In Search of My Do-Rag

The do-rag is one of the most universal wardrobe accessories among motorcyclists. No matter what kind of motorcycle you own, chances are you have at least one do-rag. It's a rather insignificant piece of a rider's wardrobe. It's not considered safety gear, but it has become an almost mandatory part of biker dress in some crowds.

In the old west cowboys always wore a bandana. The cowboy's bandana had several uses. It could be used to wipe sweat from a tired brow. Submerged in a stream and then tied around his neck, it would cool a cowboy while he was mending fences or riding herd across a dusty plain. He could pull the bandana over his face for protection from dust, snow or any kind of storm. He could use his bandana to conceal his identity while robbing a stagecoach or a bank. He could use it to shield his horse's eyes from things he thought the horse shouldn't see to keep him moving along.

The cowboy had real uses for his bandana; but, he never wore it like a hat. Oh yeah I've seen pictures of cowboys in dead of winter using a bandana to keep that big 10 gallon hat on in the wind or using it to cover his ears to keep them warm at the same time. But he never did wrap it around his head and wear his hat over it.

The do-rag gives away the bandito...

The Mexican bandito guys would wear a bandana on their heads like a hat; at least in the movies. And you and I know how accurate Hollywood is about details and being historically correct. But then, those banditos were probably from the barrio. Let's face it; after all, wearing a bandana like a hat is a gang thing and is the mark of a real bad hombre.

Zorro wasn't a Bandito but he used his Bandana to hid his identity

Somewhere back in the very early days of motorcycling in America; before paved roads and interstates, the use of the bandana was still part of everyday life. It was adapted as part of the motorcyclists gear, because back then it was still needed to battle dust, rain, and the cold while traveling on the dirt roads of the day. Somehow it went from being tied around the rider's neck, to being tied on his head worn like a hat. The do-rag is a modern day adaptation of the cowboy's bandana. Today just about 80 to 90% of the biker's I see wear a do-rag.

It may also have derived from the romantic notion that cowboys and motorcyclists are kindred spirits; they share a magical bond of independence and freedom. The image of the free spirited lone cowboy riding his horse across the prairie; bikers see themselves similarly accept mounted on a motorcycle. Like the cowboy's bandana; our do-rags protect us from the discomforts of summer heat and winter cold, high gas prices and while braving the dangers of heavy cross town traffic.

We've borrowed a lot more than an image from our American cowboy tradition. Besides do-rags, motorcyclists have borrowed chaps and saddlebags; and for some a predilection for things with fringe.

There are a lot of riders who love the association with the old west. Perhaps the fascination with cowboys is a left over from the rivalry between Harley Davidson and Indian Motorcycles. Maybe those folks weren't finished playing cowboys and Indians. Interestingly that bandana folded just a little differently could be used as a head band by the Indians…

David Mann the artist he saw the connection...

Riders claim that wearing the do-rag prevents a condition called helmet hair. Helmet hair happens when you take off your helmet and your very cool hairdo explodes into that same hairdo you wake up with in the morning before grooming. Now the discerning biker has to find a comb and a mirror and attend to his or her hairdo's appearance. With a do-rag on your head, helmet removal doesn't expose your unkempt hair to the world at large. In fact that unexploded hairdo tucked into your do-rag will remain hidden, because the do-rag doesn't have to be removed.. I guess they prefer do-rag hair instead. By the way, the do-rag doesn't fall under the same rules as hats…so it can stay on no matter where you're at.

The do-rag is great for those middle aged bikers suffering from pre-mature or post mature semi baldness. We all know those guys who sport the comb over hairdos or they sport the monk look; having long hair on the sides and in the back, but none on the top. They use any means to hide the loss of their hair by covering up the head under or in a do-rag. For these guys its hairy head camouflage.

I wear a do-rag at times; I've learned that it helps keep the inside of the helmet free of hair or body oil and sweat. The do-rag keeps my helmet's inside padding nice and clean and I like that.

Today you can buy the do-rag for just a few dollars. The do-rag is cut from colorful patterned cotton cloth to form a neat little hat with two ties in the back. Unlike the banditos and gang members, riders no longer have to learn the art of folding and fitting that square or rectangle bandana around your round head.

In fact there are a lot of folks wearing bandanas who never learned how fold and fit it correctly; and they're pretty obvious. They manage to look more like Mrs. Butterworth on the syrup bottles, Scarlet's nanny in "Gone with the Wind", or a young gal wearing a silk scarf to keep her hair from blowing in the wind while riding in a convertible with the top down. They just can't seem to get the bandana folding and wearing quite right. They never get the tough guy, bad ass image they're looking for. Of course there are those riders who have very large size heads and most bandanas sold today aren't big enough to cover them. Big headed people have to do whatever they can to make do..

The modern do-rag is quick and simple to put on. Head in, ties in the back and there you go. But, why did they add the extra piece of cloth to the back? That little flap doesn't fool anyone into believing you actually know how to tie a bandana on your head. And unless you use that little piece of cloth to wipe your eyes or blow your nose; they really don't seem to serve any purpose. Perhaps it just looks cool to have an apron for that graying pony tail. It could be the inventor figured that mentally challenged riders needed a way of telling which end went to the back of his head.

I suppose those little cloth flaps could serve as a warning device when you reach speeds in excess of 55 mph; they tend to flap and slap your helmet. This flapping and slapping tells you to slow down and get back to your safe limit.

But I suspect the little flap actually serve no purpose at all. And they look even dumber on a do-rag with elastic in it. The elastic do-rags were invented for those riders who have never learned how to tie a simple knot. Perhaps these riders can't tie a knot behind their head because they have suffered some horrible accident or birth defect. The elastic do-rag does cut down on the time you need to get ready for a ride; you don't have to fold and wrap a bandana around your head, or tie the do-rag's two stringy things. It's just a "pull it on and go". It's sort of like having zippers in your work boots or wearing loafers.

A serious problem with do-rags is the way they're sized. For some reason, someone decided that they should all be the same size; one size fits all. Just like a cheap ball cap with one of those plastic adjusters in the back, it never fits or looks like it should. I've only had a few do-rags that actually fit my size 7 head. Most do-rags don't start to fit well until they been washed so many times you can read through them. Some never do shrink down or fit correctly.

The elastic banded do-rags are a headache in the making. The elastic in the hat band is generally too tight; resulting in a headache. The tight elastic hat band and a too large top part; wearing one makes you look like a French chef in training or a seasoned dish washer with a hell of migraine.

Of course do-rag you wear is another place the motorcyclist can show some personal style. Do-rags come in all kinds of colors and patterns. The ones you pick to wear will make a statement about you and your sense of color coordination.

It's funny but I have never seen a pink one…. There are a couple of riders I think should be wearing a pink one. No, not because we suspect their sexual orientation has gone askew. But it's because they just can't ride. These are the guys (pansies) whose motorcycles scare the hell out of them, or have never learned the correct way to ride them. Although their lack of skills is pretty obvious to everyone else they refuse to acknowledge it. They're always the first ones to complain or give advice on riding tips which they haven't mastered. Forcing them to wear pink do-rags would serve as a visual warning to other riders.

I think we should be glad that the early motorcyclist decided to emulate our old west heritage. Just think of how it would look if they had chosen medieval Knights. We would be wearing safety gear made out of sheet metal and chain mail. There's something about chain mail do-rags that doesn't seem right. Somehow trying to dip a chain mail do-rag in a stream to cool a sweaty brow on a hot day of herding white lines doesn't seem like it would really work too well. And just how do you carry a jousting lance and work the clutch at the same time…

Paco, you take all of the Fritos and I'll steal the dip...

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