We all have a bandana hanging out in our closet and love to tie it on a handbag or around our neck as a scarf—but figuring out how to wear a bandana as a headband is a bit of a mystery for some of us.
These hair accessories are a little rock n’ roll, a little edgy and as quintessentially American has they come—and once you master the art of wearing them in your hair, they can totally change your look in just a few simple steps.
Fix hair first
Putting on the bandana is the last thing you want to do—so fix your hair however you want it first. We love this hairstyle with loose waves, and it’s a lifesaver for keeping sweat from dripping onto your face, thus saving your foundation and concealer from summer-induced drippage.
If you’re wearing your bandana headband with an updo, it’s especially crucial to style your hair first; putting your hair up into a ponytail or a bun after applying the accessory could cause it to move or come untied. If a messy chignon is your goal, begin by pulling hair up into a messy bun and then gently pull strands out to make it look even more deconstructed. After you’ve fastened your bun with bobby pins, then you can work on putting on your bandana—and that’s way easier than you think!
Use an actual square bandana
For this look, you’re really going to want to actually use a bandana—not a scarf. The square shape of a bandana will ensure it folds the correct way, not leaving you with a surplus of fabric hanging out of your hairstyle like a sad tail. Bandanas are generally made out of cotton, which is way less slippery than silk or a synthetic shiny material, and are around a 22 x 22 inch square when laid out flat. If your accessory is close to these guidelines, you’re in good shape.
Ironing is important
A stitch in time saves nine—and a quick iron of your bandana before you try to wear it pays off big time in the end. Not only does it eliminate weird wrinkles and creases to make folding a whole lot easier, you can also use the iron to “set” each fold (which we’ll explain in the next step).
Here’s how to fold your bandana headband: Lay your bandana out completely flat. Because it’s a square, it won’t matter what side you start folding first. Create small 2-inch folds, continuing your folding pattern until the entire bandana is in one long strip. There will be a little triangle piece at the center that will be too small to create a uniformed fold, but you can just tuck this under the side that will lay against your hair, blocking it from view.
Spray it with hairspray
Before putting your bandana on your head, spray the entire strip of fabric with hairspray. This will make it a little sticky so that it’s not slipping off your head all day. You can also rub a little gel on it to do the same thing, but make sure it dries clear and is only on the side that goes against your hair.
Tie it on—over or under
Put on your folded bandana like you would any other headband—set a little back from the hair line and slightly away from the nape of your neck. Where you tie the bandana—with the knot under the hair or sitting on top of the head—is up to you. Just a tip from us to you, though: tying it on the top of your head may give you more control if it starts to slip or works itself out of a knot.
After you’ve decided where you’re going to tie it, secure it with a double knot.
Pin it in place
To make sure it doesn’t slip off during the day, pin it in place near your ears and near the nape of your neck for extra security. Voila! You’re rocking the perfect bandana headband.
Originally published July 2015. Updated March 2017.