the start of 2020, we wouldn’t have imagined the accessory-of-the-year would end up being a medical face mask. Long-worn in countries including Japan and China as a sign of respect to fellow commuters and citizens to protect them from illness, face masks have become widespread in a matter of months as the coronavirus pandemic has waged on and politicians made them mandatory in shops, public transport and elsewhere in countries across the globe.
While discussions of PPE shortages have dominated much of the Covid-19 news coverage in the UK, the government has not made the wearing of medical-grade masks mandatory, so they can be reserved for those on the frontline. Instead people have been getting creative with high-street alternatives or even a DIY job. A state-sanctioned guide on how to make a face covering out of old T-shirts was even issued in May.
Without strict parameters on what these face coverings need to look like (they just need to cover your nose and mouth) we should have guessed that – just as with the rest of our wardrobes – people would start to put their own sartorial spin on things. In the world of celebrity, the votes are in and a clear favourite has been elected: bandanas.
Fashion scripture defines the bandana as a small pocket square, usually measuring 20×20 inches. The word bandana itself comes from sanskrit meaning “to tie”, while the traditional paisley design comes from Indian textiles. The first bandana was designed by printmaker John Hewson in 1789 and has since worn by everyone from farmers to feminist revolutionaries. The piece of cloth itself harks back to Western wear: think cowboys and field labourers.
The reason why it’s called “Paisley”, though, is because of the popularity of shawls bearing the design, which dress historian Dr Janet Aspley explains are “reproductions of Kashmiri shawls – produced in the town of Paisley in Scotland during the nineteenth century.”
Bandanas boomed in the 1990s, with everyone from Vogue cover stars and Tupac to John F. Kennedy Jr’s girlfriend Carolyn Bessette- Kennedy tying them around their heads and necks.
Today they are not only a style statement but have adopted a practical purpose in helping inhibit the spread of Covid-19. And celebrities are flocking to wear them.
Take Kristen Stewart, who was recently seen sporting a white paisley bandana while stocking up on beer and margarita mix in Los Angeles. The bandana itself – a monochrome design – matched her equally simple outfit (jeans, white T-shirt, and a baseball cap). Chris Pine offered a nationalistic flex on a coffee run in a red, white and blue one. The actor paired his face covering with a black long-sleeved T-shirt, khaki trousers, and, of course, a baseball cap.
But the bandana made its most high profile appearance earlier this week when it was seen wrapped around the faces of Amber Heard and Johnny Depp ahead of the Pirates of a Caribbean star’s libel trial against The Sun. Despite them appearing on opposing sides of the courtroom, both had deemed the bandana the perfect litigious look as they arrived at the Royal Courts of Justice in London. Heard opted for a silk, polka dot scarlet bandana on day one of the trial, while Depp chose a black paisley edition.