A hachimaki (鉢巻, “helmet-scarf”) is a stylized headband or bandanna worn in Japan for a variety of reasons, usually made of red or white cloth. They are worn as a symbol of perseverance, effort, and/or courage by the wearer. These are worn on many occasions, for example, by sports spectators, by women giving birth, students or even office workers.
The origin of hachimaki as we know them today is uncertain, but the leading theory is the need for samurai to line their head with cloth before wearing their heavy helmets. The cloth would have protected the wearer from cuts from the helmet moving about and made the fit more comfortable.
In modern Japan people are often seen wearing hachimaki sporting a number of various slogans, usually with a red circle in the center similar to the Japanese flag. They are worn to showcase their cause and/or to soak up sweat while exerting themselves in some sort of physical activity, such as a sport’s day game or carrying mikoshi.
Western pop culture has taken the hachimaki a little bit out of context by always portraying the wearer as some sort of martial artist. One only need think of movies like Karate kid, or Kung Fu Panda for examples of this. While Martial Artists may well wear a hachimaki while training, they are far from the only types of people who may wear one.
Modern Hachimaki designs
While anything can be written or drawn on a hachimaki, there are a few typical slogans or designs most commonly associated with them. Usually focusing on the effort the wearer is showing, or perhaps some sort of nationalistic, or sporting pride depending on the event they may be attending. Below are a few different designs for some of the more common hachimaki designs.