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Durag makes mighty return as fashion statement

Originally hair support for black women slaves, headgear now symbol of swag for all

Nokubonga Thusi Beauty editor
Kiddy Smile wears a black beanie hat, earrings, a neon-green tulle frilly coat, during Paris Fashion Week on March 2.
Kiddy Smile wears a black beanie hat, earrings, a neon-green tulle frilly coat, during Paris Fashion Week on March 2.
Image: EDWARD BERTHELOT / GETTY IMAGES

Whether you spell it durag or do-rag, one thing’s for sure, the durag (also known as a wave cap) is back on streets and runways looking better than ever. While it has been adopted by anyone and everyone as a nostalgic accessory, the durag has deeper roots originating in Black American history.

In the 19th century, the durag was used by enslaved African-American women to keep their hair up and out of the face while at labour. Over the years, it has been commercialised and evolved into a necessary tool for training the curl pattern to lie flat and lock down hairstyles, such as the popular 360 Waves, during sleep. 

Having evolved from a practical protective tool for hair to an iconic symbol in global Black culture, durags are now a genderless statement championed by mostly male wearers, but have also become popular among women.

Today, the durag is part of the music and fashion worlds as a symbol of swag, especially in the hip-hop culture, where it was worn by rappers such as Nelly, Method Man, Snoop Dogg and Mystikal in the 1990s and early 2000s. Celebrities such as 50 Cent, Bow Wow, Anderson Paak, Solange and Rihanna (who was photographed for the cover of Vogue wearing a durag) have all been known to rock a durag or two. Meanwhile, on fashion runways, the durag has been incorporated into the collections of designers such as Rich Mnisi, Tom Ford and LaQuan Smith. 

How to create 360 Waves

A guest wearing a durag during the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Spring Summer 2022, on September 30 2021.
A guest wearing a durag during the Paris Fashion Week Womenswear Spring Summer 2022, on September 30 2021.
Image: EDWARD BERTHELOT / GETTY IMAGES
  1. Start by washing hair with a gentle shampoo and conditioner. Go for a shampoo and conditioner pairing that is formulated for wave or curls to get the maximum result.
  2. Apply some hair pomade to towel-dried hair and use a hand brush to work product through the hair.
  3. The key to creating waves is in the brushing – and a lot of it. Since the texture of the hair is naturally curly, brushing helps to stretch out the coil, resulting in the formation of waves.
  4. Using the hand brush, brush hair forward towards the forehead, starting from the crown. Work your way around the head, making sure to brush the hair on top of your head forward, and the hair on the sides forward and down towards the ears and chin.
  5. Repeat brushing over each section at least five times or keep brushing intermittently throughout the day. When done, wrap your head with the durag to set style and waves in place.
  6. More brushing equals more wave development, so make sure to brush hair in the morning and again in the evening before bed. Do not wash or wet hair while your waves are developing.

Five tips for rocking a durag

A guest wears a white felt / wool cap during the Paris Fashion Week 2022-2023 in France.
A guest wears a white felt / wool cap during the Paris Fashion Week 2022-2023 in France.
Image: EDWARD BERTHELOT/ GETTY IMAGES
  1. Durags come in a variety of fabrics, such as spandex, velvet, or nylon. When choosing the best texture for your hair’s health, go for a silk or satin version, as it limits friction between the hair and pillow while you sleep, does not absorb the hair’s moisture, and protects the hairline and hair against breakage.
  2. Turn the durag inside out so that the seam is visible, and place the smooth, seamless side against the hair. This prevents seam prints appearing on the forehead and waves.
  3. Place the durag on the head, making sure that the cape is at the back.
  4. Take the durag ties on either side and tie them around the head so it fits snugly. It should be tight enough not to slide off while sleeping but not so tight that it causes headaches or discomfort.
  5. Keep your durag clean to avoid build-up that can transfer to your hair or forehead. Make sure to handwash the durag regularly with soap and water and leave to air-dry.

Four ways to style a durag

  1. Go for colour: Durags are far from boring, so don’t be afraid to go for vibrant colourways such as acid green, cobalt blue, or neon pink, or opt for a bold printed design.
  2. Supersize it: Take your cue from rapper Guapdad 4000 and get a lil’ extra with customised durags with features such as an extra-long, floor-length cape at the back.
  3. Durag layering: Keep things super stylish and pair your durag with a wide-brimmed hat or cap for a more modern take.
  4. It’s a wrap: Go for a neat, clean durag finish by tucking in the ends of the ties once finished wrapping, or creating a big side bow with the ties to add some visual interest.  

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