The durag is now a piece of fashion history often used to make a statement about the heritage of an individual. From the 1990s to the early 2000s, the durag has become a controversial garment as it has been banned by many educational institutions and even the NFL. However, in 2018, Solange Knowles attended the Met Gala sporting a plain black, silk durag and Rihanna sported her own line of durag style headgear to bring this headgear to the attention of the masses.
The durag has been closely linked to the African-American experience throughout history and began life as a simple way of protecting the head and hair of laborers in the 19th-century. Many historians point back to the headgear worn by African slaves brought into the U.S. as the dawn of this headgear but the durag as it is known in the modern world is generally agreed to have begun life in the 19th-century. The garment has become so popular that it cannot be given an individual inventor, although the founder of the So Many WSaves brand, William J. Dowdy is often seen as the modern father of what he described as a “tie-down.” Dowdy’s version of the durag was not created as a fashion statement but as a hair accessory designed to created waves in the hair of members of the African-American community. The term durag is said to have annoyed Dowdy as he felt the cloth garment with strings at the back was the perfect way of creating the waves often sought after by men and women from the 1970s onwards.
The decision by Solange to appear at the Met Gala sporting a durag and dress emblazoned with the text, “My God Wears A Durag” was a brave statement about her own beliefs. It was also a statement about her own place in American society and the feelings of the African-American community. The Knowles family has a long history of bringing the durag to the attention of the fashion world, particularly after Solange’s brother-in-law, Jay-Z was a leader in bringing the garment to prominence in the 1990s. Jay-Z was one of a growing band of rappers who took the durag as a piece of fashion and statement about their African-American heritage which gave the durag a complex position in society.
The use of the durag by rappers such as Jay-Z, Asap Ferg, and Master P drive the durag to vast heights of success over the years, but also led to the garment being seen as a sign of aggression among the ruling classes. By the middle of the first decade of the 21st-century, the durag had been banned by a number of organizations because of perceived aggressive connotations. The release of Rihanna’s own range of silk durag fashion items and Solange Knowles attending the high fashion Met Gala have softened the view of the durag as it returns to fashion icon status.