If you’ve found yourself feeling jealous of babies getting all the cutest things to tie around their necks, perhaps today’s post will offer you a bit of comfort. It certainly did me. In celebration of springtime, an ode to the bandana.
I love bandanas. (I’ve said this before.)
What’s not to love, is the question.
A perfect bandana is worn but not yet raggedy; soft and maybe a little faded and showing signs of love. A bandana is an accessory you can have a relationship with, isn’t it?
I packed bandanas with me on camping trips as a kid. We would arrive to a campground and before pitching a tent, I would diligently tie my hair back with a bandana packed for the purpose. Instantly, I felt ready to face the great outdoors. (No matter that my trusty bandana wouldn’t save me from getting head lice during one ill-fated Girl Scout camporee.) Later, in college, I wore a purple batik bandana over unwashed hair for an entire summer. My kids regularly ask for me to tie bandanas in their hair. It’s anyone’s guess what’s happening inside Silas’s brain as he shoves a bandana in my direction and makes baby seal noises at me until I wrap it around his head. All I can imagine is that he must also feel transformed by the wearing of it. He waddles to our basket on wheels, shoves a baby doll inside, and begins his march around the apartment, imagining himself, perhaps, as a parent en route to the grocery store, or heading off to work. It’s anyone’s guess, of course, but the bandana seems to put an air of confidence in his step.
Yes, a bandana is my ideal accessory, zero cares given about whether or not I look like an extra on the set of a Western while wearing them. Or like I’m about to rivet an airplane. Or bake a cake. Or wipe sweat from a dusty brow. A bandana can transform you in a hundred ways, can’t it?
For those particularly preoccupied by small spaces or pared down closets, it’s impossible to ignore a bandana’s helpfulness as a diminutive accessory. They’re intentionally made small enough to fit into a pocket but large enough to tie around your neck. You can keep a stack of them folded neatly in your sock drawer and have a week’s worth of flair that takes up only a tiny four by four square.
More than that, they’re useful in ways that a typical scarf could never dream of being. The cotton ones aren’t so precious that you couldn’t use one, to, say, blow a nose or wipe your brow, or generally fix something up a bit. (Plus, an opportunity to give a bandana a wash is merely another opportunity to get it soft and rumply and perfectly aged.)
Better still, even the most special bandanas still usually fall into a comfortable range of affordability, and lots, as you likely know, can be found for just a dollar a piece. If you have the patience, vintage options sleuthed in dusty thrift stores and attics are often the best options—and practically, or quite literally, free. (If you’re not up for the hunt, a search on a secondhand marketplace like Etsy can yield quick satisfaction.)
I’ve been cataloguing examples of beautiful bandanas spotted lately and sharing them intermittently, but I thought gathering them for you here might be a nice thing to do. A bandana enthusiast shouldn’t save all the good stuff just for herself, I suppose.
Carleen: Designer Kelsy Parkhouse has a few cotton bandanas in her current collection, but my favorite by far is the Bicoastal Bandana (I’m wearing it here!), with New York State Roses and California Poppies printed onto red, blue, or yellow bandanas. It’s a classic cotton bandana that will get softer with use and washing. (Kelsy sent me a parcel after I first mentioned her design in this space and I’ve been wearing this sunshine-y yellow one all week.) Made in the USA.
Gamine Workwear: I’m an admirer of just about everything Taylor Johnston from Gamine Co. puts into the world. This year she partnered with Berkshire artist Bree Honeycutt to produce a year-long seasonal dye project in the form of four, plant-dyed handkerchiefs (bandanas by another name). Gamine also has a collection of vintage-inspired tie bandanas, sized large enough to be worn comfortably on your head or around your neck. They have a block printed stripe and a woven stripe, and a silk camouflage print for good measure. Made in Massachusetts.
Jenni Earle: Design-house Jenni Earle specializes in making hand-dyed bandanas and hankies, inspired by the handkerchiefs that the founder grew up watching her grandpa Earl use in his workshop. Each handkerchief is hand-dyed in Winston Salem, North Carolina and if little messages of hope or courage is something you like, you’ll find those emblazoned on them, too.
Kiriko: RMTL sponsor, Bridge & Burn, is selling two beautiful Kiriko bandanas this spring (in blue and yellow). The prints were inspired by Japanese Katazome stencils and adapted for use in screen-printing. Made in Portland, Oregon.
BlockShop: There aren’t any true bandanas currently in stock, but I bought myself one of the square BlockShop scarves (similar to this one) for my very first Mother’s Day and it’s still a most prized possession.
I stumbled upon this piece from a kindred spirit. (Though while decidedly not a “cool girl” I did spend more than a few minutes of my pre-pubescent youth wearing a bandana as a shirt.)
In case you feel compelled, as I did.