A headdress with ancient roots, the turban is made from a long strip of cloth, most often cotton or silk, which is wrapped around the head, usually in a specific pattern. The turban frequently covers the whole head, concealing the hair from view, and sometimes the cloth is wrapped around a turban cap rather than directly around the head. Some experts believe that the turban originated in Persia, modern-day Iran, while others think that it was invented by the Egyptians. However, the use of the turban first became widespread during the years of the Byzantine Empire (476–1453 C.E. ), and since that time turbans have been strongly identified with Eastern cultures and religions.
The Byzantine Empire was characterized by a blend of Eastern and Western cultures, and one symbol of this blending was the adoption of the Persian turban by Emperor Constantine (c. 285–337 C.E. ). The turban was worn by both Byzantine men and women, and in 1453, when the Byzantine Empire was conquered by the Ottoman Turks, the Turks, too, began to wear the turban. Though turbans often have great religious or political meaning in the cultures in which they are worn, during various periods certain Westernized turbans have become popular as women's fashion accessories.
Houston, Mary G. Ancient Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Costume and Decoration. Lanham, MD: Barnes and Noble, 1977.
Tulips, Arabesques, and Turbans: Decorative Arts from the Ottoman Empire. New York: Abbeville Press, 1982.