1921. 

Miners and their supporters wore red bandanas tied around their necks as they fought for better working conditions. This is where the term rednecks originated.

Women who entered the workforce during World War II tied their long hair back with bandanas. Soon, Rosie the Riveter was seen in her red-and-white polka-dot bandana promoting war efforts, and women started copying the look.

Rosie riveter painting street

When Western-style movies were popular in movie theaters, many people copied the look of their favorite stars. For example, John Wayne appeared in over 80 films and wore a bandana in most of them.

Paisley bandanas reemerged in the mid-1960s and remain a popular choice today. Rock musicians like Jimmy Hendrix, the Beatles, and the Roling Stones started adorning their outfits with them, and soon, adoring fans followed the trend. 

The hippie culture soon followed the course as bandanas were mass-produced, making them very cheap to obtain.

In the 1990s, many groups and gangs wore bandanas, including homosexuals, motorcycle groups, inner-city gangs, and rappers. It is highly doubtful that the trend of wearing a bandana will go away because they are so colorful, fashionable, and practical.

Who can wear a bandana?

Almost everyone looks excellent wearing a bandana with their casual and smart casual clothes. There is no need to be a member of a particular group to embrace wearing a bandana. Since these pieces of fabric are usually very colorful, they are a neat way to add a pop of color to many outfits.

There are an incredible number of ways to wear a bandana. Guys can tie one around the top part of a cowboy hat to give the hat a little extra flair. It is easy to tie one around the neck to give an outfit a new look. 

If you are not convinced this look is for you yet, consider twisting and securing a small one. Chances are that you will fall in love with the look and soon be ready to move on to larger options. Try folding one up and tying it around your head above your eyebrows. 

Especially if you have longer hair, this can be a great way to keep your locks contained. Add a subtle dose of attitude to an outfit by tying one around your wrist. Gently accent your clothing by tying one near your waist. You can even use it as a pocket square.

Women can also wear bandanas in many ways. If you have a bad hair day or need a few extra minutes of sleep, use it as a scarf and knot it in the back. Wrapping it around your head looks great with a hippie-or-Bohemian-inspired outfit. 

They also look fantastic when tied around a ponytail. You can skip the necklace by wearing one as a choker or a triangular necklace. Like the guys, you can go subtle by adding one to your jeans. They also make great swimsuit coverups or knot it and wear it as a top.

Are bandanas in vogue?

The great flexibility of bandanas means that they are always fashionable. Fashion models on every runway are particularly wearing them as scarves. Furthermore, while bandanas have been used mainly in the summer in the past few decades, bandanas are now making a year-round appearance. Bandanas are also appearing in many other places.

For men, wearing a bandana is a trend that you should willingly embrace. Opt for cool designs to give an ordinary t-shirt a little extra wow power by tying a small one around your neck. You can even wear a silk one with your smart casual outfits. 

Man seated outdoors garden bandana
Source: Allef Vinicius on Unsplash

Denim jackets and western-style clothing have been everywhere for several years, and it is not going away. Adding a bandana to your favorite western outfit adds the perfect finishing touch. 

Tying one around your wrist when cheering for your favorite team is still popular, even if you cannot make the game. Men are enjoying new freedom in dressing, and wearing a bandana is an ideal option.

While we have already discussed using a bandana as a headscarf, there are many other fashionable ways to add bandanas to your wardrobe. Skip the cost of a statement necklace by wearing a bandana instead. 

Consider tying one around your waist and using it as a belt with your favorite jeans. It’s the perfect addition to take the look of an ordinary handbag to a new level. Opt to wrap one loosely around your neck to give a touch of color to your neutral-colored outerwear.

I hope you have enjoyed learning more about the history of bandanas and how you can enjoy wearing them now. In the next chapter, we will dive deeper into how to wear bandanas. Therefore, you will want to keep reading as you will not want to miss this fashion trend.

How to wear a bandana step by step

I hope you enjoyed learning more about bandanas’ history and some stylish ways to wear them today. This chapter will dive deeper into how to wear a bandana. Men and women can enjoy wearing many of these ideas, while some are specifically for women.

You can find many styles of bandanas so that you can choose the one going with your outfit the best. I hope the step-by-step instructions make it easy to wear bandanas in these fashionable manners.

The other day, I was strolling the streets of Warren, Rhode Island, and I noticed the Elephant Brand Bandana Museum and decided to stop in. This company has been making bandanas in the United States since Edward Davis opened the company in 1897. From 1910 to 1940, the company likely made the fabric for their bandanas in Dundee, New York, before printing them in New York City. 

While it is slightly debatable, it is very likely that Rosie the Riveter is pictured in an Elephant Brand bandana as the polka-dot design with bigger dots around the outside and smaller dots in the middle was one of the company’s most popular designs. The company has been owned by I. Shalom since 1947 and is headquartered in Warren, Rhode Island.

It is totally up to you if you choose an Elephant Brand tuxedo or one made by another company, but you will want to add these fun bandana looks to your wardrobe.

As a choker necklace

A choker necklace is a fun way to add a splash of color to your outfit. Start with a 21-inch square. While you can use silk, cotton is often a better choice, especially on a hot summer day. You can use silk or another fabric. 

Lay the fabric out flat, ensuring that there are no wrinkles. You can iron it with a hot iron if needed. Next, fold the upper right corner down to meet the lower left corner so that the bandana forms a triangle.

Starting at the widest point, make a 1-inch fold in the bandana. Keep folding until you reach the bottom of the bandana, ensuring that each fold is the same width. 

If you end up with uneven folds, start again because it will affect the look of the finished necklace. When you finish, you can iron the top and bottom folds so that the choker has a crisper appearance.

Place the folded bandana around your neck, ensuring the tips point towards the ground. About 4 inches from your neck, place the right side over the left side so that they form an X. Take the new left side and pull it through the upper part of the X. 

You can pull the ends of the bandana so that the knot moves closer to your neck if you want. Repeat the process so that you end up with two little knots very close to each other. Tie one more knot around the two knots you previously tied, and enjoy wearing your choker necklace.

As a hat accessory

It is easy to stylize a bandana as a hat accessory. Since you are wrapping the bandana around the hat, you can choose between different styles of hats, including bucket, sun, and cowboy. Start by laying the bandana on a flat surface. 

If the bandana has a tag, ensure that it is facing up. Bring the top right corner down to meet the left bottom corner. Check to see that the tag remains on the inside. If it does not, unfold it and fold the top left corner to meet the bottom right corner.

Turn the bandana so that the point is facing you. Decide how wide you want the bandana to be and fold over the top of the bandana by that much. 

Keep folding the bandana, ensuring that all your folds are the exact same width. If you want a crisp band to put on your hat, iron the folds before continuing.

Wrap the folded band around the hat so the two ends are in the back. You may need to recruit a friend to help hold the hat in place while you are tying the knots to hold it in place. Take one end and double it back on itself to make a loop. 

Run that piece over the other end and repeat running the same end over the two ends before pulling the first end down through the loop to make a slip knot. You can decide how far you want the ends to hang down by making your knot closer or further from the hat.

As a headband

You can simply fold the bandana into the width you want for your headband and tie it around your head, but I love the look of a braided bandana headband. Start by choosing three different bandanas that go together color-wise. 

For example, I love using red, white, and blue for July 4th or red, green, and gold for the winter holidays. Depending on your head size, you may need two in each color.

Lay one bandana flat on the table so the long side is at the top. Roll the bandana until you reach the bottom. Use small pins to hold each end so your roll does not come undone. Repeat with the other two bandanas. Now, tie one end of all three bandanas into a knot that you can easily untie in a minute.

Position the knot at the top and start braiding your headband by moving the right bandana over the middle one. Then, cross the left section over the middle one. Continue until you have braided the entire length of the bandanas. 

Finally, untie the knot and wrap the bandanas around your head. If they will not reach yet, then tie the first knot back and tie a new bandana onto each of the braided strands. Once done, tie all the ends into one knot to hold the bandanas in place.

As a belt

There are infinite ways to wear a bandana as a belt. One of my favorite ways is to loop a large silk bandana around a front loop on each side and pull the ends together in the middle. Then, you can tie the ends together or use a ponytail holder to join them.

If you prefer a belt that goes all the way around your outfit, start by laying a bandana flat on the table so that the long side of the bandana is at the top. You will need one that will wrap around your body where you want the belt to be. Then, start folding the bandana. 

You can choose to fold the fabric over on itself or do an accordion fold. Once done, thread the bandana through the belt loops and tie in place or wrap it around your body if no belt loops are available.

Attached to your jeans

There are many ways to attach a bandana to your jeans besides using it as a belt. You can simply tie one end of the bandana to a belt loop and let it hang down.

Alternatively, you can make a fabric butterfly out of two bandanas. They can be the same or different depending on the finished look you are trying to achieve. You will also need a crystal pin, as you would typically put in your hair and a scrunchie. 

Start by folding one bandana into a long strip. This will be the top of the butterfly. Then, repeat with the second bandana but fold it just slightly narrower.

Now, take the top bandana’s ends and loop them towards the middle. Repeat with the second bandana. Position the second bandana so it overlaps the bottom bandana just a tad. Wrap the scrunchie in the middle to hold the two pieces together. Finally, use the crystal pin to fasten the butterfly to your jeans.

Like a shirt

Woman behind back bandana dark
Source: William Priess on Unsplash

There is an infinite number of ways that you can wear a bandana as a top. One of my favorites and arguably the quickest way is to lay the bandana on a flat surface. Position the bandana so that one of the corners is facing toward you. 

Now, bring the top part of the bandana down to form a straight line with two points hanging down. Wrap the scarf around your body and tie.

Another easy way is to start by creating a triangle again. Fold the triangle in half so that you have a long trapezoid shape. Wrap the bandana around your body so that each part of the trapezoid covers one of your breasts. Tie a knot in the middle. If you want, add a hair clip to help secure your knot.

It is also effortless to make a one-shoulder top with a rectangular bandana. Take the two short ends and knot them together. Place this knot on top of your shoulder. Pull the bandana diagonally across your body. Then, tie the other two short ends together near your waist.

As a beach coverup

There are at least three ways that you may want to wear a bandana when headed to the beach. The first way is to simply wrap it around your waist and tie it with a double knot on the side.

You can also hold a large rectangular bandana in front of you so that the two short ends are at the top. Knot these ends together and slip the opening around your neck. Twist the bandana in front of you once to create a little keyhole. Then, gather the bandana at your waist and tie it in the back.

Making a short outfit coverup out of a large bandana is also easy. Hold the scarf vertically in front of you. Pull the top two corners to the back and knot them. You will want a strong knot as this holds your outfit in place. 

Then, pull the bottom of the scarf between your legs from front to back. Pull the bandana up to your waist, leaving as much fabric hanging around your legs as possible to create a skirt effect. Then, pinch a little of the under fabric and incorporate it into a knot with the two open ends of the bandana.

As a pocket square

The best bandanas for a pocket square are square-shaped ones. Once you have a square bandana, you can create a pocket square with it in many ways. One of the simplest is the square fold, also called the presidential fold. 

Start by making sure that there are no wrinkles in the pocket square. Fold to the width of your pocket. The bandana should now be a rectangle. Turn the rectangle, so the long side is facing up and down. Now, fold the bandana. You will want it to be about 1 inch taller than the pocket. Stick it in the slot made for the pocket square.

You can also easily create a one-point pocket square from a square bandana. Unfold the bandana and lay it on a flat surface. Fold the lower right corner up to meet the upper left corner. This will create a triangle, and you should turn it so that the fold is on the bottom. 

Fold the triangle in half to find the middle point and pinch it with your finger. Take the right bottom corner of the triangle and fold it until it meets the midpoint. Repeat on the left side. 

Finger crease both folds or use an iron to make them crisp. It should now look like an envelope. Tuck the rectangle into your pocket square pocket until only the point shows.

As a bracelet

Two women hugging sporty look
Source: Lucas Lenzi on Unsplash

You can use a bandana to create a fashionable wide bracelet. Start by folding the bracelet into a triangle. Turn the bandana so that the top point of the triangle is facing towards you. Turn the bandana’s fold down about 2 inches. 

Lay your wrist on top of the folded bandana. Your right should be a little closer to the right side of the bandana than the left. Push the right point under your wrist and pull it to the top of your wrist. 

Grab the point and hold it with your thumb and the side of your hand. Repeat with the left point. Tie the ends of the bracelet into a knot.

You can also use a wooden ring, like a small embroidery hoop, to make a braided bracelet with a bandana. Start by rolling three bandanas tightly. Then, tie the ends together in a tight knot. Lay the knot inside your wooden ring. Next, start braiding the three bandanas. 

First, go over the top of the ring when braiding. After you return to the starting strand, go under as you move the strands. Keep braiding over and under until you work your way clear around the wooden ring. Then, tie a tight knot on the inside.

As a neckerchief

One of the simplest ways to wear a bandana is as a neckerchief. Decide if you need to remove wrinkles and creases from the bandana by ironing it. Then, lay the bandana out on a flat surface.

 If there is a tag, be sure it is facing up unless the bandana is only printed on one side. In that case, you want the wrong side of the bandana facing up. Fold the top right corner down to meet the bottom right corner to make a triangle.

Grasp the two outside points where the bandana is folded. Bring the two ends behind your neck and tie them together. To form the knot, cross the two ends over each other. 

Then, tuck the right end under the left end and pull the bandana as tight as you want your necklace to hang. Cross the right end over the left end and pull the knot tight. You can pull the knot tight, but it is easier to take off if you leave small loops, like you were tying your shoe.

As a turban

It is straightforward to make a turban out of a bandana. While this can be a great style to wear with your culture-inspired outfits, it can also be an excellent option for people who have lost their hair through COVID or cancer treatments.

Start by laying the bandana out on a flat surface. You can iron the bandana, so it is flat if needed. Fold the upper right corner of the bandana over to meet the upper left corner. Pinch the fabric where the fold is, as this is the middle.

Lift the bandana onto your head. If the bandana has a right and wrong side, ensure that the right side is facing up. Move the bandana around until the midpoint is precisely in the middle of your forehead, right and left. Then, decide how far back on your head you want the turban to start.

Use your hands to smooth the bandana around your head. Cross the loose ends of the bandana in the back and tie them in a small knot. Then, tuck the loose ends under the turban. When removing the bandana, consider pulling it carefully off from the top, and you will not have to retie it the next time you wear it.

I hope you have enjoyed learning about the different ways to wear a bandana and are excited to try some of them on your own. In the next chapter, we will examine some do’s and don’ts when wearing a bandana. Therefore, make sure that you keep reading.

Bandana do’s & don’ts

Before you rush off to start playing with your bandanas and adding new ones to your collection, there are a few tips that you will want to follow. Doing so will help ensure that you look your best when wearing your bandanas.

We’ll help you choose the right ones to wear on different occasions. I know how anxious you are to start playing with your bandanas, but take a few minutes to learn these tips first.

Woman behind red bandana

Not every bandana is suitable for every situation. Thankfully, many choices are available, from little ones that dogs commonly wear to big ones that are as long as you are tall. That’s why you can use them in so many ways.

If you cannot find a bandana that works with your outfit, you can make your own. Depending on the look you want, let the bandana fray naturally, use pinking shears when cutting your bandana out, or use iron-on hemming tape. 

If buying fabric, consider options that are printed on both sides, as they are easier to work with when creating your bandana looks. I will have more to say about that in a bit.

Don’t overlook the pattern

You can find bandanas in many patterns. You will want to consider which ones go best with the look you are trying to create. For example, you can find options with patriotic symbols, flowers, paisleys, stripes, polka dots, and solid-colored ones. 

Often, thinking about where you are heading can help you make a final decision. I will have more to say about this in a moment. You will want to pick a pattern that goes with the vibe that you want to give off. 

Remember that if the bandana is likely to get dirty, like at an outdoor concert, the busier the pattern, the less likely the dirt is to show.

Do wear a satin or silk bandana as a pocket square

While I will discuss some great places to wear a bandana in a little bit, you should pick out a bandana that matches the event’s formality. For example, if you are wearing a suit, you should use a silk or satin bandana as a pocket square because their sheen is much more appropriate for a formal occasion, so cotton will not look good. 

Likewise, if you are wearing denim and a t-shirt, cotton is a fantastic choice. You need to pick a fabric that will work with your clothes.

Don’t wear the same look everywhere

There are so many ways that you can wear bandanas that you will want to try many of them. For instance, a pastel headscarf is perfect with your spring dress, while a turban is an ideal choice for your gangster outfit for Halloween. 

Wearing different looks also allows you to show off your talents now that you know how to utilize bandanas in many ways. While I have already discussed choosing the suitable fabric, which is one factor to keep in mind, you will also want to consider the color and design.

Do wear a bandana with casual or smart casual outfits

Most bandana looks are super for wearing with casual and smart casual clothes. Except for pocket squares, you will want to avoid wearing them to black-tie or white-tie events. Consider the many different choices. 

A butterfly made from bandanas can be a terrific choice for decorating a plain t-shirt. You can opt for a bandana belt to give more definition to a sweater dress or wear it with your favorite jeans. 

Opt for a bandana coverup when headed to the beach. Guys often love sticking a bandana in their back pocket when grilling.

Don’t forget them when headed to the game

Bandanas are a perfect way to show that you are supporting a particular team, even if you must watch the game at the local sports bar. You can wrap a bandana in team colors around your wrist. 

Likewise, consider wearing one as a necklace or neckerchief to the game, as they work great at blocking cold wind from getting under your clothes. One fashioned into a headscarf or a turban can keep the sun from burning your scalp. 

You can also consider creating a skirt out of them to wear to the game. They also make outstanding flags to wave when your team scores a touchdown or homerun.

Do wear a bandana for a concert or music festival

Outdoor music festivals are a fantastic place to wear many bandana looks. Depending on the weather, you can fold one and make it into a shirt. You can either wear it by itself or under another shirt, depending on the look you want to create. 

Large bandanas make the perfect summer music festival dress. If the concert is indoors, there are many options available too. 

For instance, you can wear them like John Wayne did to a country concert or tie one to your belt for a grunge concert. If you are the event coordinator, consider issuing bandanas to identify different groups of volunteers.

Do wear a bandana to add a pop of color to your outfit

One of the reasons that bandanas work well with casual clothes is that they are ideal for adding a pop of color to many outfits. While red and blue paisley bandanas remain a popular choice, you can find them in many other colors. 

Many outfits look best when 60% of your outfit is one color, 30% another, and 10% a third. Bandanas are ideal for the 10% as they many choices to compliment other colors in your outfit beautifully. You can also use them as the 60% by turning them into a shirt or a dress.

Do select bandanas that are printed on both sides

Probably to save money, some manufacturers only print bandanas on one side, and these choices are harder to work with than those printed on both sides. Even if the look you are currently thinking about will work with a bandana printed on just one side, opting for those printed on both sides opens up more possibilities in the future. 

Woman sitting chair blue glasses

Bandanas printed on both sides are usually higher quality, which often means they will look better and last longer. While they may cost a little more, to begin with, you can enjoy wearing them for a long time.

Do store your bandanas correctly

You do not want to have to iron your bandanas whenever you want to wear one. In addition, you want to find the one you want when you want to wear it. Therefore, you must keep your bandanas organized. 

One of the easiest ways to keep them organized and unwrinkled is to roll them up and put them in empty paper towel rolls. Then, label each one with a brief description of the bandana that is inside and put them in a drawer. 

You can also roll them up and store them in a wine rack. For your silk and satin bandanas, consider fastening some shower curtain rings to your wall and hanging them from these hooks.

Do opt for the right size of bandana

Bandanas come in many different sizes, and you can even cut fabric to make your own custom sizes. Yet, choosing the right size of bandana for every look is vital. If you are an adult who is going to wear a bandana around your neck or on your head, then the standard 22-inch bandana is usually a great choice.

But if you are larger, then consider the 27-inch options. Most bandanas used as coverups, shirts, or belts measure 35 inches square. But you can find 51-inch options. If you are going to give one to a child or make small butterflies or other ornaments for your clothes, consider 17-inch bandanas.

I hope you have enjoyed learning these bandanas do’s and don’ts. I will share some concluding thoughts in the next chapter, so please keep reading.


I hope you have enjoyed thinking about bandanas and are coming away with new ideas on how and when to wear them. They are a fantastic addition to most casual outfits in your closet, so you will want many options to choose from regularly.

If you have enjoyed this post, share it with a friend. If you have any questions, be sure to ask. We would also love to hear how you wear your bandanas.

Sadly, this is the end of this post, but please check out our other fashion posts. You will love learning about many topics in fashion through reading them.

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