Though the doo rag may have garnered a negative connotation as popularized through the media, it serves a number of traditional functions regarding African-Americans' hair. Keeping sweat out of the eyes, creating a finished look, keeping hair in place and creating the appearance of “waves” are benefits of wearing a doo rag.
Traditionally, doo rags were worn by African-American men who had hairstyles that were processed, and in order to maintain their styles, they wore doo rags. The doo rag was usually any piece of silk or cloth that would allow the hair to receive air, while keeping the hair underneath in place. Such hairstyles were called "conks" or "do’s.” At night the person with the hairstyle would take the doo rag, wrap it around the hair, and tie it tightly. This would be used to protect the highly processed hair while sleeping, and would give the hair an untouched look.
Doo Rag for Women
Black hair is naturally course, and to straighten it requires a number of practices such as perming it, and keeping it tied neatly in place. Black women benefit from wearing a doo rag. Women who choose to get braids can tie a doo rag over their hair to keep stray hairs within the braids from coming loose. A doo rag can be used to wrap permed hair at night, to ensure that the hair will fall into place neatly when the doo rag is taken off.
Doo Rag for Men
Black men with shorter haircuts can benefit from wearing doo rags. After black hair is freshly cut, oils and creams can be used to moisturize the hair. The wearing of a doo rag after applying such materials can cause the hair to form a rippling effect. The tightening of the doo rag around the hair is what causes the effect, and to some the rippling is a sign of healthy hair. A doo rag can also be worn when working in warm conditions, to ensure that sweat does not drip into the eyes.
In recent years, the doo rag has garnered a negative connotation. The wearing of bandanas by rival gang members who also wore doo rags resulted in a negative portrayal. Many people began to see prison and jail members wearing doo rags, and soon the doo rag began to be associated with a thug mentality. However, the vast majority of African-Americans wear doo rags to promote good-looking, healthy hair.
Most doo rags can be purchased at a neighborhood grocery store, or at chain stores such as Wal-Mart. Hair care stores aimed at black hair such as Sally’s carry the silk pieces of cloth. Usually, a doo rag comes in simple colors such as black, blue, red or white. The doo rags differ in length, as those with braids or more hair will need more material to wrap their hair.