The Vintage Bandana

We explore our favorite bandanas from the workwear era through to some current revamps.


We loved this recent post on Archival Clothing featuring presidential and patriotic handkerchiefs, dating back as far as the 1880s. This sent us off on a tangent exploring our favorite bandanafrom the workwear era through to some current revamps. The Bandana is a symbol of worker, cowboy, farmer, and rebel culture and was a popular promotional and advertising gimmick during the late 19th and early 20th century.

Japanese bandana aficionado and Kapital designer, Kazuhiro Hirata bought out his amazing book celebrating the Elephant Bandana in 2009, with some great examples as you can see (above left). The book is a treasure trove of inspirational imagery and historical information, featuring Hirata’s extensive fast color bandana collection that has taken the author more than 10 years to collect. The selection on display dates back to the 1600s, and includes examples from the American Gold Rush period in the 1900s and more recent examples.

Elephant bandanas have been highly collectible in the Japanese vintage market for decades—not only for the beauty of their prints but also because of their significance in worker, cowboy, farmer and rebel culture. We have picked out some of our favorites from the awesome japanese websites eworkers and Mister Freedom, including H.D. Lee, Osh Kosh and original folk indigo boro ties.

Valet magazine ran an interesting piece on modern remakes of the bandana featuring re-works by Beams, Jeanshop and Jack Spade, and many modern bandana looks could be spotted on the runways of Kenzo and Louis Vuitton (above left images). From a neat neck-tie (think early train engineers) to an accessory for today’s style-minded city dweller, the bandana makes for a sweet pocket square or a practical handkerchief. It certainly works wonders on a smudged iPad screen.


The Vintage Bandana
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