Why the Turban?

(photo by Paolo Roversi for British Vogue)

I have always been drawn to headwear, especially when it is worn for a spiritual purpose. My best friend growing up was (and is) a devout Muslim, and I was always fascinated by her hijab and the connection it had to her identity. I also loved all of the beautiful fabrics, patterns and styles of scarves, and recognized the instant mystique that one has when they resolutely commit to a particular head garment.

As an adult, I am better able to relate to her experience, as I have become fond of wearing turbans. The reaction to it varies widely. I get compliments from fashionistas, quizzical looks on the subway, and my dear father genially informed me that I look like a terrorist. When I teach yoga, when I’m walking down the street, waiting for a train, or otherwise out and about, I am often asked, “Why the turban?”.

I am most connected to the lineage of Kundalini Yoga, which has ties to Sikhism (though they are separate disciplines). In traditional Sikhism, men cover their heads with turbans, and woman cover theirs with a draped scarf, or chunni. Many women wear turbans too.

(photo by Daniel Echeverri)

(photo by Gupt Kuri)

There are various reasons cited for this choice of headwear. It is a practical way to contain the hair, as most Sikhs never cut theirs. There can also be an element of historical deference, as all their gurus wore turbans. For most, the wearing of the turban has a multi-faceted significance that is rooted in one’s own particular spiritual (and human) experience. The turban is the “self-crowning of the individual”. It is a statement of inner commitment, a reminder to be conscious of our actions. It is an affirmation that we are all regal, and should both behave and treat ourselves accordingly.

Though I am not a Sikh, many of their reasons for wearing a turban make sense to me. I don’t wear it all the time, but when I do, I feel elevated and better able to be a disciplined, patient and compassionate human. I aspire to possess the ability to live in a perpetual state of consciousness without the aid of any external reminders, but this may be a lifelong pursuit. In the meantime, I’ll utilize the turban. It’s a bonus that they can also look quite chic.

So in short, for me it’s part internal reminder, part spiritual statement, and part fashion statement. That’s what I love about the freedom of sartorial expression. We don’t have to justify our appearance to anyone, but when we choose to discuss such choices, we can learn a lot about one another.