I don’t know one black woman who doesn’t put on her head tie—or satin bonnet— to go to sleep at night.
In elementary, it was like a badge of honor or a pronouncement of my womanhood to mimic my mother and also put on a colorful head tie to go to bed.
Wearing a head tie is such a unique aspect of black womanhood that most people just don’t get it—even some black men. A common insult I’ve heard to dissuade black women from wearing their head tie is: “you look like Aunt Jemima.”
It’s not widely understood that most of us wear a scarf at night to keep our hair neat for the next day or keep all of the oils in our hair off of our pillows and faces.
It’s also interesting to note that the history of the head tie goes back before slaveholding times.
According to PBS,
“The head-wrap, however, was more than a badge of enslavement imposed on female slaves by their owners. Embellishment of the head and hair was a central component of dress in various parts of Africa, particularly in West Africa . . . In America, the head-wrap was a utilitarian item, which kept the slave's hair protected from the elements in which she worked and helped to curb the spread of lice. Yet, as in Africa, the head-wrap also created community -- as an item shared by female slaves -- and individuality, as a thing unique to the wearer . . . The head-wrap was an object of oppression from one vantage point. But from the other, the perspective of the slave community, it was a vehicle of empowerment and a memento of freedom.”
So while there are obvious practical uses behind the head tie, it’s been a part of our culture for a very long time.
Lately, I’ve been really interested in the ways we view our hair as black women. Some women don’t even put on their head ties at night if they’re dating someone new.
Does the head tie ever get between you and your man? Do you care?
As for me, I think I’ll always wear my head tie with pride.