Headbands Have a Long and Interesting History

Headbands have become a popular fashion statement in recent years. Whether it’s athletes using them to help them deal with sweat and perform at their best, or people just looking to express themselves, headbands seem to be everywhere now.

But this is hardly a new phenomenon. Headbands date all the way back to ancient Greece and have been used for a number of different purposes.

Here’s a complete overview of the history of the headband, from ancient times all the way to the modern era.


Headbands Appear in Greece for the First Time

The first recorded use of any sort of headband is in ancient Greece, starting around the year 475 BC. These were actually hair wreaths made from plants and intertwined in the shape of a circle or sometimes a half-circle. These wreaths were worn to mark important events or special occasions. 

Most famously, they were awarded to the winners of the Olympic games. These particular headbands were made from olive branches, taken from the sacred wild olive tree near the temple of Zeus.

Ancient Greek coins also depicted various gods and figures wearing wreaths. Certain wreaths were often associated with various gods depending on what they were made of. Oak was associated with Zeus, laurel with Apollo, herbs with Demeter, grapevine with Dionysos, and myrtle with Aphrodite.


Used as a Treatment for Headaches

There is very little mention of headbands in historical texts. However, they began to resurface as a popular accessory in the early 20th century.

The first such case of this was a type of wide headband known as headache bands. Manufacturers claimed that the tight pressure of these particular headbands helped treat and prevent headaches and the item became popular among women. They were generally lacy in design and decorated with ribbons and rosettes.

Today, headbands are still used to treat headaches, with various types of products available that deliver heat, cold, or pressure to help relieve pain.


A Rise in Popularity

While headbands saw a resurgence in the early 1900s, it wasn’t until the 1920s that their popularity really started to take off. 

The styles and designs of headbands during this time also become much more extravagant. More exotic fabrics were used and bands were often decorated with feathers and jewels. They became common accessories among the rich and famous, which only added to their popularity.

These type of headbands were also associated with the Flapper Movement. “Flappers” were a generation of young western women who rebelled against cultural norms by dressing more provocatively, wearing excessive makeup, smoking cigarettes, and listening to jazz music. Decorated headbands became one of the many ways these young women expressed their unique sense of style. 


Headbands Featured on the Big Screen

With headbands being such a popular accessory among women in the early 20th century, many prominent actresses were often seen wearing them in films.

Stars such as Brigitte Bardot, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Veronica Lake, Esther Williams, Claudia Cardinale, and Elizabeth Taylor were all featured wearing headbands in a variety of film roles.

While headbands started as mostly a female trend, they eventually became more popular with men and many male stars began dawning them in movie roles as well. Sylvester Stalone in Rambo, Ralph Macchio in Karate Kid and Johnny Depp in Pirates of the Carribean are some of the most famous examples of this.


Headbands With a Purpose

Headbands were used in fashion throughout the 20th century, but they also had utilitarian uses.

They made their first appearance in sports in the 1910s when French tennis player Suzanne Lenglen started wearing them during her matches. Fred Perry, another tennis player, started wearing medical gauze on his wrists to prevent sweat from reaching his hands. Years later, Perry would create the first sweatbands for wrists and heads to help athletes deal with sweat. 

Popular tennis players like John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg quickly adopted the new accessory. Headbands also become popular with basketball players, most notably Slick Watts and Bill Walton.

Headbands weren’t just useful in sports. They were also commonly worn by women working in factories during World War II. These women (known as women ordinance workers or WOWs for short) wore scarves around their head to protect their hair from getting caught in the machinery they were working with.


Workout Craze Revitalizes Headbands

In the 1980s, fitness and aerobics videos were all the rage. Enthusiastic stars in neon spandex and headbands led people through vigorous workouts, all to the beat of up-tempo 80s music.

While the popularity of headbands had somewhat faded in the 1970s, the workout craze brought this fashion accessory back to the forefront. Mega-stars like Olivia Newton-John and Jane Fonda starred in these videos sporting headbands, and before long everyone was wearing them again, whether as workout gear or simply as a fashion statement.

While it wasn’t that long ago that people laughed at this look, neon is starting to make its way back into popular culture. Whether its people looking for a little nostalgia or others who want to make a bold statement, neon headbands have actually rose in popularity in recent years.

Headbands Make a Resurgence in Sports

While headband usage in sports declined in the 1970s and 80s, they started to make a comeback in the 90s and 2000s.

Tennis and basketball continue to be the sports where headbands are the most prevalent. Tennis superstars Roger Federer and Raphael Nadal, along with almost every other prominent player, regularly sport headbands during their matches.

In basketball, headbands saw a huge surge in popularity when the game’s biggest star, Lebron James, starting wearing them in games. Today, headbands are a common accessory in a number of different sports, both for controlling sweat and as a form of expression.

Headbands in Fashion Today

Headbands have seen a number of iterations over the last century, but one thing that has been consistent is their popularity as a fashion accessory. 

Today, headbands are as popular as ever. Whether it be film and music stars like Charlize Theron, Beyonce, and John Mayer, the world’s most successful athletes, or just regular people expressing themselves with their favorite accessory, now almost everyone seems to be wearing them.

With so much history behind it, it’s clear the headband is a trend that’s here to stay.

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