Bandanna Day is observed on the last Friday in October, falling on October 29 this year, to celebrate people suffering from cancer by raising awareness and support for all those wh0 wear the accessory. Why bandannas? Chemotherapy and powerful anti-cancer drugs cause serious hair loss, and many patients turn to alternative means of covering their heads, commonly including bandannas.
History of Bandanna Day
People believe the word ‘bandanna’ comes from the Hindi word ‘Badhnati’ or ‘Badnahati,’ which means ‘to tie.’ Its history begins in South Asia and the Middle East, in the late 17th century. With an increase in trade with the Far East by the 18th century, the bandanna came to the West and took off. The Dutch East India Company imported cashmere bandannas, which were a huge hit with the women. More demand raised the prices until only the upper classes could afford them. Soon, England and Scotland got into the business, producing their own shawl-like bandannas. When they reached Portugal, they were renamed ‘bandannoe,’ before finally coming to be known as ‘bandanna.’ The patterns also changed over the years with each culture and country it was introduced into.
As for America, they became enamored with the bandanna because of George Washington’s wife, Martha. At an accidental meeting with revolutionary printmaker, John Hewson, Martha showed him drawings of militia flags and cannons, hoping he could print them. The next year, the Washingtons received an unexpected parcel from Hewson. In it was a picture of General Washington on horseback, printed on fabric. Thus, the bandanna came to American colonies. Since then, the bandanna has been used for political causes, and later, a multitude of social and personal causes, including as a visual symbol for many cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy.
‘Hair adverse events,’ as medical professionals call it, are a very common side-effect of cancer treatments and can also affect the quality of life. Patients young and old have shown psychological and psychosocial reactions when faced with hair loss. Surveys on cancer patients ranked hair loss as the most traumatic effect of chemotherapy, and about 8% of the patients said they would avoid chemo completely if they could, on account of the hair loss alone. Children also tend to suffer social isolation as a result of hair loss. Out of this reality, a light shines. Bandannas have come to their rescue, providing protection to the scalp and brightening their look (and day) just a little.
The history and origin of Bandanna Day are still unclear, although it is thought to be the brainchild of an Australian welfare fundraising organization called CanTeen. They organize a yearly Bandanna Day to raise awareness and encourage support for young people living with cancer.
Bandanna Day timeline
Martha Washington introduces the bandanna to America after she commissions a print of her husband, George Washington, from famous printer John Hewson — it is created, but on fabric!
Women use bandannas to tie their hair back and keep it from becoming disheveled in the blowing wind.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower prints his campaign slogan — ‘Win with Ike for President’ — on bandannas, and distributes them to the public.
Bandannas are used as a secret code to identify people in the queer community.
Musicians across genres like rock, country, and hip hop — Willie Nelson and Tupac, to name a few — create signature bandannas.
Bandanna Day FAQs
Why do cancer patients wear bandannas?
After losing a lot of hair — a common side effect of the treatments and drugs given — cancer patients discover that cloth coverings like bandannas are the most comfortable and versatile to keep the head warm.
What percentage of chemo patients lose their hair?
Around 65% of people suffering from cancer experience chemotherapy-induced hair loss, which is usually reversible after the therapy.
What is a bandanna?
Bright-colored printed scarves for the neck or head. They originally referred to a variety of clothes in bright colors, produced through tying and dying techniques.
What does a black bandanna mean?
Black bandannas are associated with gangs like Black Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords, Latin Kings, and 18th Street, who also wear other colors or combinations of bandannas, as a symbol of membership.
How To Observe Bandanna Day
Buy a bandanna (and wear it)
Show your support in the most visual way possible. Grab a colorful bandanna (or two) and adorn your tresses in various styles. Search for organizations that sell bandannas to support cancer patients, and patronize their stores. If you’ve already got a bandanna and are creatively inclined, repurpose it for this day by adding symbols that represent strength and solidarity.
Gift a bandanna box
Send a box of bandannas to people in your family and friendship circles. You can source these bandannas from the organizations that support cancer patients.
Support cancer patients in other ways
If you want to do more to support cancer patients, consider donating money to organizations working towards cancer research and care. You could also volunteer your time and services to these places.
5 Important Facts About Bandannas
Bandannas were called 'little banners'
In the early days, they were used for everything from advertising and marketing, to making political statements and being versatile items of clothing.
The original styles came from Asia
The first bandanna colors and patterns were created by resist dye techniques found in Turkey and India.
Bandannas for other social causes
In 2017, The Business of Fashion encouraged the fashion industry to wear a white bandanna to celebrate the common bonds of humanity regardless of race, sexuality, gender, or religion; this campaign was a resounding success.
Bandanna Day raises money
CanTeen's website claims their Bandanna Day celebrations have raised more than $33 million so far.
Headcovers are free for cancer patients
Many cancer and chemotherapy infusion centers, and various other organizations, offer free headcovers that include everything from scarves, bandannas, and even wigs.
Why Bandanna Day is Important
Bandannas make a massive impact
Bandannas have a simple design for a functional purpose. This simple clothing accessory has had a life-changing impact on various cultures and subcultures across the globe.
It gives visual support for people with cancer
Wearing a bandanna shows our support for all those brave hearts fighting cancer. It is a heart-warming visual symbol.
Bandannas also promote personal style
The different bandanna colors and styles enhance the wearer’s style. They make a pretty cool statement, and add some spice to the world of cancer patients too.
Bandanna Day dates