Turbans: The Next Harem Pants, a Fashion Shitstorm


Unfortunately the fashion industry never follows this rule. The New York Times reported on Friday thatturbans are on the brink of exploding into mainstream style. This is terrifying, considering that thesame thing happened with harem pants two years ago.

At Fall Fashion Week a few designers marched the billowing drop-crotch atrocity down their runways, a few bored stylists took note, wore them out and convinced their impressionable celebrity clients to wear them out as well. By the Spring of 09 the most made-fun-of pant in history, the Hammer pant, was making a formidable comeback, with nothing changed other than a few consonants in the name. They were everywhere, from the windows of H&M to the pages of US Weekly, and on everyone from Rihanna to my chubby college roommate.

The tragedy: Harem pants look good on a grand total of 0.000001% of the population. Actual belly dancers are the only girls who can pull them off, and even then, they only serve as a foil to their impressive abs. Harem pants are, in fact, the only pants in the history of shopping that have the ability to make mannequins look stout.

The same thing is about to happen with turbans. Reading the New York Times article, I felt that helpless calm before the storm. The approach of the turban, just like the harem pant, is much too powerful to stop. No matter how many fashion writers plead for better judgment, for the next 24 or so months, thousands of gorgeous metropolitan women will spend the most attractive years of their lives looking like ass-clowns, and thus assaulting the eyeballs of all who gaze upon them. All I can say is this:

Ladies and trans, please consider that the only three women who have looked hot in turbans are Greta Garbo, Erykah Badu and Chanel Iman. They are the belly dancers of the headdress. For the rest of us, they cover up our hair and make our noses look bigger. So before you spend your parents hard-earned credit on that turban, please, I beg you: consult your objective eye, your history books, and of course, your Bible.

Not your fashion bible so to speak (which I think Vogue is supposed to be), but your actual Bible, or Koran, or any other ancient text that mentions turbans.

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Salma Hayek. Photo by Pascal Le Segretain, Getty Images

Like the harem pant, turbans are obviously a traditional Middle Eastern garment, which the West tends to associate with Islam.Only the fashion industry can pull off trivializing and neutralizing an incendiary topic like Islam has become, partly because most people dont take the fashion industry that seriously. Instead of being offensive like drawing Muhammad in cartoons (or not drawing him, as the case may be), watching models dress up like Middle Easterners is harmless and fun. This is fashion at its best sneaking controversial ideas through ostensibly silly people, allowing them to slowly seep through culture without offending anyone. Its almost genius, but that doesnt mean the clothes make you look cute.

Consider this: According to Wikipedia, men in Northern Africa, India, and the Middle East originally wore turbans to protect their bald heads from the blazing sun. But as appears to be the case with almost every functional article back then, turbans, and their female counterpart, veils, were assigned a righteous purpose, which varied a bit from one geographical location to another, but in all cases boiled down to an expression of piety, stoicism and modesty in the eyes of God.

Yes, modesty. As in, their purpose was to make people look uglier than they look without them. While in Muslim and Jewish cultures turbans were typically worn by men while women wore veils (still the case today for Muslims), they shared the same purpose.Because everything in the Bible took place in the Middle East, the Good Book has a few references to women covering their heads. My favorite is this:

For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to have her hair cut off or to be shaved, she should wear a veil. For a man ought not to have his head veiled, since he is the image and reflection of God; but woman is the reflection of man. (NRSV, 1Corinthians 11:4-7)

If we can get over the ridiculous logic of the last sentence, it becomes clear that the reason God wanted women to cover their heads is because hair is sexy. When women put on headdresses, they showed God that they didnt care about being attractive.Even back when the Bible was written, men were talking about how crappy women look with shaved and covered heads.

This doesnt mean headdresses are purely religious, sexist and evil; or that when getting dressed, women should only consider wearing what will attract men. On the contrary Rosie the Riveter wore a turban, as did Harriet Tubman. Id imagine that these ladies (one real, one fake) wore them to keep hair out of their faces while they focused their attention on kicking ass for human rights. But, as far as I can tell, they werent wearing them to fit into trends.

Whether you like it or not, youre always saying something with what you wear. If you wear a sweatshirt and dumpy jeans to work, youre letting everyone know you dont give a shit, just as if youre wearing a deep v-neck and a push-up bra on a date, youre saying how sweet are my tits? The point is to be aware of what youre saying. I dont think that most young, healthy girls who will no doubt be running out to grab turbans in the oncoming fashion shitstorm have thought this through. So Im going to help: If youre wearing a turban saying one of two things: Im a blind follower of trends, or I like looking semi-ugly.

I get the witty, even political appeal of wearing a turban with a sequin dress to go dancing. But please, before you put it on, consider that unlike the hair god gave you, the turban was not made to flatter your face. It was made to keep your brain cool.

Contributed by Carmel Lobello for Death + Taxes