Headwraps can be a controversial subject. Women in many cultures use headwraps for modesty or tangible purpose, and they’ve been a part of both religion and fashion movements alike. They are identifiers, sun protection, basket balancers, and accessories, but at their most basic definition, they're a long rectangle of fabric that is used to cover the head, hair, face, body, or all of the above. Turban, Tichel, Hijab, tignon, kerchief, snood, wimpel, mantilla, and headscarf are just some of the names and styles worn past and present by women for various reasons. Though their religious significance is huge in many cultures, their global fashion impact is just as large.
Though wearing headwraps to cover your hair is fun in itself, there's so many more ways to wear this cloth besides on your head, which makes them a powerful closet addition. Paola Mathe is a fashion blogger and founder of Fanm Djanm, a headwrap shop/lifestyle brand. Mathe has been pushing the headwrap to the front with her message of beauty and leadership. She shines, glows, and is a beauty beyond words, but she’s also incredibly smart and driven. Her fast growing company is bringing headwrap fashion and style to the whole world, one print at a time.
Hailing from Haiti, the African influence on both her homeland’s culture and fashion sense is very apparent. But people often conflate the headwrap as a strictly African practice, which Mathe will quickly correct you on.
Mathe pushes the ubiquity and utility of head wraps, not just as head coverings or ethnic accessories but as essential fashion items that everyone can wear. Cultural appropriation is a real concern, of course. In this case, Mathe believes that if you're buying from her black-owned business, you're engaging in her personal culture, and supporting her. If you want to be extra-respectful, avoid any prints that are clearly of ethnic origin, which you should be doing at any shop if you aren't of that print's original culture. You can always ask questions, something Mathe greatly encourages on her Twitter.
Mathe and I gathered with photographer Joey Rosado in her adopted hometown of Harlem, New York to show you that there’s more to the wrap than meets the eye.
1. Wear it as a belt.
Paola shows us that denim (Poze Poze headwrap, $30) really does go with everything.
Belts don’t always have to have hardware. Digging deep into your existing wardrobe and spiking the look with a belt is one of the most instantly gratifying ways to get a new lease on old clothes. As a belt, this length of fabric allows you to create a draped, wrapped, rolled, or simple sarong look. Sometimes when I’m bored with a shirt or dress, a belt is just what I need to freshen up the piece. Learning to re-pair tired combinations is the simplest way to recharge your closet. Paola used the Poze Poze headwrap to jazz up her easy day Dashiki.
2. Wear it as a halter.
Halters are so awesome for a host of reasons. They provide support for more than one breast size, and the fabric has enough drape to cover large or small breasts. It's a daring look but when paired with anything high waisted, you're barely showing any skin you wouldn't with any other halter. This look uses the Keente wrap to accent Paola's army green pant. Bold colors can be worn all summer long, they often match the mood of a perfect late evening better than brighter florals.
3. Wear it as a tube top.
Paola is wearing the Tye Dye No Lie wrap ($24) on her head in these looks.
Tying your whole outfit together with a literal bow is a proven technique for maximum cuteness. This look is easy to do bare in the summer, or you can layer it over a button down or other shirt, ManRepeller style, when the weather gets chilly. Simply wrap around your upper torso and fasten with one knot before tying the bow and fluffing it out.
4. Wear two as a stacked top.
This is my absolute favorite look. Paola is a print mixer, a fashion technique I very much back. By wearing your head wrap collection all as one shirt, you're mixing prints that turn into mixed textures. This adds up to a 100 percent inimitable final look that you can change by simply tying knots differently or changing the order of the scarves. To get the above look specifically, tie in the front, but continue tying simple knots until it makes a chain, then tuck into the front wherever you want. Double down by repeating with a second or third scarf until you’ve got it where you want it.
Just one long strip of fabric provides all of this versatility! It’s no wonder the wraps sell like fire every time Paola drops a new print. There are even plenty of tutorials on her site in case you need eve more guidance. Her passion for mixing prints is very much in style right now, and she does it almost daily on her personal blog, Finding Paola, if you ever need that super hot inspo.
Being a strong woman is more than part of the Fanm Djanm mantra: It’s the literal translation in Creole. This means being strong in the face of adversity, which Paola has experienced but knows in her heart that we all have. Paola made her line to showcase that bold fashion is for women who want to express that inner strength and beauty.