The bandana is believed to have mixed beginnings — the garment itself being popularized in South Asia and the Middle East and its name having origins in the Sanskrit word ‘badhnati,’ which means “binds” or “to tie”. But no matter where you stand on the etymology of these iconic kerchiefs, their social influence is undeniable. From cowboy culture to handkerchief code to gang identification, the bandana has been adopted as a visual badge for all manner of groups.
Apart from their symbolic inclinations, bandanas are also incredibly versatile for being such a lo-fi piece of gear. They can be used for anything from handkerchiefs to masks to headbands — and that’s hardly doing them their due diligence. Typically made from a square piece of cotton cloth measuring 20 inches by 20 inches, there’s little else that defines a bandana. But that’s part of their beauty — out of such simplicity comes a seemingly endless amount of applications. Even still, paisley has its place and it may not be for everyone. As such, bandanas are a dime-a-dozen these days, with imitators popping up left and right. It might seem impossible for one to go wrong when buying a humble piece of square cloth, but there are some options that manage to bring a bit more to the table. Have a read and see what we’ve picked for our best bandanas.
Carolina Mfg. Paisley Bandana
Carolina Mfg. has been around since 1946 and there’s good reason — their products feature high-quality, USA-made construction. Their classic paisley offering takes the iconic bandana print and pairs it with lightweight cotton to bring you an affordable take on an American staple.
Levi’s Cotton Multi-Purpose Bandana
Founded as a dry goods store by Levi Strauss in 1852, no other American heritage brand has the renown of Levi’s. Having forged the first pair of blue jeans in the crucible of the California Gold Rush, it only makes sense that the denim giant would also make a quality bandana. After all, these kerchiefs were popular with blue-collar workers for a reason — they’re damn useful. Sold in packs of two, three, or six, these bandanas come in a variety of colors with a timeless paisley print.
United By Blue ‘Star Guide’ Bandana
As a certified B Corporation, United By Blue puts sustainability and responsible manufacturing practices first. Their Star Guide Bandana boasts an organic cotton construction from a GOTS-certified factory, meaning its produced under the strictest environmental and social regulations without the use of chemicals. As the name suggests, you’ll find no paisley on this bandana — instead, it comes with a beautiful constellation pattern surrounded by a moon-phase border. So, in addition to being both functional and visually striking, it’s also an informative map of the night sky.
Topo Designs ‘Print’ Bandana
Topo Designs was founded by westerners Jedd Rose and Mark Hansen, who pride themselves on making products reminiscent of those they grew up using, employing a combination of timeless styling, incredible utility, and steadfast dependability. Coming from a brand so well-steeped in the field of stylish outdoor adventure, this print bandana is no different. It’s available in three distinctive grid prints — red, black, and olive — and comes with a rolled edge finish to ensure it’ll outlast whatever you have to throw at it.
Grayers ‘Tattoo Parlour’ Bandana
Grayers offers witty takes on classic menswear staples. Their tattoo parlor bandana ditches the popular paisley pattern of most bandanas in favor of some iconic parlor prints. Featuring an anchor, a ship, a pinup girl, and a rose, this new take using some old favorites is a perfect option for ink enthusiasts.
Bexar Goods Co. ‘Luck’ Bandana
Bexar (pronounced Bear) Goods Co. is the product of a creative collaboration amongst a small team based in Bexar County, Texas. Originally created as an outlet for quality leatherwork products, they’ve built-out their offerings based on four core values — ruggedness, simplicity, durability, and timelessness — as well as a desire to make products they’d use themselves. Their Luck bandana comes hand-printed with some original Bexar Goods Co. artwork on 100% organic cotton. From wiping up gas to cleaning spilled coffee, they’ve used their bandanas in all manner of adventure.
Buck Mason ‘Built Tough’ Bandana
Crafting the perfect garment starts with the right fabric. Such is the philosophy of Buck Mason, a brand that eschews fast fashion shortcuts in favor of pieces with aesthetics as timeless as their construction is durable. Buck Mason’s ‘Built Tough Bandana’ offers a reboot of the ‘Fast Color’ vintage bandana, employing the same trusted single 100% cotton yarn construction but using a slew of subtle block color dyes. Buck Mason says that even though they start out a little stiff, they’ll only get better with use. Shipping in packs of two, these bandanas are perfect for those who don’t want the flash of some of these other patterned options.
Cantonment ‘The Opti Kerchief’
By adding a reinforced buttonhole system to their design, Cantonment did the impossible — they improved on the utility of the classic kerchief. When combined with their metal-buttoned nylon strap, the Opti Kerchief opens up a world of possible uses, including a belt-mounted cleanup rag, an adjustable neck scarf, and a bindle perfect for packing away goods. With contrasted merrowed edges and schematic-style drawings, this is one of the best bandanas bar none. As an added bonus, you get two of these quality kerchiefs with every order, doubling their fun as well as their usefulness.
Kiriko White Seigaiha Bandana
Made from imported Japanese cotton cloth, Kiriko offers a beautiful alternative to the American heritage designs making their way onto most bandanas. This particular Seigaiha pattern — meaning “ocean waves” — is considered a symbol of peace, good luck, and good fortune. Each of Kiriko’s bandanas is sewn, pressed, and packaged in Oregon, meaning you get the best of Japanese heritage fabrics in an American-made application.
Filson ‘Smokey Bear’ Bandana
“Only you can prevent forest fires.” These words of wisdom coined by the Forest Service legend himself are proving all-too-relevant in today’s ever-warming clime. Featuring a limited-edition Smokey The Bear design, this Filson bandana is printed with water-based ink for a durable, wear-resistant finish. Additionally, its 100% cotton construction makes it perfect for soaking up sweat. This humble bandana might not be able to put out fires, but awareness is the first step towards prevention. In other words, flaunt your forestry pride for all to see.
The 12 Best Lightweight Breathable Face Masks
Bandanas are having a bit of a resurgence, thanks largely to the pandemic and mandates requiring face coverings when out in public. However, if you want something that’s crafted specifically as a face covering, you’ll find the most exceptional options on our list of the best lightweight breathable face masks.
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