The origin and the history of the bandana

A fine, light accessory that can be worn in an infinite number of different ways. In fact, the bandana is one of the most versatile items of clothing to enter the wardrobe of modern western society.

Whether you like classic clothes or street style or any other look, there is a Fumagalli 1891 foulard that will fit the style perfectly. Remember, however, that a neckerchief is a small detail, an integral part and not the basis of your outfit.

A distinct but no less important part of your outfit.

But before we find out how and when to wear it, here is some history of this precious lightweight square of cloth.


The oriental origins

The bandana, as it is commonly known, dates back to the late 17th century in the Middle East and South Asia. In fact, the word "bandana" is also thought to derive from Hindi, the translation of which is "tied cloth". It was in this region that the first printing processes emerged, which involved pressing pre-cut blocks into small pieces of cloth, infusing them with the first colours made from indigenous plants and materials.



Diffusion in Europe

At the beginning of the 19th century, Europe had started to produce its own bandanas thanks to the marketing of a few companies, notably the Dutch and East India companies. In Mulhouse, France, dye manufacturers succeeded in developing a version of Turkey red, the colour most commonly associated with bandanas today. The original dye was composed of sheep dung, madder root and olive oil and applied to the fabric through a long process that prevented the colour from fading in the sun or during washing.


An accessory with symbolic meaning

In America, however, during the struggle for American independence, in an attempt to curb revolutionary propaganda, the British imposed a ban on printing in all the colonies. According to legend, in an act of defiance to British domination, Martha Washington commissioned a Philadelphia engraver named John Hewson to print a square handkerchief as a gift for her husband, George. It was thus that Hewson printed images of the General George Washington together with flags and military cannons on a cotton cloth, emphasising Washington's dedication to American freedom and independence.

At the dawn of the 20th century, with the rise of industrialism in the United States and Europe, bandanas were easier and cheaper to produce on a large scale. As such, they quickly became a versatile and memorable marketing tool, used to sell everything from sports stars to cereal to political propaganda.

The proliferation of affordable bandanas also made them popular workwear and, as such, an adopted symbol of the struggle for workers' rights.

Bandanas remained popular as workwear and marketing materials until the beginning of World War I and, in particular, during World War II, when the two uses collided to catapult bandanas onto the world stage.

This, combined with the popularisation of John Wayne and Hollywood westerns, consolidated the bandana as an iconic accessory worldwide, becoming a symbol of individualism, self-determination and adventure.

It cannot be denied, therefore, that bandanas have shown a certain resilience over time. These versatile pieces of cloth boast a history of almost 300 years of form, fashion and function.

A timeless accessory that has transcended the dictates of fashion, establishing itself over the years as the favourite accessory of stars and gentlemen of all ages.