How Clothes Can Affect the Way People Treat You

NPR has an interesting story about how some African-Americans used turbans to deal with discrimination in the Jim Crow era. An excerpt:

Routté’s experiment began after he traveled to Mobile, Ala., in 1943 for a family engagement. He wasn’t happy with how he was treated.

“I was Jim Crowed here, Jim Crowed there, Jim Crowed all over the place,” he later told reporters. “And I didn’t like being Jim Crowed.”

So he went back in 1947, with a plan.

Before he boarded the train to Alabama, he put on his spangled turban and velvet robes. When the train reached North Carolina during lunchtime, Routté walked over to the diner car where the only vacant seat was occupied by two white couples.

One of the men said, “Well, what have we got here?” to which Routté replied in his best Swedish accent (he had been the only black student at a Swedish Lutheran college in Illinois), “We have here an apostle of goodwill and love” — leaving them gaping.

And that confusion seemed to work for Routté on the rest of his trip. He dropped in on police officials, the chamber of commerce, merchants — and was treated like royalty.

At a fancy restaurant he asked the staff what would happen if a “Negro gentleman comes in here and sits down to eat.” The reply: “No negro would dare to come in here to eat.”

“I just stroked my chin and ordered my dessert,” he said.


“He didn’t change his color. He just changed his costume, and they treated him like a human,” says Luther Routté, who has been a Lutheran pastor for 25 years. It “shows you the kind of myopia that accompanies the whole premise of apartheid or segregation.”

Through the “turban trick,” Routté basically transformed himself from a threat to a guest — black to invisible.

You can read the whole story here.


Pardeep from London emailed me about his very cool site, Singh Street Style. It’s on-the-street photos of stylish Sikh men. He says he wanted to help his Sikh compatriots be proud of the way they look, turbans and all. Looks like a great success to me - but I’ve always thought turbans were pretty cool. Whether on Sikh guys or Andre 3000.

Hats and Hair Fashion History: Vietnam

This is a companion piece to my other fashion timeline as I was highly curious to see how hairstyles and hats have changed throughout the course of Vietnam’s history. I have to admit that I was quite surprised by what I have found. I dug through as many photographs, paintings, sculptures as I possibly could find to compile this and eventually decided to draw about 100 hats/hairstyles (it ended up being a little bit more…) I might add more drawings if any new archeological evidence surfaces. The reference material can be found at <a href =“http://pinterest.com/nduong08/”><b>my pinterest</b></a>, <a href =“http://thunder510.fotki.com/images_of_vietnam/under_french_rule/”><b>Troy’s Fotki gallery</b></a>, <a href =“http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/s/sea/index.php”><b>Cornell University Library’s Southeast Asia Visions</b></a>, and the documentary “Di Tim Trang Phuc Viet”.

To preserve accuracy, I have retained the historical names and spellings as they were originally captioned.    

Notes and Tidbits:
From <a href=“http://books.google.fr/books?id=Q0hGAAAAcAAJ&printsec=frontcover&hl=fr#v=onepage&q&f=false”><b>Christoforo Borri’s account of Cochinchina</b></a> from 1618-1622 (Le dynasty):

Women wear five to six layers on top of each other and of different colors. They do not like having any parts of their bodies exposed and would much rather suffer through the greatest heat. Hair is left long to flow on shoulders and may even reach to the ground. The longer the hair, the prettier it is deemed. Women wear <a href=“http://pinterest.com/pin/237776055296847773/”><b>hats so wide brimmed</b></a> that it obscures her face and renders her unable to see three or four steps ahead. Depending on her status, her hat may be mixed with silk and gold. (pg 50)

Men also wear <a href=“http://pinterest.com/pin/237776055296969376/”><b>five to six layers of clothing</b></a> made of different colored fine silk. Sleeves are long and wide, and the layers from the belt down are slashed and jagged. With all these colors mixed together it creates an effect like that of a peacock displaying the colorful array of his feathers. The men also grow their hair long where it reaches to the heel. Like women they also wear wide brimmed hats. Men with beards are rare and those that don one do not shave it. Noble men allow their finger nails to grow long as a mark of status to distinguish themselves from the working class. (pg 52)

From <a href=“http://www.amazon.com/Views-Seventeenth-Century-Vietnam-Christoforo-Cochinchina/dp/0877277710”><b> Views of Seventeenth-Century Vietnam: Christoforo Borri on Cochinchina and Samuel Baron on Tonkin</b> </a>

“The Cochin-Chineses are in colour like the Chineses; that is, inclining to an olive color: I mean those that are nearest the sea; for those up the inland, as far as Tonchin, are as white as the Europeans. The shape of their faces is exactly like the Chineses, with flat noses, little eyes, but of an indifferent stature, not so small as the Japoneses, nor so tall as the Chineses. Yet they are stronger and more active than either of them, and braver than the Chineses, but are out-done by the Japoneses in one thing, which is the contempt of life in dangers and battles; The Japoneses seeming to make no account of life, nor to apprehend the least fear of death.” (pg 113)

“If a male die, he is clothed with twelve of his best coats; if a female, with nine.” (pg 265)

From John Crawfurd’s <a href =“http://books.google.com/books?id=rR8wxDBQyLQC&source=gbs_navlinks_s”><u><b> Journal of an Embassy to the Courts of Siam and Cochin-China</b> </u></a>, published in 1830:

“Both sexes dress nearly alike. For the lower part of the body, the covering consists of a pair of loose trowsers, secured at the waist by a sash. The main portion of dress consists of two or more loose frocks, reaching half-way down the thigh. This, for such matters as among other Eastern people is uniform and constant, overlaps to the right side, and is secured by five buttons and as many hoops. Its sleeves are loose, and with persons not compelled to labour, they dangle a foot, or even a foot and a half, beyond the extremities of the fingers; but the lower orders, from necessity, wear them short.” (pg 277)

“With the women, the inner frock reaches below the knee, and the outer down to the ankles.” (pg 278)

“The hair of the head is worn long, and put up<a href=“http://pinterest.com/pin/237776055296942229/”><b> in a knot at the back of the head</b></a>, as was practiced by the Chinese before the present absurd fashion was imposed upon them by the Tartars. Both sexes wear turbans, which are put on with much neatness.” (pg 278)

“The lower orders, except when dressed, seldom wear these turbans.” (pg 278) “When abroad, both sexes wear varnished straw hats, little less than two feet in diameter, tied under the chin. These, which are sometimes in the form of an inverted basin, and at others resembling a sugar-loaf, afford, however grotesque in appearance, good protection against sun and rain.” (pg 278)

“The materials of dress consist of silk or cotton; the first being of more frequent use than I have observed in any other country. The inner frock is cotton of domestic manufacture, always unbleached; for, literally, there is not a rag of white linen in the kingdom. The outer frocks and gown, with the better ranks, are always of silk, or flowered gauze; and the latter is commonly Chinese manufacture. The trowsers, with the same class, are either plain silk, or crape of domestic fabric.” (pg 278-279)

“The turban is crape, always black or blue, but most frequently the former; and this is also a home fabric.” (pg 279)

“The lower orders are generally clad in cotton; but, even among them, silk is not unfrequently to be seen. Their cotton dress is very generally dyed of a dark brown color, as if tanned. This color is given to it by the tuberous root which I have mentioned in another place.” (pg 279)

“Ornaments of the precious metals, or gems, do not appear to be very general. The women wear occasionally armlets and bracelets of gold. Where gems are worn, those of most frequent use are pearls, and amber brought from Yu-nan.” (pg 279)

“The women wear ear-rings, and secure the hair by a bodkin with an ornamented gold-head.” (pg 279)

 “The shoes that are worn by the Cochin Chinese are slippers without heels. It may here be remarked, that the Chinese fashion of little feet among the women is unknown to the Cochin Chinese.” (pg 279-280)

From the many photographs and illustrations I’ve looked at, it seems that Early Nguyen dynasty (1802-1945) has <a href=“http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/cgi/t/text/pageviewer-idx?c=sea;idno=sea010;view=image;seq=307”><b>bulkier</b></a> <a href=“http://pinterest.com/pin/237776055296942213/”><b>looking turbans</b></a>, due to the fact that the cloth needed to be manually wrapped around the hair. By the late 19th to <a href=“http://pinterest.com/pin/237776055296901922/”><b> early 20th century</b> </a>, turbans become less bulky and eventually did not require manual wrapping as a <a href=“http://pinterest.com/pin/237776055296881025/”><b> premade “turban”</b></a> of <a href=“http://www.blujay.com/1/525/3673017_s1_i1.jpg”><b> stiffened fabric</b></a> allowed the wearer to easily put on and take off his/her headdress.

Anyhow this may be the last of the Vietnamese fashion infographics, as I hope to study the Champa Kingdom next.


Feeling the summer heat? This sun and humidity calls for a no-brainer way to keep your tresses in check. Turbans are a timeless and glamorous alternative to hair ties and donning them with a chic pair of sunglasses adds a little retro mystery. We love how these ladies doubled up their summer accessories and made beating the heat look chic.

In need of a turban this summer? Check out our La Boheme Turbans