Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Photos Getty/Instagram
Photo Illustration by The Daily Beast / Photos Getty/Instagram

Subjectively speaking, face masks are hot. The biggest trend of 2020 serves as a visual reminder that the wearer is civically minded, cares about their community, and isn’t some #Plandemic conspiracy theorist/truther. All attractive qualities.

Maybe you do not agree with that subjective statement, but I think we can all get behind one objective fact: face masks are literally hot. It’s not quite breathable to stuff one’s snout under layers of cotton. So we sweat. A lot. 

How Tim Kaine, in Face Mask Bandana, Became the Senate’s Coolest Cowboy

How one chooses to mop up their perspiration can be the stuff of awkwardness. Yesterday, I wiped down my forehead with a crumbled old CVS receipt found in the bottom of my backpack. Others have their wicking game down. See: dudes in bandanas. 

Fashionistas from Sarah Jessica Parker to Senator Tim Kaine have all opted to wear kerchiefs around their faces. But as the New York Post reported this week, bandanas are less effective at stopping the spread of cough droplets than masks are. 

In short, bandanas, while undeniably cool-looking, are “useless.” (But please don’t tell this to Kristen Stewart, who is very good at wearing them when she gets the groceries.)

So what are we to do with our paisley hankies? Certain fashionable men have an idea, courtesy of “I’m On Fire”-era Springsteen: move the bandana a few inches up on your head, and tie it around your hair. If you need someone to aspire to as you perspire, think Andre Agassi.

As noted in The Independent, bandana comes from the Sanskrit translation of “to tie.” During the American Revolution, Marsha Washington had one emblazoned with the face of her husband, courtesy of the printmaker John Hewson. Since the country’s start, the 20×20 square has been associated with American individualism.

During the Battle of Blair Mountain of 1921, the largest labor uprising in the United States, West Virginia mine workers faced strikebreakers in an armed standoff. They wore red bandanas to identify themselves. They were known as “rednecks”; the kerchief was a form of protest. 

Bandanas have an indelible connection to the American working class—thanks, Rosie the Riveter—and that has lasted into the 21st century. It’s a kind of visual shorthand for authenticity, usually worn by those in the public eye to signify they’re off-duty, or communicate a rebellious streak. 

And they have become a staple accessory, produced by everyone from sportswear outlets like REI for $4 and designers like Rag & Bone ($75), Saint Laurent ($295), and Alexander McQueen ($420).

The pricey options show that you have money but are, like, cool about it. Even Kate Spade and J.Crew, bastions of wholesome quirkiness rather than outlaw living, are in on the bandana game. 

Tim Kaine has said he gets his bandana from REI, but other celebs are staying silent about where theirs come from. The good news is, it doesn’t really matter—blue paisley is blue paisley, wherever it comes from. Most look identical.

You can see the male bandana worn expertly on former Miami Heat player Dwayne Wade, who is quite partial to wearing a navy blue style on Instagram. Olivia Palermo’s husband Johannes Huebel paired his sterile white medical mask with a kerchief around his neck while walking through New York. 

Colin Farrell, noted forefather of 2000s sleaze-chic, has also embraced the style. He was recently photographed by paparazzi in Los Angeles, pairing Adidas joggers with a knuckle-thick baby blue headband. He looked every bit like that friend-of-a-friend who is just a little too into rock-climbing—this is to say, a confounding mix of questionable and sexy. 

The look is decidedly ripped-from-the-’80s, a nod to the fitness mania and hair metal rockers of the era. So it makes sense that a giant of the decade like Harrison Ford would keep the renaissance alive. He was recently photographed on his way to play tennis with a bandana over his ruffled mane

Mid-stride, with a racquet in his hands, Ford looks like his typically jaunty self. And that is the allure of the headband in these times: it instantly projects confidence and a sense of adventure, even if the only place the wearer is exploring today is the block-and-a-half to the drugstore and back. 

Plus, the look’s intended purpose—to help with sweat—is undeniably sensual. In our socially distant summer, humans are horny as ever, and seeing something so intimate as a bead of perspiration is downright carnal. 

So consider headband-ing up for your next pandemic outing—you will be in good, if overheated, company.

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