A bandana is endlessly useful. It can wipe the sweat off your brow, soak up a spill, catch your runny nose or even help you survive a dangerous situation. The bandana’s origins go back to 17th century South Asia and the Middle East, where it’s believed to have gotten its name from the Hindi word ‘badhnati’ which means ‘to tie’. It was often decorated with traditional patterns like paisley, which is believed to have originated in Persia. The stylish square of fabric eventually made its way around the world through trade and colonization, often displaying the traditional paisley print.
The bandana has gone on to stuff the pockets of allergy-plagued people as part of their essential everyday carry, but has also played a larger cultural role. It’s been used to signal gang membership, romantic intent in the LGBTQIAP community, and, today, as face covers in the midst of a pandemic. The simple design, a square of plain-woven cotton typically about 20 inches by 20 inches, lends itself to a myriad of possibilities, a blank canvas of utility. However you use it, there’s no shortage of bandanas on the market to choose from and we’ve picked out some of the best for you.
Carolina Mfg. Paisley Bandana
Carolina Mfg. has been in business since the 1940s and continues to make its bandanas in the States. Using a lightweight, all-cotton fabric, they come in a full range of colors in a classic paisley print.
SMOEM Survival Signaling Bandana
Bandanas can also be a vital tool. This one from SMOEM comes printed with crucial survival tips like how to purify water, how to find the North Star and important knots. Plus, it comes in a bright orange colorway which can be useful in signaling for help.
Left Field Rotary Printed Bandana
Made in the USA, Left Field’s uses a traditional rotary method to print its all-cotton bandanas. The result is a highly-detailed image with graphics that call back to the brand’s workwear roots.
Diop Amar Bandana
Diop’s bandanas are a welcomed option that isn’t just the usual paisley bandana. They come in a variety of traditional African fabrics, each with bold prints and vivid colors, each made with soft cotton that gets better with age.
Two Ears Brand Marvel Bandanna
This bandana is made with historical accuracy in mind. In collaboration with Japanese brand Ooe Yofukuten and Jonathan Lukacek, the bandanna dove into Lukacek’s deep history and collection of bandanas and found a factory sample which never made it to production. It’s printed by hand using an extremely rare fabric that’s woven on narrow looms to produce a bandana with two selvedge edges. No other bandana brand makes them like this.
Kiriko Split Bandana
Kiriko’s known for championing traditional Japanese textiles, whether it’s selling vintage boro fabrics or employing classic kimono fabrics into modern designs. This bandana fuses two beautiful fabrics into one for a patchwork aesthetic.
Drake’s Seaside Print Cotton Bandana
Known for its range of suiting, trousers and dress shirts, London-based brand Drake’s also makes artisanal accessories. Its ties and pocket squares are lauded for their intricate patterns and craftsmanship which includes beautiful, but time-consuming, hand-rolled edges. So it’s not surprising that it translates well when it comes to bandanas. Made in Italy, this bandana features an all-cotton fabric with a fun, nautical-themed print and the distinct hand-rolled edges.