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Few things are as versatile as a good bandana. Whether you need something to hold your hair back, to keep sweat at bay, or to beat back dust and wind in the outdoors, a solid bandana holds up to a number of uses — and conditions.
Traditionally, bandanas were used as both head coverings and for cleaning. Also commonly called a kerchief, it wasn’t uncommon to see people pull out a bandana from their back pocket to wipe sweat from their brows, or to rub out a stubborn spot on their shirt. Bandanas served other utilitarian purposes too, liking helping to keep hair in place or to prevent sunburn (when wrapped around your neck). With a number of bright prints and patterns available, some people have also unfolded bandanas to decorate their homes — think, hanging them from windows and walls.
These days, bandanas have crossed over into the fashion space as well, with a number of designers incorporating the classic paisley and batik prints into their garments. At music festivals, a good bandana is almost a requirement, serving to cover the face from wind and dust, while also adding a particular boho chic appeal to an outfit. The best bandanas now also have sun protection built-in, with UPF ratings that block out harmful UV rays. With many of the latest bandanas being made from breathable, moisture-wicking material, they’re comfortable enough to wear all day long without getting sweaty.
Of course, the bandana retains many practical uses as well. The best new bandanas offer headband-style designs that stay put for yoga or running. Bikers also wear bandanas under their helmets, to absorb sweat and to ensure a more comfortable fit. And then there are those lazy days at home, where you just want to put your hair — and feet — up and catch up on some R&R. Yes, a bandana is great for that too.
1. Faybox Wide Wicking Headbands
These headbands are made from a quick-dry microfiber material, that’s breathable and comfortable. Because of their size — approximately 18.8 x 9.4 inches — you can wear and style this in a number of ways. Wrap it around as a traditional headband, or pull it over as a balaclava, scarf, “neckerchief” and more. The boho-inspired prints and patterns make these a great pick for music festivals and themed outfits as well.
We like that the material is stretchy and doesn’t feel tight on your head.
PROS: This set gets you six headbands in different prints and colors.
CONS: Hand wash and air dry only.
2. JOEYOUNG Bandanas
Another microfiber bandana, these ones stretch out to more than 20.5 x 24.5 inches wide, making them great not just as a headband but as a wrap, shawl, or scarf as well. Pull it around your face to keep out dust or snow; the soft, breathable material is also moisture-wicking, absorbing sweat and keeping it away from your skin to help you stay dry and comfortable.
Note: these bandanas are made with a “tube”-style design, to easily slip over your head and neck. They are not a traditional flat sheet-style bandana.
PROS: A ton of options, with nine bandanas per pack. Multiple prints, patterns and colors available.
CONS: Some prefer a traditional fold and tie bandana versus this cylindrical design.
3. Toes Home Headbands
Unlike a traditional bandana, which lies flat against your head or around your neck, these headband hybrids feature a relaxed, rumpled style that’s more flattering and easy to wear.
The headbands are made from a soft and stretchy polyester, and measure approximately 19.5 x 9.7 inches. They slide easily over your head and can be left rumpled to use as a sweatband for yoga, running or workouts, or pulled out to use as a balaclava or mask. Built-in UPF 50+ protection helps block out harmful UV rays.
Toes Home started as a company that manufactured socks, so they know a thing or two about making comfortable accessories. Case in point: the edges on these headbands are purposely left unfinished so there is no stitching to irritate your skin.
This set is available with six solid-color headbands or six printed headbands.
PROS: Despite its rumpled design, the headbands fold flat for easy packing and storage.
CONS: Some say the headband slides off easily if you have shorter hair.
4. L&M Bandana Set
There’s nothing that beats a classic paisley-print bandana, seen on everyone from country western stars to musicians and models.
This set gets you 12 cotton bandanas in assorted colors. Unlike the other designs on our list, which are more rectangular in shape, these traditional bandanas are a perfect square, measuring 22 x 22 inches.
Fold them to make a head covering or necktie, or use them as a handkerchief. They make great table settings too, say, for a picnic or barbecue.
The bandanas are printed on both sides. They’re also sewn all around for a more finished appearance.
PROS: Material will be stiff at first, but softens after a couple washes. The more you wash it, the softer it gets.
CONS: Wash separately with cold water in case colors bleed.