A headscarf, or head scarf, is a scarf covering most or the entire top of a person's, usually women's, hair and head, leaving the face uncovered. A headscarf is formed of a triangular cloth or a square cloth folded into a triangle, with which the head is covered.
Headscarves may be worn for a variety of purposes, such as protection of the head or hair from rain, wind, dirt, cold, warmth, for sanitation, for fashion, recognition or social distinction; with religious significance, to hide baldness, out of modesty, or other forms of social convention. Headscarves are now mainly worn for practical, cultural or religious reasons.
Until the latter 20th century, headscarves were commonly worn by women in many parts of the Southwestern Asia, Europe, North Africa, and the Americas, as well as some other parts of the world. In recent decades, headscarves, like hats, have fallen out of favor in Western culture. They are still, though, common in many rural areas of Eastern Europe as well as many areas of the Middle East.
A form of headscarf, known as the hijab, is commonly seen in Muslim countries and is born out of qur'anic tradition. It is worn primarily by Muslim women for fashion and religious purposes, and its style varies by culture.
Headscarves may specifically have a religious significance or function, or be expected as a matter of social custom, the two very often being confused.
Islam promotes modest dress among women. Many Muslim women wear a headscarf, often known as a hijab and in Quranic Arabic as the khimar. Many of these garments cover the hair, ears and throat, but do not cover the face. The Keffiyeh is commonly used by Muslim men, as for example Yasser Arafat who adopted a black and white fishnet-patterned keffiyeh as a hallmark.
Religions such as Judaism under Halakhah (Jewish Law) promote modest dress among women and men. Many married Orthodox Jewish women wear a scarf (tichel) to cover their hair. The Tallit is commonly worn by Jewish men especially for prayers, which they use to cover their head in order to recite the blessings, although not all men do this.
Until at least the 18th century, the wearing of a headcovering for the hair was regarded as customary for Christian women in Mediterranean, European, Middle Eastern, and African cultures, to agree with contemporary notions of modesty and as an indication of married status; the "matron's cap" is a general term for these. This practice was derived from the Christian Bible, specifically, which has traditionally been interpreted to mandate the wearing of a head covering by Christian women.
Young Sikhs often wear a cloth wrapping to cover their hair, before moving on to the turban. Older Sikhs may wear them as an under-turban.
Use while working
Practical reasons for headscarf use at work include protection from bad weather and protection against industrial contamination, for example in dusty and oily environments. A headscarf can ensure that the hair does not interfere with the work and get caught-up in machinery since long hair can get into rotating parts of machines, so this is avoided either by means of a suitable head covering like a cap, hairnet or kerchief; cutting the hair short; or by putting on a headscarf. Hygiene also requires wearing a head cover at some workplaces, for example in kitchens and hospitals. Such usage has gone on since about 1900, when women's use of mob caps and Dutch bonnets declined.
Workers wore them at work to protect their hair from dirt. Farmers used them to see off the weather and dirt.
In popular culture
Hilda Ogden, popular character from the UK soap opera Coronation Street portrayed by Jean Alexander, became famous throughout the nation for combining a headscarf with hair curlers. So famous was she that, in 1982, she came fourth behind the Queen Mother, Queen Elizabeth II, and Diana, Princess of Wales in a poll of the most recognizable women in Britain.
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