Why do people wear turbans?

Written by ryn gargulinski
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Why do people wear turbans?
People wear turbans for different reasons (hindú 1 image by Diorgi from Fotolia.com)

Turbans are a common sight in several cultures, but not all turbans have the same meaning. Some cultures wear turbans strictly for functional purposes while others wear them for their significance. No one knows the exact origin of the turban, but they have been around for at least 3,000 years, according to the Sikh Times website. Assyrian carvings from that era clearly depict kings wearing the headdresses.

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Definition

Turbans are head coverings that consist of a long piece of cloth wound around the top of the head. Turbans often measure up to 12 feet long, according to the Sikh Ttimes website, and stay in place because of the tautness with which its wound or a chin strap. The word "turban" most likely stemmed from the word "dulband," the site said. Dulband is a Persian word that gave rise to the English word tulip and the Spanish word torbandalo, which means hammerhead shark.

Function

One of the main reasons people wear turbans is for protection, especially in desert climates. Turbans keep hair neat, clean and held in place. They keep desert dust from blowing into people's faces. They also add a protective layer against the wind, heat and relentless desert sun. Some nomadic tribes have also worn turbans to keep their true identities secret.

Significance

Some cultures wear turbans for other reasons. Men who follow the Sikh religion, which originated in India and Pakistan, never cut their hair as a sign of respect for God and His creation. The turban protects their lengthy locks and sometimes even their beards if they grow the latter long enough to twist and tuck up beneath the headdress. Other Indian men also wear turbans to denote their religion, or to broadcast their caste or class. Turbans in Turkey often showcase a man's status or wealth.

Styles

Turban styles vary from region to region. The Sikh turbans are simple cloths wound round the head with a prominent front fold above the forehead. Muslim men often wrap turbans around their caps, known as kalansuwa. Afghan men often favour longer turbans that leave a tail hanging down the back. The turbans of Iran are usually black or white and wound flat and round against the top of the head. Indian turbans can be some of the most elaborate, covered with gems, jewels and embroidery. Some of the simplest turbans are those worn by African desert dwellers that swaddle the cloths about their heads and face for protection.

Misconceptions

Turbans are not a sure-fire sign that someone is a member of a certain cultural group, nor does every member of said groups always wear a turban. One of the most hazardous misconceptions of late, according to both the Real Sikhism and Sikh Times websites, is the thought that everyone who wears a turban must be a terrorist. This thought stems from the fact that some Islamic extremists do wear turbans---but so do a lot of other people. The sites note that thinking everyone who wears a turban is a terrorist is roughly the equivalent of saying everyone who wears a baseball cap or shoes must be a bank robber.

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