The thousand-and-one paisley bandanna meanings

Thinking into it in the cold light of day, bandannas aren’t a big deal for themselves. Just a piece of cloth that covers a forearm, thin as a blanket and with a beautiful geometrical design. It is some kind of clothing or only an accessory? You can’t button them, neither have openings nor stitchings that can fit to your waist. It’s just a simple bidimensional flat square. until you make a knot around your forehead, your neck or cover your hair with this. Then you start believing in all its possibilities.

When we think about paisley bandannas, some references come into our mind. The first one, inevitably, is the western one. Mostly for Wild West cowboys, wearing a bandanna was a necessary clothing piece or even a tool for their daily works. But we can popularly associate also the use of bandannas within pirates, farmers, 50’s housewives, bank robbers, rednecks, motorcycle gangs, youth gangs, rockstars, Vietnam war veterans and so on. But the origins of the bandanna went much further than that.



Bandannas in Ancient Orient

In fact, the word bandanna has its origin in the Hindu word बन्धन ‘bandhana’ which means ‘to tie’, and in the past we covered this topic in another article about from where are the paisley bandanna mosaics. Named as the Indian region, ‘kashmir’ was the original name of this mosaic style, taking into account that the first historical registers of these can be found in ancient India.

Though originally intended to avoid that sweat and dust get in contact with face, within time, bandannas started to get linked with being a criminal. As a matter of fact, its use was banned also in India solely because some people used them to commit crimes hiding their face.

Paisley bandannas & color codes

The unfair bound about paisley bandannas and criminality wasn’t just something enclosed to buccaneers, for example. Having a closer look at the decade of 1970, some American gangs used bandannas to identify their members using color codes. The Crips were the first one using blue. Later the Bloods used red as their primary color.

In the same decade also the Hanky Code or Bandanna Code started being widely introduced into the homosexual community. A complete color code was learned, in order to show off their sexual preferences according to the color mix and how the bandana was placed. Striped bandannas simbolized a particular racial or ethnic preference, while combining different colors was understood as a consent to have a sexual intercourse.

Color codes also arrived to the golden rock era in the 80’s. So, the fans & groupies of some bands & artists wore different bandannas to identify themselves, such happened with Ozzy Osborne, Pink Floyd or Def Leppard.


Bandannas as a part of a political or social message

Nowadays, bandannas can be used also as a silent element to fight and support many different political or social causes. In this case, again the color code has been updated and now many people know this.

Red bandanna in the head: this a main symbol for those groups that foster adoption before abortion.

Black bandanna: In the wake of a Ricky Martin tweet, the use of black bandannas is being promoted as a demanding symbol of the separation between the Catholic Church and the State.

Blue bandanna in the wrist: Some parents tie a blue bandanna to their children to indicate they endure any kind of autistic neurodivergence.

Purple bandanna: Violet / purple bandannas are widely associate with the feminist movement.

Yellow bandannas: those are used in all meetings against child abuse.

White bandanna: Widely used as a symbol of social justice. A good example can be highlighted when at a Tommy Hilfiger’s fashion show back in 2017, where all top models shown white bandannas to protest against USA’s migration policies.



Bandannas can literally be just a cotton-made square, but indeed they are legit clothes and accessories with a huge potential to be much more than what it shows at first sight, containing many visible and hidden meanings. They could be signals or flags for lovers, friends and foes, to spur consciences and follow trends.

And any of you can create a personal meaning as well because, actually, what is behind the intricated paisley bandannas designs? All that matters is how great, easy to use and cheap bandannas are. And you will find a huge bandanna variety at our street store in Barcelona’s La Rambla and at our online store.




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