Kerchief

Kerchief

[kur-chif, -cheef]

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 sinuses, 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.

Bandannas are worn as a practical garment 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.
  • Some soldiers wear bandannas to keep their own sweat and blood out of their eyes.

Bandannas in particular colors are also 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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