A kerchief (from the French couvre-chef, "cover the head") is a triangular or square piece of cloth tied around the head or around the neck for protective or decorative purposes. The popularity of head kerchiefs may vary by culture or religion, as among Amish women, Orthodox Jewish women, Muslim women, and older Orthodox Christian women.
A "handkerchief" or "hanky" primarily refers to a napkin made of cloth, used to dab away perspiration, clear the nostrils, or, in Victorian times, as a means of flirtation. A woman could intentionally drop a dainty square of lacy or embroidered fabric to give a favored man a chance to pick it up as an excuse to speak to her while returning it. Handkerchiefs were sometimes scented to be used like a nosegay or tussy-mussy, a way of protecting those who could afford them from the obnoxious scents in the street.
A bandanna or bandana (from the Hindi: बन्धन bandhana, "to tie") is a type of large, usually colorful, kerchief, usually worn on the head or around the neck of a person or pet. Bandannas are frequently printed in a paisley pattern. Bandanas are most often used to hold hair back, either as a fashionable head accessory, or for practical purposes:
Colors, and sometimes designs, can be worn as a means of communication or identification, as with the prominent California criminal gangs, the Bloods, the Crips, the Norteños, and the Sureños. In the so-called hanky code, sexual subcultures, particularly gay men, signal their preferred sexual practices by wearing a particular bandana color or design in one of their pockets.
In gang subcultures, the bandana could be worn in a pocket or, in some cases, around the leg. In the late 1980s/early 1990s, the Bloods and the Crips, wore red or blue paisley bandanas as a signifier of gang affiliation.
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