Doek (Afrikaans), duku (Malawi, Ghana), dhuku (Zimbabwe), tukwi (Botswana) and gele (Nigeria) – are all the names that the head ties were given all around the African continent. They all carry the meaning of “cloth” and are mostly worn in the Western and Southern Africa. What is more, the head tie is used for different reasons – it could be used either as an ornamental head covering or as a fashion accessory. The functionality of the head tie depends on the region and/or religion of those who choose to wear it.
Another, probably more internationally known, name for a head tie is a tignon. It is also a type of head covering, however, when wrapped around the head it looks like a turban. They were worn in the Spanish colonial times, as there were enforced laws on how to publicly dress for gens de couleur. Back at those times, white and African descent women vied in manners, beauty and dress. Undoubtedly, black women would stand out due to their unique physical attributes, such as their hair. Women of African descent would decorate their hair with colorful beads and gems, this way showing off their exotic style and even attracting white males.
Without doubt, this has triggered jealousy in white women, as their men and even husbands were being enchanted by the jewelry embellished hair of black women. Therefore, the Governor at the time – Miro, has ordered for women of African descent (no matter slave or free) to cover their heads with knotted hair dress. Their hair was articulated as a form of “excessive attention to dress” and, therefore, the goal of the laws was to distinguish the two classes.
Notwithstanding all the restriction then, nowadays, tignons are very popular in the fashion world and are used by many designers and fashion icons constantly. Many A-list celebrities model tignons, such as: Beyonce, Tyra Banks, Jeniffer Lopez, Rihanna, Alicia Keys, Taraji P. Henson, Mariah Carey etc. – the list goes on. Tignon’s were a huge hit in 2015, as they were also modelled by many successful bloggers, massively retailed in stores and were trending all over social media – which even provoked Vogue to dedicate a 10-page article.